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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Splendid production of a heart-breaking opera

Author: TheLittleSongbird from United Kingdom
21 October 2011

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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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Because she can

Author: Gyran from Birmingham, England
30 November 2010

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.

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