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Neil Shicoff Triumphs in ‘Werther’

March 3, 1989

NEW YORK (AP) _ Tenor Neil Shicoff triumphed in the title role of ″Werther″ on Thursday night as the Metropolitan Opera performed the Massenet opera for the first time this season.

In the first scene, when Werther is marveling at a garden, the emotionalism of the Goethe hero was in his voice. Later, Shicoff’s voice shimmered, without any of the Italian sound which would be wrong for this French opera.

After an exceptionally long second intermission, an announcement was made that Shicoff had been suffering from flu for a week but would continue. This was a surprise, since neither vocal difficulty nor the added resonance that a cold sometimes gives were heard.

Shicoff’s final act was as splendid as the two before. He even managed to create sympathy for Werther, longing for Charlotte, who is married. We haven’t great patience for Werther’s romanticism these days.

Mezzo-soprano Kathleen Kuhlmann, who was born in San Francisco, was making her Met debut as Charlotte. She get fulls marks for vocal production and preparation of the role but her voice isn’t attractive. It isn’t shrill or harsh; it just isn’t appealing in tone. She sang Charlotte in a new production in Cologne and will sing the part in a new production in Hamburg.

Dawn Upshaw, as Charlotte’s sister, Sophie, has a clear but creamy soprano. Instead of getting by on being pert as some Sophies do, the Nashville-born soprano sang it beautifully. Bernd Weikl of Vienna sang Albert, Charlotte’s husband, for the first time at the Met, with a warmly inflected voice.

The four are all attractive on stage.

Jean Fournet from Rouen, France, conducted. He made his Met debut in 1987 with another French opera, ″Samson and Dalila.″

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