[Met Performance] CID:330027

Metropolitan Opera House, Wed, October 1, 1997

Review 1:

Review of Martin Mayer in Opera

Massenet's Manon, with Renee Fleming in the title role, was the triumph of the first month in the Metropolitan Opera's new season, mostly for musical reasons. The piece itself is, of course, dramatically problematic, based on one of the earliest novels in western literature, written by a priest with moral instruction in mind but prurience (and sales) at heart. The characters are humours as much as they are people - and one of them, Manon's brother (in the opera, her cousin), is as nasty a piece of goods as opera offers. But Manon herself has one moment of stage opportunity - the recitative "AlIons, il le faut" and the lovely aria about the dinner table - and Fleming made it poignant. Vocally, she was beyond praise on October 1, especially in the two showpieces of the Cours-la-Reine scene, where she sang the very fancy alternative aria Massenet wrote for Mme Brejean-Silver. We now have to wait a full year before hearing her again, which is very sad.

The strong cast was delicately but firmly led by Julius Rudel, for whom Massenet is a special Fach. Marcello Giordani was a fine Des Grieux, John Del Carlo an outstanding Brétigny (it's dramatically useful to have a giant Brétigny), and Michel Sénéchal, of course, an incomparably confident Guillot. Robert De Candia in a debut as Lescaut was okay but a little woolly. The very elaborate Jean-Pierre Ponnelle production, a heavy weight for this charmer to bear, has been trimmed down just a bit, for its own good.

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