Werther is an opera in four acts by Jules Massenet to a French libretto by Edouard Blau, Paul Milliet and Georges Hartmann based on the German novella The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It was first performed at the Hofoper in Vienna on February 16, 1892. Werther is regularly performed.
The widowed Bailiff teaches his younger children a Christmas carol, surprising his two neighbors, Schmidt and Johann, for it is July. Charlotte dresses for a ball. Since her intended, Albert, is away, she is escorted by Werther whom they find gloomy. Werther arrives and watches as Charlotte prepares her young sibling's supper, just as her mother had before she died. Werther greets Charlotte with a kiss, and they leave for the ball. Albert returns unexpectedly after a six month trip. He is unsure of Charlotte's intentions and disappointed not to find her here, but is reassured and consoled by Sophie. He leaves after promising to return in the morning. Werther and Charlotte return very late, and he is already in enamoured with her. His declaration of love is interrupted by the announcement of Albert's return. Charlotte recalls how she promised her dying mother she would marry Albert. Werther despairs.
It is three months later, and Charlotte and Albert are now married. They walk happily to church, pursued by the gloomy Werther. Sophie tries to cheer him up. When Charlotte exits the church, he speaks to her of their first meeting. Charlotte begs Werther not to try to see her again until Christmas day. Werther contemplates suicide, but leaves quickly when Sophie greets him. Charlotte comforts the tearful girl who does not understand his cruel behavior. Albert now realizes that Werther loves Charlotte.
Charlotte is at home alone on Christmas Eve. She spends time rereading Werther's letters to her, wondering how the young poet is and how she had the strength to send him away. Suddenly Werther appears, and while he reads her poetry, he realizes that she returns his love. They embrace for a moment, but she quickly bids him farewell. He leaves with thoughts of suicide. Albert returns home to find his distraught wife. Werther has sent a message to Albert requesting to borrow his pistols, explaining he is going on an extended trip. A servant is sent to deliver the pistols. Charlotte has a terrible premonition and hurries to find Werther.
At Werther's apartment, Charlotte has arrived too late. Werther is dying. She consoles him by declaring her love. He asks for forgiveness. Outside children are heard singing a Christmas carol.