Manon is my personal favourite of Massenet's operas. As much as I do love the music for Thais, I always found Manon the most plausible when it came to the stories of his operas. I do agree to an extent that Massenet's Manon is more believable in the story than Puccini's opera(and I love Puccini's Manon Lescaut).
Manon has many heart-breaking scenes especially the whole final act, beautiful music right from the tuneful choruses to the big arias and a poignant and well-paced plot. This production is wonderful. My favourite production of Manon is the one with Beverly Sills in the title role, and I also love the Edita Gruberova and Renee Fleming ones too.
That is not to dispute this production at all though. As with the case of all the Manon productions I've seen so far, it is visually wonderful, with gorgeous costume and set design and clear picture, sound and camera quality.
Musically, this Manon is excellent. Beautiful and musical orchestral playing, well-balanced chorus singing and genteel conducting are definite things to like. The singing is excellent across the board. The support cast are great, with Lescaut amusing and Comte Des Grieux sympathetic.
Both Rolando Villazon and Anna Netrebko are sensational. French diction are not their strong points, Netrebko I find doesn't pronounce her consonants as clearly as one would like and Villazon's has a rather Latin feel to it. However both make up for it by beautiful singing, Villazon especially sings much more smoothly than in some of the other heavier roles he's taken on, electrifying chemistry, great acting and authentic looks.
Overall, simply splendid. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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