Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen at the Oscarshall Palace in Oslo

The doors at The Metropolitan Opera will not open to live audiences until 2021 at the earliest, and the likelihood of normal operatic life resuming in cities around the world looks but a distant dream at present. But, while we may not be invited from our homes into the opera house for some time yet, with its free daily screenings of past productions and its pay-per-view Met Stars Live in Concert series, the Met continues to bring opera into our homes.

Precipice: The Grange Festival

Music-making at this year’s Grange Festival Opera may have fallen silent in June and July, but the country house and extensive grounds of The Grange provided an ideal setting for a weekend of twelve specially conceived ‘promenade’ performances encompassing music and dance.

Monteverdi: The Ache of Love - Live from London

There’s a “slide of harmony” and “all the bones leave your body at that moment and you collapse to the floor, it’s so extraordinary.”

Music for a While: Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn at Ryedale Online

“Music for a while, shall all your cares beguile.”

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

The hum of bees rising from myriad scented blooms; gentle strains of birdsong; the cheerful chatter of picnickers beside a still lake; decorous thwacks of leather on willow; song and music floating through the warm evening air.

'In my end is my beginning': Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida perform Winterreise at Wigmore Hall

All good things come to an end, so they say. Let’s hope that only the ‘good thing’ part of the adage is ever applied to Wigmore Hall, and that there is never any sign of ‘an end’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny bring 'sweet music' to Wigmore Hall

Countertenor Iestyn Davies and lutenist Elizabeth Kenny kicked off the final week of live lunchtime recitals broadcast online and on radio from Wigmore Hall.

From Our House to Your House: live from the Royal Opera House

I’m not ashamed to confess that I watched this live performance, streamed from the stage of the Royal Opera House, with a tear in my eye.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Sydney Mancasola and Joseph Dennis [Photo courtesy of DMMO]
20 Jul 2016

Des Moines’ Elusive Manon

Loving attention to the highest quality was everywhere evident in Des Moines Metro Opera’s Manon.

Des Moines’ Elusive Manon

A review by James Sohre

Above: Sydney Mancasola and Joseph Dennis

Photos courtesy of DMMO

 

Full disclosure: I have seen more first tier productions of this piece with world class stars than perhaps any other opera. Every time the opening bars strike up, memories of Sills, or Netrebko, or Kabaivanska, or Swenson, or Malfitano, or Grigolo, or Villazon, or Kraus — my God, Kraus! — rush in. I have a deliriously happy history with this piece. As I settled in to my seat at DMMO, I resolved to let them make their own case for the redoubtable, delicate gem that is Massenet’s Manon.

It has to be said that Sydney Mancasola was luminous in the title role. She sports a secure, silvery soprano of enormous flexibility, wedded to an unfaltering musicality. There is a generous dash of humanity in her portrayal and she is possessed of a charismatic presence in her well-rounded assumption of a richly complex personality. Ms. Mancasola is completely believable as the young girl, in fact she is perhaps too giggly. It is as the developing adult that she confronts some limitations of vocal heft and coloring. She is not yet able to fully convey the womanly, seasoned maturity of the later scenes. But she is young, she is extremely gifted, and she will only grow.

As her lover Des Grieux, Joseph Dennis has the right sized tenor and he sings extraordinarily beautifully, especially at mezzo forte. When he presses the top and covers the tone, Mr. Dennis muscles up just a bit although he does get wholly acceptable pointed forte notes out. His lyrical, introspective Act II aria found him at his best, offering his most meticulously controlled singing all night. This is such a daunting role, and if Joseph has not quite yet mastered all the tricky gearshifts between voix-mixte and full throttle that this part demands, he nonetheless made a substantial impression.

3X3A7511.pngSydney Mancasola and Joseph Dennis

Michael Adams as Lescaut sported a naturally warm and engaging baritone, but he too, slightly covers so that when he goes up the voice has a tendency to fall back instead of pinging forward. Mr. Adams certainly cuts a handsome figure, although he mugged pretty shamelessly in Act II, and he seemed to really enjoy playing with his cascading hair. Maybe he was a little “too” much of a dandy to be as likable as he should/could be.

