Friday, July 31, 2015

Manon Lescaut from Munich

Conductor: Alain Altinoglu
Production: Hans Neuenfels

Manon Lescaut: Kristine Opolais (soprano)
Lescaut: Markus Eiche Il (baritone)
Cavaliere Renato Des Grieux: Jonas Kaufmann (tenor)
Geronte di Ravoir: Roland Bracht (bass)

I didn't mind the production as much as I thought I would.  All that starkness only serves to emphasize how spectacularly wonderful the music was--the conducting, the orchestra, the soloists, Kristine and the ever more wonderful Jonas Kaufmann.  Thank you for bringing me what I wanted.  And thank you for making it even more magnificent than I imagined.

After listening to people complain about this all afternoon, I feel perhaps I should say more.  There are three things:
  • The production
I suppose I should propose an opinion of some kind on the production.  I should explain before proceeding that anything done for the purpose of symbolism is entirely wasted on me.  For me it either is what it seems to be or simply does not exist at all.

I feel from my limited contact with his work that Hans Neuenfels isn't interested in everything that goes on on the opera stage.  He's interested in a few characters and that's it.  He has no idea at all of what to do with a chorus, so he trivializes them and makes them all look some stupid way that assigns a single meaning to the entire group.  That's all he can think of.  He would prefer that you ignored them.

So I did.  I loved the silly bit at the start where the carriage is supposed to enter, and an actual carriage entered, which had a driver with a long whip.  It's just that instead of horses, there were men pulling the carriage.  I'm sure I've never seen that before.  It's usually modernized into a train or car. 

For the important scenes, the falling in love and the dying, he wants nothing to distract you from that.  So he removes everything.  I had the right reaction to this.  In the ROH production I could only worry they would fall from their falling down freeway high in the air.  For this one I got completely swept up in it.

Anna Netrebko cares very much about how she looks.  When she appeared in Eugene Onegin, they happily changed her costume to something she would prefer.  That was not possible here.  Kristine has that Scandinavian beauty that looks good in anything.  You will recall that Anna was originally cast as Manon in this production, but broke her contract.
  • The musical performance
I already commented about this above.  I thought the music was excellent, very Puccini, very intense and musical.  Both Jonas and Kristine sang well with exceptional intensity and phrasing.  I loved it.
  • The quality of the stream
I can't really say much here.  I had audio problems.  The relative loudness of the singers to the orchestra seemed to vary wildly.  Other people complained but described this differently.  I felt the music and ones perception of the music were often at odds.  The camera direction needed to be coordinated with the production in a more self-conscious way.

I felt that Kristine was helped by the closeups.  It made her acting more effective.  For me.

Except for the distractions with the sound quality, I was much more emotionally involved with this than with the ROH film which I saw in a movie theater.

I can't do anything about people's reaction to the production.

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