Monday, 18 April 2016

Giacomo Puccini, Manon Lescaut – Bayerische Staatsoper 

Performance 15th April 

Dynamic, gripping, entertaining, funny, touching – all that is Hans Neuenfels’ staging of this opera without needing huge scenery or a great number of properties. Because of the lively stage direction of the figures, even the choir, and their interactions among themselves and lastly a young, attractive and devoted main cast the whole production is visually appealing and a big success.
Roland Bracht embodied the rich and old Geronte di Ravoir and his acting was really credible, when he could barely keep in step with the pleasureloving Manon or collapsed on a chair, heavily breathing. Those situations of slapstick were quite amusing.
Reliably sung was the part of Manon’s brother by Rodion Pogossov, but he could not always win through against the loud orchestra.
Very passionate was the dedicated performance of Brandon Jovanovich’s Des Grieux, who enacted the loving student in his youthful audacity pretty convincing. Jovanovich has a strong middle register which allowed him to assert himself during all the doublings of the vocal parts in the orchestra that are so peculiar to Puccini’s music. Also this tenor had the stamina to unfold the whole role as far as the finale, even if some of his highest notes sounded a little bit thin.
Ermonela Jaho draw an incredibly vivid portrait of Manon Lescaut’s character and was the actual highlight of this all over satisfying evening. From the very beginning of the opera she appeared as the confident and seductive woman utterly persuasive and expressed her obsession for luxury as well as her real love for Des Grieux and her regrets at the end of the opera deeply fascinating. Her vocal shaping of Manon was simply amazing in its variety in expression and control of volume from beautifully soft but still clearly audible piano parts to emotional outbursts without any noticeable struggle through all registers. Jaho earned the most applause at the end of the evening deservedly and seemed visibly grateful for the frenetic cheering.
A suitable base for these extraordinary vocal performances was created by the Bayerisches Staatsorchester under the baton of Asher Fisch, who showed a sensibility for the musical peaks and knew when he had to stimulate the orchestra for raptures or when he had to make room for the singers. Together with the Chor der Bayerischen Staatsoper and the solo vocalists the outcome of Fisch’s conducting was a homogenous sound with thrilling highlights.
For a really pleasing overall package, the entertaining staging and an outstanding cast of the title role I give 8 stars.
Reviewed by Lukas Leipfinger

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