Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Perils of Young Goethe

--- the Story ---
The German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe had recently finished his law studies and was committed to visit a relative in the small town of Wetzlar. Previous to his travels he fell in with a circle of like minded young men of great promise, but no particular direction, among them a K.W. Jerusalem, destined to be for a while,secretary to a nobleman. Arriving in the town Goethe was invited to a ball at which he met and fell desperately in love with Charlotte Buff, only to discover that she was already promised to another. This commenced a long and desperate agony of youthful introspection, brooding,communions with nature, a deluge of letters and thoughts of suicide. Goethe at intervals fled the city fearful that he would do harm to himself if he were too long near the young Charlotte.

From what would for endless generations of young lovers be no more a rite of passage in their sentimental education for the poet became emblematic of the travails, confusions and 'sorrows' of an entire generation of romantics. While considering these thoughts Goethe is informed that his one time dinner companion Jerusalem, like himself, had suffered just such a loss of love. But, Jerusalem found no outlet for his despair and committed suicide. Combining his own romantic failure, Jerusalem's fatal end and the psychological/ romantic trials of his own life, Goethe fashioned one of the greatest romantic novels ever written. In doing so (as he wrote) "saved" his own life, exorcised his obsession, discovered his vocation and won a world wide reputation with the publication of The Sorrows of Young Werther.

---the Music---
In 1886 Jules Massenet went to Bayreuth to see a performance of Parsifal and there was a stopover in the town of Wetzler. Massenet's publisher was accompanying on the return to Paris and on the stopover purchased and presented him with a copy of the novel by Goethe. The result was one of his most passionate, lyrical and popular creations for the theatre. Please tune in to this Saturday Afternoon at the Opera presentation of Massenet's Werther, featuring Jose Carreras and Frederica von Stade as the doomed lovers,this Saturday at noon on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Ron Moore

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