I warm to this opera the more that I see it. It makes much more sense of the Abbé Prévost's novel than Puccini's better-known work. This production from Berlin is set attractively in the 1950's with the women wearing flouncy flowery dresses. Manon arrives by train so the opening scene is at a railway station buffet rather than a coaching in. This, to me, made it redolent of Brief Encounter.
Anna Netrebko is perfectly cast as the temptress Manon, vocally assured and looking stunning in shortie pyjamas in Act II and pole-dancing in Act V. I don't usually approve of operas set in pole-dancing clubs but I am prepared to make an exception in this case. She makes the transition from schoolgirl ingénue to femme fatale using a succession of different-coloured wigs. Renée Fleming did something similar in the 2001 production from Paris. I had a quick recap of that film after watching Netrebko's performance. To me Fleming shades it with her more mature voice but I suppose Netrebko is more authentic since, after all, Manon is only supposed to be 15 at the start of the opera.
Rolando Villazón is equally impressive as the tortured des Grieux. He has a unique tenor sound and is also a great singing actor with his rubber features able to depict extremes of emotions. This is particularly evident in Act III where Manon returns to seduce him after a five year absence, just because she can, on the night before he is due to be ordained.
Two images stand out from this production. The first is Manon opening the French windows of her Paris apartment and spreading her arms as if to fly away from her life with des Grieux. The second is des Grieux bursting through the gates of the altar when he finally gives in to Manon's temptations.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?