The securely sung trio of women, Pousette (Ashly Neumann), Javotte (Emma Sorenson) and Rosette (Antonia Botti-Lodovico) blended well and complemented each other beautifully. Troy Cook lavished De Bretigny with an exceptionally fine, suavely produced baritone that was cultivated, unctuous and persuasive. His acting was suitably unapologetic about winning Manon by all means necessary. As Guillot de Morfontaine, Brian Frutiger’s impersonation started out a somewhat annoying caricature, but then found some chilling malicious honesty in the gambling scene. As Comte des Grieux, seasoned pro Julien Robbins contributed a richly sung portrayal, his meddling paternal phrases poised on a cushion of mellifluous bass sound.

The accomplished conductor David Neely had a somewhat flat night in the pit. The opening statements were dry and correct, instead of sparkling and anticipatory. This rather clinical beginning thwarted stylistic engagement for a couple of acts but then began to settle into a more enthused, informed, expansive French style.

There is much about Manon that starts out heady and bubbling, but ultimately it is a rather gentle tragedy as things go, certainly not Offenbach’s La Grande Duchesse de Gerolstein. The broad generalities of the first fourth of the evening did not set-up (as they must) the powerful set pieces and confrontations in the following acts.

3X3A8740.png(Left to right) Antonia Botti-Lodovico, Ashly Neumann, Sydney Mancasola and Emma Sorenson

Director Kristine McIntyre’s blocking was often excellent, always competent, but sometimes just too darn’ clean as when the chorus sits down almost en masse in the Cours la Reine scene. Or, too vague as in the very opening when we can’t quite assess who is who, or what is where. The wonderfully detailed business of the lovers cavorting on the bed was preceded by an odd separation of the would-be lovers as they sing about going to run away together, all the while remaining resolutely apart.

Manon and Des Grieux are directed to do mostly all of the right things and Ms. McIntyre’s business has been very well thought out and conscientiously executed. But curiously, for all of Ms. Mansacola’s and Mr. Dennis’s strengths and hard work, for all of their going through very uninhibited romantic motions, no true sparks are ever really struck, just suggested.

I am a firm admirer of set designer R. Keith Brumley’s skills, but they seemed a bit muted on this occasion. The angled rows of painted screens were professionally executed, and the rotating of the panels allowed for swift changes. But they were oddly sterile considering the sumptuousness of the period and lushness of the score.

Indeed, in the beginning, it was difficult to define the space, and to know where the referenced elements were supposed to be imagined. The addition of drape panels in Act II were airy and diaphanous when it seemed that the lovers should be trapped in a garret or down at heel apartment. Thereafter, Mr. Brumley scored with some wonderful effects, never less so than with the beautiful grill and gate for St. Sulpice which provided a very effective environment.

Barry Steele’s lighting design was another curiosity. This gifted illuminator provided an uncharacteristically blunt design, with lighting cues mostly abrupt and lacking atmospheric specificity. This was obviously a choice, but arguably not often a well-considered one. One excellent effect was having white votive lights placed on the stage’s perimeters for the Cours la Reine scene, and then having them cross fade to blood red for the passions of St. Sulpice, augment by red hanging votives.

Conversely, Roger Kirk’s lavish, character-specific costumes were just what the piece required, and were the most wholly successful design element. I wondered if Manon’s loud, sequined gold Cours la Reine gown might have been just a bit on the gaudy side, but, hey, she does dominate the scene. Never you mind, Mr. Kirk provided wholly splendid attire.

Eh bien, mes amis, at the end of la nuit, this was a commendable convocation of top talent and good intentions. Manon was a concerted and admirably conscientious effort. It just ultimately seemed to be not quite the right one.

James Sohre


Cast and production details:

Manon Lescaut: Sydney Mancasola; Pousette: Ashly Neumann; Javotte: Emma Sorenson; Rosette: Antonia Botti-Lodovico; Chevalier des Grieux: Joseph Dennis; Comte des Grieux: Julien Robbins; Lescaut: Michael Adams; Guillot de Morfontaine: Brian Frutiger; de Bretigny: Troy Cook; Innkeeper: Spencer Reichman; Guardsmen: Lee Steiner, Nathaniel Mattingly; Maid: Aurelie Veruni; Sacristan: Chris Carr; Sergeant: Christian Sanders; Street Performers: Deborah Giddings, Steve Giddings, Rebecca Mauritz; Conductor: David Neely; Director: Kristine McIntyre; Set Design: R. Keith Brumley; Lighting Design: Barry Steele; Costume Design: Roger Kirk; Make-up and Hair Design: Brittany Crinson for Elsen and Associates; Chorus Master: Lisa Hasson.

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):