This is an excellent production of Puccini's opera by La Scala. There are strong performances in the leading roles by Maria Guleghina as Manon and José Cura as Des Grieux. I was successfully able to cancel out my strong memories of Te Kanawa and Domingo in the same roles. The opera itself invites interesting comparisons with Massenet's Manon. Puccini's music is superior and the first two acts are clearer in their elliptical storytelling and more strongly delineated characters. In this production I felt that Act II, in Manon's Paris boudoir was the most successful I have ever seen. Act III, with the procession of the fallen women onto the ship was rather confusingly realised. The final act, in the American desert, has some beautiful music but, dramatically, is nonsense. Were fallen women really deported to America and dumped in the desert? Where is this desert in Louisiana? If Manon and Des Grieux were really deported they would probably have thrived in the new world setting up a chain of brothels or a French restaurant franchise. If I were rewriting Manon, I would probably take the first three acts of Puccini's opera and tag on the final act of Massenet's opera where Manon dies, more convincingly, on the road to Le Havre.
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