Good and touching if disappointing production of the opera that rose Puccini to fame
Manon Lescaut I do have a fondness for, because its music is so gorgeous, especially the Intermezzo, Sola Perduta Abbandonata and Donna Non Vidi Mai. I will be honest though and say that I do find Massenet's Manon more plausible especially in the last act. Overall, I did like this production, it is touching especially at the end, has elegant costumes and acceptable sets(though I have seen more beautiful-looking ones for this opera). Plus the orchestra play with pathos and sensitivity, listen to the ethereal quality of the start of the intermezzo, and the conducting has nuances and authority. The support cast are fine as well, with Lescaut sympathetic and Geronte suitably nasty. The final act is very poignant, I cannot fail to cry at the end of Manon Lescaut- La Boheme and Madama Butterfly is the same- and here is no exception. However, the picture quality could've been sharper, and the sound has a tendency to favour the orchestra rather than the singers. The two leads are competent but I didn't find either outstanding. Nicola Martinucci fares the best of the two, his Des Grieux is ardent and handsome, and while he has never been a bad actor as such this is the least stiff I've seen him. The singing is mostly beautiful and musical, especially in Donna Non Vidi Mai, but some of the high notes while mostly ringing sound as though he is going for the hefty quality of Rhadames, Manrico and Calaf, I personally think he should have gone for the softer, slightly more understated touch. Maria Chiara does have a great voice and is a competent actress, Sola Pertuta Abbandonata is very touchingly sung and acted, but I missed the girlish naivety I usually hear and see in the role and I also feel at times her voice shows a bit of strain from singing heavier roles like Aida and Odabella. Overall, not a bad production, in fact, quite good, but felt disappointing after seeing the Domingo/Scotto and Domingo/TeKanawa performances. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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