Suicide of a tenor amidst the stage setting of the Werther opera’s death scene: A historical case report
Mestas, M. & Arendt, F.
Background: Reporting on suicide can elicit an increase in suicides, a phenomenon termed the "Werther effect." The name can be traced back to an alleged spike in suicides after the publication of Goethe's novel The Sorrows of Young Werther in 1774, in which the protagonist Werther dies by suicide. Aims: Acknowledging the importance and primacy of systematic ecological and individual-level studies, we provide a historical single-case report of the suicide of a "late arrival of the Werther epidemic," as the death was headlined in a news report in 1927. Method: Archival research on tenor Paul Vidal's suicide was conducted. Results: Vidal reconstructed the scene of the final act of the opera Werther in his apartment and died by a gunshot, as did Werther. Limitations: Causal interpretations must be made with caution. Conclusion: Striking similarities between Werther's and Vidal's deaths support the idea of strong identification with the fictional narrative and suggest causal effects. Considering the repeated high level of immersiveness and the intense emotions of opera performances, it is likely that performing the role of Werther increases identification processes, contributing to detrimental effects. The lack of knowledge regarding the role of fictional suicide stories on artists' suicides is discussed.