A synthesis of one of Goethe’s first novels and Vivaldi’s most famous composition, Pamela Schermann’s adaptation of Vivaldi Meets Werther: Four Seasons taps into the natural synergy between literature and classical music. At the heart of this tale is the eponymous Werther (portrayed by Samuel Lawrence), while Lotte the ‘apple of his eye’ is played by violinist Alda Dizdari.
The show begins with Werther recalling being told that when meeting Lotte for the first time, to “not give his heart” to her – something with hindsight that has portent and we pick up on straightaway. In between Lawrence’s ‘confessions’ to the audience, we see the music performed with gusto by the other musicians. Sometimes Lawrence speaks after the end of a concerto, sometimes during a poignant moment in a movement. Either way, Lawrence listens attentively to the music, timing his prose with sensitivity and precision.
As the only person speaking throughout the show, the audience has ‘no choice’ but to believe Werther’s account of his relationship with Lotte – or at least believe that Werther believes in the authenticity of the chain of events. Certainly Werther is effusive in his vehement declarations of love for Lotte and there’s nothing lacklustre in terms of the intensity of his feelings.
However, besides the occasions where he’s able to coax Lotte away from her orchestral ‘family’, we don’t see Werther ‘alone’ much with her. This leaves everything he says open to interpretation – including his ‘perception’. Is Werther really in love with Lotte, or just the ‘idea’ of her, this woman who he has put up on a pedestal?
In any case, the show revels in this ambiguity and the music performed on stage transports the audience to a place seldom ‘reached’ in theatre…
© Michael Davis 2019
Vivaldi Meets Werther: Four Seasons ran at Bridewell Theatre on 27th, 29th and 30th August 2019 as part of Opera In The City Season.