I love Massenet's Manon(my favourite of his operas actually) for its heart-breaking story, the complexity of the titular character and the gorgeous music. Although I was impressed with this production musically, I felt something was missing overall that made the 1983, 2001 and especially 1977 productions so special.
The orchestra perform the music wonderfully, especially in the final act, and while perhaps in need of a more genteel touch the conducting is very brisk and musical. The video directing is excellent with clever camera angles and close ups that are not too distracting and the picture quality and sound have good clarity.
Although Manon is not quite as innocent as I would have liked, Anna Netrebko nonetheless impresses with beautiful looks, a charismatic presence on stage and well shaped and characterised vocals. Even her colouratura, which I have admittedly not always been fond of was better than expected. She has the ideal partner in Robeto Alagna, while there are signs of strain, his voice has power and he is suitably ardent, not making us miss Rolando Villazon too much.
Their chemistry together is magnetic, whether for example snuggled up in bed together. The support cast is generally fine, notably a firm Comte Des Grieux and an amusing and sympathetic Lescaut. The final act is absolutely heart-wrenching as it should be.
On the other hand, I think more could have been made of Manon's innocence. What makes her so intriguing and complex is how innocent and young she is at first and how much she matures. The updated costumes and sets are good enough, though I would have liked a more sumptuous quality to the settings and there is one scene where Netrebko is half naked, which for me took me away from Manon's innocence. Staging is very good, with any scene between Netrebko and Alagna riveting. The pacing is decent too, but the fourth act could have done with being less rushed through perhaps.
All in all, musically wonderful and visually very nice mostly, but at the end of the day something was missing. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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