The subtle trick Showtime's "Penny Dreadful is that it is far less about the blood, gore and the specter of gruesome death than the sharp pain and exhilarating pleasure of living, and the terror of feeling alone even in close company. Read our review in the May Picks section.
Puccini's Manon Lescaut is a beautiful opera with some of the maestro's most loveliest music(ie. the Intermezzo), but I admit that I find the final act not as plausible as that of Massenet's version of the story(Manon if not familiar). This Glyndebourne production is not my favourite Manon Lescaut, that's a tie between the 1980 Met and 1983 Covent Garden productions. I have three main complaints. One are the minimalist and very sparse settings, for me of the Manon Lescauts on DVD I've seen this is the dullest visually, with the least sumptuous Manon's boudoir I've seen and the desert scene was badly designed. Another is the sound is not very balanced, with the acoustics favouring the orchestra rather than the singers, who can sound muffled.
But here's the main problem, I never did engage with Manon Lescaut herself. Adina Nitescu certainly doesn't have a bad voice, though I found lacking in musicianship and nuance, in fact there is some evidence of beautiful tone. But her acting just wasn't there, I was riveted by Scotto, TeKanawa and even by Guleghina(though her voice was too heavy generally for the role), but with Nitesku I felt nothing. The whole performance felt cold and lacking in the girlish naivety you'd associate with Manon and she doesn't even connect with the rest of the cast.
However, Puccini's music is absolutely wonderful, and the orchestra do show signs of nuance and wide-ranging colour in their playing(just listen to the shimmering ethereal quality of the start of the Intermezzo). John Elliot Gardiner's conducting is very passionate. Nitescu aside, the rest of the good are actually very good, though the Le Havre girls are little more than caricatures. Patrick Denniston is a startlingly good Des Greiux, ardent, charming and a very pleasant tenor voice. Paolo Montarsolo is past prime vocally but his Geronte is suitably grotesque and besotted.
Roerto De Candia is a solid Lescaut, and Sarah Connolly is a good presence as the musician. Not to mention this is the production with the creepiest Geronte's group of friends I've seen, all have an individual way of greeting Manon with one even licking her hand. The video directing and picture quality are pretty good if not exemplary. Overall, disappointing but decent. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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