Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Santa Fe: Secondary Mozart in First Rate Staging

Impresario Boris Goldovsky famously referred to La finta giardiniera as The Phony Farmerette.

Regimented Daughter in Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Opera, Donizetti’s effervescent The Daughter of the Regiment can’t quite decide what it wants to be when it grows up.

Santa Fe’s Celebratory Jester

Santa Fe Opera noted a landmark two-thousandth performance in their distinguished history with a stylish new production of Rigoletto.

Sibelius Kullervo, BBC Proms, London

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn't allow it to be heard after its initial performance, though he referred to it fondly in private.

Aïda at Aspen

Most opera professionals, including the individuals who do the casting for major houses, despair of finding performers who can match historical standards of singing in operas such as Aïda. Yet a concert performance in Aspen gives a glimmer of hope. It was led by four younger singers who may be part of the future of Verdi singing in America and the world.

Prom 53: Shostakovich — Orango

One might have been forgiven for thinking that both biology and chronology had gone askew at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday evening.

Written on Skin at Lincoln Center

Three years ago I made what may have been my single worst decision in a half century of attending opera. I wasn’t paying close attention when some conference organizers in Aix-en-Provence offered me two tickets to the premiere of a new opera. I opted instead for what seemed like a sure thing: William Christie conducting some Charpentier.

La Púrpura de la Rosa

Advertised in the program as the first opera written in the New World, La Púrpura de la Rosa (PR) was premiered in 1701 in Lima (Peru), but more than the historical feat, true or not, accounts for the piece’s interest.

Pesaro’s Rossini Festival 2015

The 36th Rossini Opera Festival in Rossini’s Pesaro! La gazza ladra (1817), La gazzetta (1816) and L'inganno felice (1812) — the little opera that made Rossini famous.

Santa Fe: Placid Princess of Judea

Unlike the brush fire in a distant neighborhood of the John Crosby Theatre, Santa Fe Opera’s Salome stubbornly failed to ignite.

Airy and Bucolic Glimmerglass Flute

As part of a concerted effort to incorporate local color and resonance into its annual festival, Glimmerglass has re-imagined The Magic Flute in a transformative woodland setting.

Glimmerglass Conquers Cato

Bravura singing and vibrant instrumental playing were on ample display in Glimmerglass Festival’s riveting Cato in Utica.

Energetic Glimmerglass Candide

Bernstein’s Candide seems to have more performance versions than Tales of Hoffmann.

Die Eroberung von Mexico in Salzburg

That’s The Conquest of Mexico, an historical music drama composed in 1991 by German composer Wolfgang Rihm (b. 1952). But wait. Wolfgang Rihm construed a few sentences of Artaud’s La Conquête du Mexique (1932) mixed up with bits of Aztec chant and bits of poem(s) by Mexico’s Octavio Paz (d. 1998) to make a libretto.

Scottish Sensation at Glimmerglass

Glimmerglass is celebrating its 40th Festival season with a stylish new production of Verdi’s Macbeth.

Norma in Salzburg

This Salzburg Norma is not new news. This superb production was first seen at the Salzburg Festival’s springtime Whitsun Festival in 2013 with this same cast. It will now travel to a few major European cities.

The power of music: a young cast in a semi-stage account of Monteverdi’s first opera

John Eliot Gardiner conducted a much anticipated performance of Monteverdi’s first opera L’Orfeo at the BBC Proms on 4 August 2015, with his own Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists.

Cold Mountain Wows Audience at Santa Fe World Premiere

On August 1, 2015, Santa Fe Opera presented the world premiere of Cold Mountain, a brand new opera composed by Pulizer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon.

Manon Lescaut, Munich

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Michelle Johnson as Manon [Photo by Kelly & Massa Photography courtesy of Opera Company of Philadelphia]
26 Apr 2012

Manon Lescaut, Philadelphia

It is Manon month in the Mid-Atlantic states. In New York, the Met is presenting Massanet’s take, while Opera Company of Philadelphia has just opened Puccini’s version: his first successful opera, Manon Lescaut.

