[Met Performance] CID:330003

Metropolitan Opera House, Tue, September 23, 1997

Debut : Roberto de Candia

Manon (235)
Jules Massenet | Henri Meilhac/Philippe Gille
Renée Fleming

Des Grieux
Marcello Giordani

Roberto de Candia [Debut]

Count des Grieux
Paul Plishka

Michel Sénéchal

John Del Carlo

Theresa Cincione

Anita Johnson

Reveka Evangelia Mavrovitis

Vaclovas Daunoras

Anthony Dean Griffey

Nathan Gunn

Lee Hamilton

Nico Castel

John Hanriot

David Frye

Robert Maher

Julius Rudel

Jean-Pierre Ponnelle

Lighting Designer
Gil Wechsler

Stage Director
Peter McClintock

Manon received eight performances this season.

Review 1:

Peter G. Davis in New York Magazine
Manon for All Seasons
The Met’s “Manon” has never had it so good. Renée Fleming dazzles with her deluxe soprano, and the once-plodding staging has been saved from itself.

Like any cost-conscious corporation the Metropolitan Opera tries to get maximum use from its products, and existing goods are generally improved before being tossed out. Some, like the sclerotic Franco Zeffirelli “Carmen” production that I reported on last week, may be just too shoddy to freshen up and recycle successfully. But the three revivals after that dreary open*ing-night offering, all problematic when new, have been more effectively refurbished and are well worth a visit. When first seen a decade ago, the Met's “Manon” looked — and sounded — pretty horrid, an uneasy postmodern compromise that relocates Massenet's pleasure-loving heroine and her wasted life somewhere between the opera's original lacy eighteenth-century milieu and a contemporary garbage dump. The late Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's inconsistently imagined sets still don't make much sense — a charmingly stylized lithographic depiction of the inn courtyard at Amiens gives way to Des Grieux's "humble" room, a cross between a New England barn and a block-long SoHo loft. And I'm still trying to figure out the architectural workings of the split-level Hotel de Transylvanie set, an elaborate rococo gambling house so constructed that the chorus must watch the action by peering through the walls and floors.

Well, disregard all that, if possible. At least the staging has been improved and sharpened by Peter McClintock — Ponnelle's original direction was strangely faceless for this incorrigible inventor of irrelevant sub-texts. Best of all, though, the casting has been upgraded, most crucially the all-important title role. Renée Fleming's creamy-rich soprano finds Manon's music a perfect fit, limpid and caressing as she beguiles poor Des Grieux, and dazzlingly accurate as she shows off her glittering coloratura to festive crowds of wealthy admirers. Fleming also looks suitably cuddly as both simple country wench and pampered courtesan, but her acting is perhaps not sufficiently nuanced to capture all of the girl's quicksilver mood swings and maddening contradictions — "sincere in her deception" and "frank in her infamy," as De Maupassant once described this irresistible Gallic portrait of the eternal feminine. Fleming's Manon is rather too blunt and wholesomely all-American to suggest that. No matter. There is still that deluxe voice, now at its most sumptuous, and we might as well treasure the moment—good things like this never last long enough.

Marcello Giordani is a sympathetic Des Grieux, even if his attractive lyric tenor never quite gels or comes into focus enough to shape this suave music as elegantly as one would wish. Paul Plishka's vocally worn Comte des Grieux and Roberto de Candia's almost invisible Lescaut amount to little, but there are several delicious cameos, especially Michel Sénéchal's wickedly witty turn as the old roué Guillot and John Del Carlo's elegant but ominous De Brétigny. Nostalgists will take fond note of Julius Rudel's presentation of the score, a dapper interpretation that originated nearly 30 years ago when the conductor presided over the City Opera's classic “Manon” starring Beverly Sills, now a production of misty legend.

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