Before we get started I have just one question: what was the basketball in Act III about? Any ideas would be appreciated. Maybe it's left over from March madness.
Today live from the Metropolitan Opera in HD featured Massenet's Manon in a new production by Laurent Pelly, starring Anna Netrebko and Piotr Beczała, (pronounced pyOtr betchAwa) who is Polish. Did I know this opera was a comique?
Since we are seeing it next week, I was curious about some of the features Pelly's Manon has in common with Decker's La Traviata. There are six different sets for Manon with basically only two for Traviata, but both are extremely bare bones. Both operas have crowds of men in tuxedos and top hats that include cross-dressed women from the chorus. Other reviewers have complained that the sloping stage ramps look like the handicapped entrance. The austere last scene was very effective, but in general the sets are big, cumbersome and boring. And I completely did not buy the bed in the transept, though it made for a nice finish for the scene.
The main difference between the two productions is the presence of women in Manon. In Traviata Violetta is the only woman. I rather liked the ballet made up of young women dressed like the dancers from Degas paintings, but I didn't like that they were all carried off screaming when they finished dancing. I see no reason why rich men couldn't afford to bribe their way to affection.
Paulo Szot (shot) is an excellent actor and a pretty fair singer. For me Manon really only works if the acting is intense. Christophe Mortagne was very nasty as Guillot, the villain, but was having a lot of trouble with his English when Debbie Voigt was interviewing him. We miss Renée.
Beczała is an excellent tenor who projects a very sentimental quality in the role of des Grieux. He completely lost his sense of the correct pitch in his big aria. And the Netrebko has it all. I thought she looked, sounded, and acted beautifully. I can't really imagine this opera with anyone else in it. In the Marilyn Monroe scene (you know what I'm talking about) she lost her earring and then threw the other one across the room.
This was Fabio Luisi's first Manon, and he conducted like it was an old friend. He's setting records at the Met for most performances conducted in a single month.
[See Kinderkuchen History 1870-90]