to get you in the mood, listen to this…

Pick any day from the past 4.25 years, and most of them will see  me off to work at a historic landmark, a beautiful old opera house, to hear great musicians of our time perform the works of masters past, and a few here and there that are worth hearing today.  But today, like the euphoria of trying on a new pair of shoes, I got the same rush listen to the Lyric Opera for my first time.

My preparation of Manon was limited, so I didn’t have the usual anxiety wonder if the 8 bar insert in the being  of Act II would sound all right, and I could sit back and enjoy the show, and what a show it was.  I’ve heard several people  say and I believe it’s true, that opera is really some of the most beautiful music ever written.  The level of musicianship was incredible, even in working out a few last glitches during this open dress.  One of the said glitches was that I happened a glance at Madame Lescaut’s girl bits.  Not Salomeish by any means, and not so intentional, but an onstage bathing scene left nothing to the imagination of the 50 people sitting in the front rows stage right.

This seems to be the topic and trend these days in the revitalization of classical music, specifically opera.  Opera stars are now emerging expecting not to be just a great set of pipes but the total package of looks, acting, and talent, and depending on the company the order of importance can change.  As I was sitting there, I was wondering how this came to be, having a soak onstage.  It is by no means imperative to the story, and easy to do without or modified.  Did she say to herself, that it is for art?  Part of the character?  Tough to say, but if it were me, that’d be a hard sell.  “Yeah, we’re going to have to go ahead and ask you to go topless with only part of the audience being able to see you.”  Well, I’d definitely need some sort of cocktail before, and lots of self-tanning lotion.  That much alabaster skin would surely be too shocking.

I would be greatly remiss if I didn’t mention the amazing singing.  Jonas Kaufmann is probably the best tenor I’ve heard in years, and when singing to Manon, you could feel the collective women in the audience swoon – the St. Sulpice duet was quite marvelous.  Jake Gardner & Christopher Feigum were both impressive as well.  Emmanuel Vilaume seemed to know what he was doing, which I’d say is more often not the case.  He needed some last minute coaching  on the Star Spangled Banner, which of course I found charming, but then I do have a soft spot for bearish French accented Maestros.  Well, to be fair I generally like people with any accent.

My last thoughts about Manon is about my slight annoyance with the story line.  In most operas of this genre it is not unusual for someone at the end of the show to die of sadness, but the stuff in the middle was with which I had issues.  By the end of Act II, after the oh-so-common love at first sight and running away togetherness, when it looked as if there was trouble in paradise she bailed.  She used her youth and beauty as a currency to move up in society while having several male associates.  The operas that usually come to mind that follow these beginnings usually involve a mistaken identity and two star-crossed lovers that have been faithful during the separation, and joyous to be reunited before either the woman dies of sadness of the man dies from a sword fight, falling off a cliff, or some other more palpable demise.  I guess chere petite Manon was acting more realistic and taking care of Number One, but the exaggerated fickleness was bothersome.  I suppose though, without it the would not have been the dance scene, and you know this girl loves me some choreography.

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