Acclaimed Werther for CTO: Steven Harrison

The young American tenor Steven Harrison will make his South African debut as the doomed poet in Massenet’s opera Werther, which will be presented by Cape Town Opera in June.

Harrison has been acclaimed as today’s foremost interpreter of Werther and is recognised as a singing-actor of the highest calibre. The critic for the authoritative opera magazine, Das Opernwelt, wrote in May 2004: “In addition to a melting lyricism, Steven Harrison, who, in timbre, reminds one of a young Plácido Domingo, dares himself to the point of ecstacy.”

Harrison will replace Sidwill Hartman who was originally scheduled to sing the role.

There will be only four performances of Werther at the Artscape Opera House on June 7, 10, 12, 14 at 19:30.

The role of Charlotte marks the return to South Africa of Austria-based South African mezzo soprano Michelle Breedt, who has carved out a career as great Wagnerian singer in Bayreuth. She turned down the opportunity to sing at Covent Garden and at La Scala in favour of singing Werther in Cape Town. Violina Anguelov is the understudy for the role of Charlotte, while Albert will be sung by Aubrey Lodewyk.

The opera is based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s novel The Sorrows of Young Werther which started a wave of “Werther Fever” throughout Europe when it was published in 1774. Young men dressed just as the tragic poet was described in the novel and there followed a wave of copycat suicides.

The highly dramatic and atmospheric drama of unrequited love unfolds when the young poet, Werther, kills himself because his soulmate, Charlotte, is not available to him. The opera is passionate and living proof that audiences can be moved by a tale that does not contain clashing armies, murder or death from fatal illness. The opera too has beautiful, sweeping romantic music which accompanies the intense psychological drama.

American Kamal Khan, who regularly appears in major opera houses around the world, will conduct the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra. Swedish director Staffan Aspegren, who recently directed Rusalka in Cape Town, will direct the opera while Michael Mitchell is responsible for the set and costume design and Peter Halbsgut the lighting.