Giacomo Puccini: Manon Lescaut

Click here for cast and other production information.

Above: Michelle Johnson as Manon

Photos by Kelly & Massa Photography courtesy of Opera Company of Philadelphia

 

The latter is a tribute to the company management, which programmed a work not heard in Philadelphia for decades in lieu of yet another Bohème, Tosca or Butterfly, and then overcame adversity to craft an enjoyable evening.

Opera Philadelphia often benefits from the remarkable number of fine singers trained in local conservatories—but rarely as much as in this production. When the scheduled soprano (Ermonela Jaho) cancelled less than a month ago, Texas-born Michelle Johnston, a 29-year old in her final year at AVA, stepped in, learned the role from scratch, and sang it with distinction. A grand finalist in last year’s Met national auditions, Johnston is a well-schooled singer with the most of the resources to tackle the singular challenge of Manon, whose evolution from youthful innocence through giddy greed to death in disgrace is mirrored by a vocal transformation from lyric to coloratura to spinto soprano. She was most impressive in slimming down her voice for the Act II minuet scene, complete with a (quasi-) trill. Given her youth and the rushed conditions of her premiere, it is perhaps inevitable that, earlier and later, Johnston sometimes seemed a bit cautious. Later in the run, she will perhaps cut loose more at the big emotional moments, such as the aria, “Sola, Perduta, Abbandonata.” Overall, however, this was a smart and sensitive performance by a young singer to watch.

Thiago Arancam is a 32-year old Brazilian lirico spinto tenor who started singing late and has been trained largely in Milan. He is a sexy guy on stage, with a voice both pleasant and intriguing, mostly due to its unusually dark color—a quality often thought to signal grand heroic potential. For the moment, he sings smoothly and in tune, if uniformly at forte. Yet the sound in the middle and lower parts of the voice lacks the mixture of warm timbre and clear ring Italian tenors prize, and sometimes fades out suddenly—a quality that suggests the tone is being forced. Even at best, the result, some robust high notes aside, his agreeable approach skims over subtleties in the character of the Chevalier des Grieux: his flirtatious serenade, sweet reflection on falling in love, and the gut-wrenching "No! No!, Pazzo son" all sounded vaguely similar. Perhaps Arancam—scheduled to sing this role in Dresden under Christian Thielemann in a year—will yet realize greater potential.

Manon_Lescaut_Phil_02.gifThiago Arancam as Des Grieux and Michelle Johnson as Manon Lescaut

Two character baritones supported the cast well. Daniel Mobbs continued his strong work for Philadelphia, seeming to inhabit to the character of Manon’s rich seducer and patron Geronte de Ravoir. Troy Cook was strong if a bit uneven as her brother. Cody Austin sang brightly as the student Edmondo, John Viscardi pranced menacingly as the Dancing Master, and John David Miles’s robust tones came out of nowhere as the Sergeant.

The production was vintage Philadelphia: realistic, colorful, and cost-effective without probing even the (relatively shallow) depths of Manon Lescaut’s libretto-by-committee. Still, it offered one interesting idea, namely a (mechanically-challenged) drop with projected paraphrases from of the literary text from which the story originates.

Music director Corrado Rovaris was largely in his element in this fast-moving score, with the orchestra responding brilliantly—better than I have ever hesrd them—in moments such as the police raid at the end of Act II. To be sure, one might have liked to hear Rovaris encourage the young cast to linger at other critical moments, but rubato is not his thing.

Manon_Lescaut_Phil_03.gifScene from Manon Lescaut

Given the success of this production, perhaps Philadelphia will now dare to extend its successful string of operas by 20th-century master Hans Werner Henze to include his unjustly neglected adaptation of the Manon tale, Boulevard Solitude.

Andrew Moravcsik

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):