Frere Voyez! Voyez le beau bouquet

This week’s post focuses on the French composer Jules Massenet and his opera Werther, a passionate yet gloomy tale that focuses on how the cocktail of love and responsibility, leaves a bitter after-taste. 

Massenet was a dominant composer of French Opera in the late 19th Century, having written over 30 operas across a variety of styles, (intimate tragedy, verismo, opéra comique and grand opéra). From these, only Manon and Werther are performed regularly encouraging them to be performed all around the world.  Despite Werther’s later success, it took Massenet five years to premiere this piece. Even though several of his opera’s successfully premiered at the Paris Opéra-Comique, the management took a distinct disliking to the proposed spectacle as they found the plot too depressing. It was then furthered delayed as Paris Opera-Comique’s theatre was victim to a destructive fire in 1887. When researching I was horrified to read in one archived newspaper article that this fire originated on stage during a performance of Ambroise Thomas’ Mignon as “one of the wings caught fire from a gas jet, and the entire stage was immediately enveloped in flames.”

This horrific incident contributed to Massenet premiering the first performance of Werther at Vienna Court opera in 1892. After receiving warm reviews, the opera was presented in Paris a year later.

SPOILER ALERT: The story at the heart of Werther is an adaptation from Goethe’s novella “The Sorrows of Young Werther”, which presents a hopeless love story which ends in the most tragic of ways: a man’s suicide with pistols provided by his beloved. Werther falls deeply in love with Charlotte, who cannot share in his admiration because she has promised her recently deceased mother that she would marry Albert. The role of Charlotte is popular among female singers (mezzo sopranos), not only because this character does not dramatically die on stage, but because the roles are reversed, and it is the man who dies for her.

On my recent album, Songs from Our Balcony, you can hear “Frère ! voyez ! Voyez le beau bouquet !”. An aria sung by Charlotte’s younger sister Sophie, who observes Werther’s troubled spirit and due to her youthful naivete does not truly understand his frustrated lovelorn state and encourages him to see the happiness that life has to offer.

French Text

Frère ! voyez ! Voyez le beau bouquet !
J’ai mis, pour le Pasteur, le jardin au pillage !
Et puis, l’on va danser !
Pour le premier menuet c’es sur vous que je compte …
Ah ! le sombre visage !
Mais aujourd’hui, monsieur Werther,
Tout le monde est joyeux !
Le bonheur est dans l’air !

Du gai soleil, pleine de flamme,
Dans l’azur resplendissant,
La pure clarté descend de nos fronts jusqu’à notre âme!
Tout le monde est joyeux !
Le bonheur est dans l’air !
Et l’oiseau qui monte aux cieux dans la brise qui soupire …
Est revenu pour nous dire que Dieu permet d’etre heureux !
Tout le monde est joyeux !
Le bonheur est dans l’air !
Tout le monde est joyeux !


Brother! Look! Look at the beautiful bouquet!
I have pillaged from the garden for the Pastor.
And afterwards, we are going dancing!
For the first minuet it is on you that I count …
Ah! The sombre face!
But today, Mr Werther,
All the world is joyous!
Happiness is in the air!

From the cheerful sun, full of flame,
In the brilliant azure,
the pure light descends from our forehead to our soul.
All the world is joyous!
Happiness is in the air!
And the bird which climbs into the sky
On the breeze which sighs,
Has come back to tell us
That God permits us to be happy!
All the world is joyous!
Happiness is in the air!

I would like to close tonight’s post by wishing my Grandad a Happy Birthday for tomorrow the 29th March. I have only seen him for a brief visit in his garden last summer when the restrictions were lifted and I can’t wait until the current lock-down is relaxed and I can go and visit him and my Nana.

Christmas 2019 with my Grandad

53 thoughts on “Frere Voyez! Voyez le beau bouquet

  1. Thank you for the view of Werther. I hope your granddad’s birthday is a good one. Since I’m a grandfather too, I know it would be nice to be with his granddaughter. These are the times that we will remember once this curse is lifted.

