Singing the title role in Washington Concert Opera’s performance of Massenet’s “Werther” at Lisner Auditorium on Sunday, tenor Giuseppe Filianoti brought to mind the late Alfredo Kraus’s assumption of the part. Filianoti shares with his predecessor a tightly wound voice effective at suggesting melancholy and fraught excitability, and an ability to sweetly caress a phrase. If, on Sunday, he tended to push his voice and pour on the volume more than necessary, his high notes were generally exciting, and he vividly suggested the blurred line between his character’s poetic sensitivity and self-annihilating psychosis.
As Charlotte, Jennifer Larmore sang (and looked) like a mezzo half her age. If there’s a more focused edge to the sound now than there used to be, it was effective in emphasizing the character’s backbone. And the voice is still a beautiful one, with plenty of velvet in the lower register to fill out the phrases of her emotionally complex music in Act Three, writing that brought out her skills as a fine, word-sensitive singing-actress as well.
There was impressive work, too, from a consistently well-chosen cast, including singers Timothy Mix, Patrick Toomey, Eugene Galvin, Matthew Lau and, in particular, Joelle Harvey, whose sunny presence and bell-like lyric soprano made much of the role of Sophie.
The pickup orchestra played with verve and commitment, though it sounded somewhat puny in Lisner’s dry acoustics. Conductor Antony Walker deserves great credit for drawing out the roiling emotion and Wagnerian ambition in a score that can too easily lapse into saccharine mush.
Banno is a freelance writer.