My Year of Opera 16: Manon

This production was the one with Renee Fleming singing Manon and conducted by Jesús López-Cobos.

Another French opera and some references to nuns early in the first act (Manon is going to join a nunnery because she is a wild child at home) made me very skeptical of how the whole thing was going to play out. After Manon flirts with the old man and ditches her brother to run off with a guy she just met (did they steal that carriage or just tag a long?) I had horrible visions of what was going to happen to this girl. I figured she’d be an opium-riddled prostitute by Act 3 and by Act 5 she’d probably make Marion in Requiem for a Dream look like a cheery ending.

Speaking of which, this opera didn’t need 5 acts to tell this story. It got a little long. It goes to show how very, very little story can get spun into too long of an event. On the whole, it was a very chaste and polite version of “Anna Nicole,” which is an opera I really enjoy.

The music was very pretty, lots of strong ensemble moments and good melodies for the voices. It is a “singers’ opera” in my mind: I think singers love doing it more than people like watching it. The opposite pole on that spectrum would be a “composers’ opera” in which composers like it more than singers/audiences.

Am I right in thinking that there are other operas with the same plot? I’m pretty sure I’ve seen an opera titled Manon Lescaut out there somewhere. I’ll probably not see it (unless you all think I need to). I would like to see some of the same stories made into operas by different composers, though…

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