  2. A lovely post Charlotte, hopefully this lockdown will soon be over and we can go forward to resume contact with family and friends. 🥰😘😘

    1. Miss seeing you too Gill, perhaps we should all have a craft day at Mum’s when we can even if it is just in the garden.
      Best wishes always,
      Charlotte x

  3. Dear Charlotte,
    Happy Birthday Grandfather!
    Oh my, but how you must miss your grandfather. This pandemic… pandammit … has been cruel.
    I’m listening to “Frère ! voyez ! Voyez le beau bouquet !”, as I comment.
    Your voice is giving me shivers. George’s fingers are like petals landing on the keys, even when he is emphatic.
    I did think omg… Charlotte should play Charlotte. You are probably tired of this question, but I am still learning, and forget. What type of Soprano are you?
    Ohhhhh I’m on Romeo & Juliette now. Wow… you are a sweet song bird.
    Adore my visits here!
    Take care, Charlotte. Take care George!

    1. Charlotte would normally be cast with a heavier voice a mezzo-soprano and I’m a coloratura soprano a lighter lyric soprano typically cast in ingénue roles. When I first started signing though I used to sing mezzo-soprano songs and got higher and lighter as time has gone on. At the moment I would sing the alphabet to get on stage lol.
      Best wishes

  4. I enjoy reading every post and I’m learning a lot years know but I have to say: how beautiful photos💖So sweet your Grandad💙

    1. I’m happy you are enjoying the posts it’s so difficult when we’re stuck indoors.
      Best wishes

    1. Thank you Holly happy to share. In many ways lockdown has given me time to learn new skills, take the time to improve my singing technique, and George has been great playing for me for at least an hour a day sometimes more especially at weekends. I hope this route out of lockdown works this year 🤞🏻.
      Best wishes

      1. I hope so dear Charlotte. You’ve made a wonderful use of this situation we find ourselves in. Sending hugs and best wishes. 🌺🎶

    1. Thank you Annette I am grateful to have met you thought our blogs xx
      Best wishes

    1. I hope that you have had a lovely week Amritpal.
      All my best wishes

  5. Lovely post Charlotte.
    Grandad says thank you to everyone who has wished him best wishes.
    He can’t wait to see you too.
    I love the photo of you both too.😘😘

    1. Missed you both a lot this weekend 😘 😘. It’s been hot and sunny up there too hasn’t it? Mum’s got Dad cleaning the patio!!
      All my best wishes always,
      Charlotte xx

  6. Thank you for the education, Charlotte.
    Once again, I commend your parents for raising such wonderful children. It is so refreshing to see a close-knit family!

    1. We three always visit Mum and Dad at Easter, this is our second Easter not at home and it’s gorgeous weather up there so we’d have been in the garden, chatting and laughing and Nana and Grandad would drive up, I’ve really missed it. But on the bright side Matt and I are allowed to meet up outside now so we’ve made the most of that this last week and I’ve roped him in to taking my Easter photographs.
      Best wishes GP

    1. Mum saw Grandad yesterday outdoors in the garden, we’ve only been allowed to do that since 29 March but it is too far to do that in one day and you can’t stay overnight so I will have to carry on with FaceTime, thank goodness that was invented and my Nana got into tech.
      Best wishes Trent

  7. Very nice !!! Thanks to speack about francophone and french work !

    Best wish for your Grandad ! It’s him I meet in glasgow , right ? e have speak and smoke together in the front of hotel waiting you for going to the show….. Really nice memory…….

