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

Prom 54 - Mozart's Last Year with the Budapest Festival Orchestra

The mysteries and myths surrounding Mozart’s Requiem Mass - left unfinished at his death and completed by his pupil, Franz Xaver Süssmayr - abide, reinvigorated and prolonged by Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus as directed on film by Miloš Forman. The origins of the work’s commission and composition remain unknown but in our collective cultural and musical consciousness the Requiem has come to assume an autobiographical role: as if Mozart was composing a mass for his own presaged death.

High Voltage Tosca in Cologne

I saw two operas consecutively at Oper Koln. First, the utterly bewildering Lucia di Lammermoor; then Thilo Reinhardt’s thrilling Tosca. His staging was pure operatic joy with some Hitchcockian provocations.

Haitink at the Lucerne Festival

Bernard Haitink’s monumental Bruckner and Mahler performances with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO) got me hooked on classical music. His legendary performance of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in C-minor, where in the Finale loosened plaster fell from the Concertgebouw ceiling, is still recounted in Amsterdam.

BBC Prom 45 - Janáček: The Makropulos Affair

Karita Mattila was born to sing Emilia Marty, the diva around whom revolves Leoš Janáček's The Makropulos Affair (Věc Makropulos). At Prom 45, she shone all the more because she was conducted by Jirí Belohlávek and performed alongside a superb cast from the National Theatre, Prague, probably the finest and most idiomatic exponents of this repertoire.

Two Tales of Offenbach: Opera della Luna at Wilton's Music Hall

‘Two outrageous operas in one crazy evening,’ reads the bill. Hyperbole? Certainly not when the operas are two of Jacques Offenbach’s more off-the-wall bouffoneries and when the company is Opera della Luna whose artistic director, Jeff Clarke, is blessed with the comic imagination and theatrical nous to turn even the most vacuous trivia into a sharp and sassy riotous romp.

Britten Untamed! Glyndebourne: A Midsummer Night's Dream

This performance of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream at Glyndebourne was so good that it was the highlight of the whole season, making the term ‘revival’ utterly irrelevant. Jakub Hrůša is always stimulating, but on this occasion, his conducting was so inspired that I found myself closing my eyes in order to concentrate on what he revealed in Britten's quirky but brilliant score. Eyes closed in this famous production by Peter Hall, first seen in 1981?

Salzburg encores

A staged piano recital and an opera as a concert.  Pianist András Schiff accompanied the Salzburg Marionette Theater at the Mozarteum Grosser Saal and Anna Netrebko sang Manon Lescaut at the Grosses Festspielhaus.

Leah Crocetto at Santa Fe

On August 4, 2016, soprano Leah Crocetto and accompanist Tamara Sanikidze gave a recital at the Scottish Rite Center in Santa Fe New Mexico. A winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Contest, this year Crocetto was singing Donna Anna in Santa Fe Opera’s excellent Don Giovanni.

Angela Meade at Sante Fe

On July 31, 2016, against the ethereal beauty of the main hall in the Scottish Rite Center, soprano Angela Meade and pianist Joe Illick gave a recital offering both opera and art songs ranging in origin from early nineteenth century Europe to mid twentieth century America. Many in the audience probably remembered Meade’s recent excellent portrayal of Norma at Los Angeles Opera.

Turco in Italia in Pesaro

When more is definitely more, and less would indeed be less. Two of the biggest names in Italian theater art collide in an eponymous theater.

Proms Chamber Music 5: Shakespeare at 400

It was the fifth Proms Chamber Music concert at Cadogan Hall this season, and we were celebrating Shakespeare’s 400th. And, given the extent and range of the composers and artists, and the diversity and profundity of the musical achievement inspired by the Bard, we could probably keep celebrating in this fashion ad infinitum.

La donna del lago in Pesaro

Each August the bleak and leaky, 12,000 seat Arena Adriatica (home of the famed Pesaro basketball team) magically transforms itself into an improvised opera house that boasts the ultimate in opera chic — exemplary Rossini production standards for its now twelve hundred seats.

Proms at … Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

This highly enjoyable Prom, part of 2016’s ‘Proms at …’ mini-series, took as its guiding concept the reopening of London’s theatres following the Restoration, focusing in particular upon musical and dramatic responses to Shakespeare. Purcell, rightly, loomed large, with John Blow and Matthew Locke joining him. Receiving their Proms premieres were the excerpts from Timon of Athens and those from Locke’s The Tempest.

Santa Fe: Straussian Sweet Nothings

With all the bombast of the presidential campaigns rattling in our heads, with invectives being exchanged and measured discussion all but absent, how utterly lovely to retreat and relax into the harmonious soundscape and well-reasoned debate posed in Strauss’ Capriccio, on magnificent display at Santa Fe Opera.

Santa Fe’s Civil War Gounod

When we entered the Crosby Theatre for Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette the stage was surprisingly dominated by a somber, semi-circular black mausoleum, many chambers inscribed with scrambled names of US Civil War era dead.

Coolly Elegant Vanessa in the Desert

Molten passions were seething just below the icy Nordic exterior of Santa Fe Opera’s wholly masterful production of Barber’s Vanessa.

Le Comte Ory, Seattle

Farce is probably the most difficult of dramatic comedy sub-genres to put across. A farce got up in the stately robes of opera sets its presenters an even higher bar. Presenting an operatic farce on a notoriously chilly and cavernous auditorium is to risk catastrophe.

Racette’s Golden Girl in New Mexico

Fan interest began raging when Santa Fe Opera engaged venerable artist Patricia Racette to make her role debut as Minnie in Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West.

Santa Fe’s Mozart Cast Sweeps All Before It

A funny thing happened on the way to Andalusia.

Die Liebe der Danae in Salzburg

The tale of a Syrian donkey driver. And, yes, the donkey stole the show! The competition was intense — the Vienna Philharmonic and the Grosses Festspielhaus in full production regalia for starters.

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):