    All the best for You, familly and Nana’s ones! xx

    1. I‘m working on Italian at the moment and Romanian before the wedding, however, I hope to restart my French practice after the summer.
      Best wishes Pascal,

    1. thank you Derrick. I believe Grandad had a lovely day with lots of Amazon deliveries 😂.
      Best wishes

    1. Yesterday Mum said that they drove down to visit Grandad because it was nice enough to sit in the Garden for a few hours so that was great 👍🏻. I need to wait until they open up for overnight visits and by then my parents and grandparents should all have had both jabs.
      All my best wishes

  8. Any chance of you playing Charlotte? (LOL)

    The history you presented is quite interesting. The destructive stage fire almost sounds like a scene from “Phantom of the Opera.” We did another livestream over the weekend, nothing too ambitious, only 45 minutes. Strictly acoustic. It appears Elizabeth’s concert gig is on for this coming July. Whether it happens is another story since the COVID numbers are still high though the restrictions are being relaxed.

    Hope you can get to see your grand-dad and your nana soon. You and George stay well, stay safe. 🙂

    1. I would usually audition for Sophie as Charlotte is often cast as a Mezzo Soprano. Charlotte would be a great character to play though.
      Well done on the livestream, I’m not counting my chickens yet on work but fingers crossed all goes well this route out of lockdown.
      Best wishes

      1. Over here, the restrictions are being relaxed so fast while new infections and reinfections are surging upward again. Not a good sign. It may come down to finger crossing to find our way out. You and George, take care. Best wishes back, David. 🙂

  9. Massenet now? Amazing. Hadn’t heard his name in Quite a while. Werther… Your art takes you all around western civilization. A nice side benefit.
    many happy returns to your Grandfather. (Must be about my age, LOL!) Hopefully, with the vaccination campaign well under way in the UK, you should be able to reunite soon. 🙏🏻
    A bientôt chère amie.

    1. It is a lovely side benefit and it is keeping me busy as any new opera arias I like to research the whole opera, the character and a bit about the time period. It takes a little longer than just rushing straight in but it’s worth it.
      Grandad is due his second jab in the next couple of weeks I think, he got his first one just after Christmas, fortunately he had no problems with it so fingers crossed it is the same again the second jab. Mum and Dad have had their first jabs and due their second ones at the end of May so I do hope we crack on with the younger generations or we’re the ones posing the most risk to everyone.
      Best wishes

      1. You’re very pro. It will surely lead to great success. (I made a living in Market research. So I always favour “Do your research”)
        ‘Jabs’ LOL. That’s very ‘English’. “Murrikans” will say shots. (And their influence here is much stronger. But I try to maintain “Ou”‘s in lieu of ‘o’s and ‘tre’s instead of ‘ter’. Fun.

      2. I remember you were in Market research, a very very useful skill. I enjoyed my sales course at work, it gave me ideas for my own projects.

      3. Yes, it’s not full time but I do research, sales calls, customer services follow ups and it allows me flexible hours so sometimes I get up at 7am to get a couple of hours research done and out the way and sometimes if George is busy playing late into the evening I will do a couple of hours e-mail preparation and updating the CRM software so that I can sing in the day so as not to disturb neighbours, then I can make calls at the best times of the day.

      4. And having said that congrats on all ‘jabs’. It’s the only solution for a greater safety. What year was your grandfather born?

    1. Charlotte was quite a popular name at my school, I thought it was the feminine of Charles which is of French origin isn’t it. Princess Charlotte was perhaps named for her grandfather? I know it is also a popular name in France and when I stayed in Berlin on a course I was in lodgings in Charlottenburg.
      Best wishes

      1. There are “fashions” in names. For some strange reasons, parents of the same generation pick similar names for their children. Sophie or Anne-Sophie is very popular in France. Bonne semaine Charlotte.

  10. I love the history you present in these posts, Charlotte! The stories enrich the music, and make it dearer to the heart.

    Wishing your grandfather a belated Happy Birthday. I am hoping you can all see each other in person again soon.

    1. Thank you Lavinia, I’m enjoying recording all my notes from my notebooks.

      I spoke to my Grandad on his birthday and Mum was allowed to visit him yesterday in his garden outside for the first time in months, she is following the rules but she’s not happy because they used to see each other every week. I found out today that my Grandpa is in hospital so that is worrying.

      Best wishes and happy Easter

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: