Met Live in HD – Luisi conducts, Anna Netrebko stars in new Manon

Piotr Beczala as des Grieux and Anna Netrebko as the title character in Massenet's "Manon." Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera,taken during the rehearsal on March 22, 2012 at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City.

It’s the new production of Massenet’s Manon, directed by Laurent Pelly and where Met Conductor Fabio Luisi will make his Manon Met conducting debut. And it is the next Met Live in HD transmission, running some four hours, hosted as usual by Natalie Dessay. Most importantly it has true star power too with soprano Anna Netrebko singing her first Met performances of the title role.

Once again we are pleased to bring you this Live in HD preview along with video snippets, bios, program notes and a synopsis of Manon.

And what an opera it is, Massenet’s glitzy opera about Manon, a simple country girl with conflicting desires for love and luxury who is drawn into a life of glamorous—but hollow—Parisian sophistication. Piotr Beczala co-stars as the Chevalier des Grieux, a young nobleman who falls in love with Manon; Paulo Szot sings the role of Lescaut, Manon’s protective cousin who struggles with temptations of his own; and David Pittsinger sings the Comte des Grieux, who wants his son out of Manon’s arms and into a respectable future. All this along with the Met’s Principal Conductor Luisi leading Massenet’s throbbing opera, seen in a stylish new production by Laurent Pelly. Soprano Natalie Dessay hosts the 245 minute transmission.

Pelly’s staging of Manon, a success when it premiered at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden in 2010, is his second Met production; he also directed the new production of La Fille du Régiment that premiered in the Met’s 2007-08 season. Manon features Pelly’s costume designs, scenic design by Chantal Thomas, lighting design by Joël Adam, and choreography by Lionel Hoche in his Met debut. Pelly’s production, set in the late 19th century, is a co-production of the Met, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Teatro alla Scala in Milan, and the Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse.

The April 7 matinee will be transmitted live around the world as part of The Met: Live in HD series, which now reaches more than 1,700 movie theaters in 54 countries.

In the Berkshires, the transimissions are carried at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, the Beacon Cinemas in Pittsfield and the Clark Art Museum in Williamstown. For more information on telecasts in your area go to www.metoperafamily.org

Pelly, a noted French opera and theater director, made his Met debut in 2008 with a highly praised new production of Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment. He is the co-director of the Théâtre National de Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées and has directed theater productions at, among many others, the Comédie Française and Odéon in Paris and the Avignon Festival. His recent opera productions include Massenet’s Cendrillon, seen at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden and the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels; Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortilèges at the Glyndebourne Festival; and Massenet’s Don Quichotte in Brussels and at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo.

These will be Netrebko’s first complete Met performances of the hedonistic and irresistible Manon, though she sang a portion of the opera (Act 3, Scene 2, the famous scene set in Paris’s Saint-Sulpice church) in a 2007 Met gala.  In recent years, she has sung Manon to critical acclaim at the Vienna State Opera and in the premiere of Pelly’s staging at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden. She opened the current Met season with another house role debut, the title character in the company premiere of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, and will make her Met role debut as Adina in Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore on opening night of the 2012-13 season. Since her Met debut in Prokofiev’s War and Peace in 2002, she has sung ten additional roles with the company, including Norina in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale (2006 new production premiere), Musetta and Mimì in Puccini’s La Bohème, Antonia in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann (2009 new production premiere), the title character in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Juliette in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, Elvira in Bellini’s I Puritani, Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto, and Zerlina and Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

Beczala sings his first-ever performances of the Chevalier des Grieux in this production. Since his 2006 Met debut as the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto (a role he reprises in a new production at the Met next season), he has sung Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor (including aLive in HD performance, opposite Netrebko), Lenski in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, Rodolfo in La Bohème, and Roméo in Roméo et Juliette.

Szot starred as Kovalyov in the 2010 Met premiere of Shostakovich’s The Nose and returned last season as Escamillo in Bizet’s Carmen. He won a 2008 Tony Award for his portrayal of Emile de Becque in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific.

This season, Luisi has led a diverse repertory of acclaimed performances at the Met, including the new production premieres of Don Giovanni and Wagner’s Siegfried andGötterdämmerung. In addition to Manon, Luisi’s spring Met engagements include a revival of Verdi’s La Traviata and three complete cycles of Der Ring des Nibelungen. Next season, he will conduct a new production of Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera, revivals of Verdi’s Aida andBerlioz’s Les Troyens, and complete Ring cycles.

Manon

by John W. Freeman
— courtesy of Opera News

ACT I. France, 1721. In the courtyard of an inn at Amiens, a crowd awaits arrival of the coach. Guillot, an elderly roué, and his wealthy friend Brétigny have ordered dinner for three actresses of easy virtue, Poussette, Javotte and Rosette; as they retire to a room, a young officer, Lescaut, comes to meet his cousin Manon, who is on her way to a convent. The coach soon arrives and with it Manon, who excitedly tells Lescaut about her first trip away from home. While he looks after her luggage, Guillot, calling for more wine, notices the pretty girl and flirts with her, but she only laughs at the elderly man’s advances. Lescaut returns, and before joining friends at a gaming table he warns Manon about talking to strangers. To herself, she wistfully compares her own bland future with the pleasure-filled life of Guillot and his glamorous companions. The Chevalier Des Greiux arrives at the inn and, on seeing Manon, falls in love with her. Seizing this opportunity to escape the convent, Manon suggests that they run off to Paris in Guillot’s coach. The tipsy old bon vivant, who had intended to abduct Manon himself, stumbles from the inn just in time to hurl curses after the escaping lovers.

Anna Netrebko as the title character in Massenet's "Manon."
Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

ACT II. In their Paris apartment, Manon and Des Grieux read a letter he has written to his father describing his sweetheart and asking permission to marry her. When Des Grieux notices a bouquet of flowers Brétigny has sent to Manon, she tells him a lie to allay his suspicions of her loyalty. Lescaut and Brétigny arrive, the former to demand that Des Grieux marry Manon, the latter to tell the girl that Des Grieux is soon to be kidnapped by his irate father. The visitors depart, and Des Grieux goes off to send his letter. Left alone, Manon is unable to resist the temptation of luxury offered her by Brétigny and bids a poignant farewell to the life she has shared with Des Grieux. The young man returns, relating an idyllic vision of their future life together, but officers suddenly force their way into the room and abduct him.

ACT III. A holiday crowd fills a park at the Cours-la-Reine, where Poussette, Javotte and Rosette have eluded Guillot. Lescaut sentimentally addresses a pretty passerby as his beloved “Rosalinde,” then generously offers her presents from the vendors’ carts. Manon, surrounded by wealthy admirers, preens herself and sings a gavotte in praise of youth and pleasure. When Des Grieux’ father, the Count, speaks with Brétigny, Manon overhears their conversation, learning that Des Grieux is about to take holy orders at the Church of St. Sulpice. She herself speaks to the Count and is piqued to hear that her former lover has grown cold to her charms. Manon rushes to St. Sulpice.

In the sacristy at St. Sulpice, some women describe the eloquence of the new abbé. Skeptical of his son’s new virtue, the Count tries to persuade Des Grieux to abandon the church and marry a suitable girl. After the father leaves, Des Grieux prays for the strength to resist the memory of Manon. But Manon arrives, breaks his resolve with her ardor and persuades him to run away with her.

Anna Netrebko as the title character and Piotr Beczala as des Grieux in Massenet's "Manon." Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

ACT IV. The Hôtel de Transylvanie, a notorious gambling house, is crowded with merrymakers, including Lescaut, Guillot and the three actresses. When Des Grieux arrives with Manon, she suggests that he recoup their sagging fortunes at the faro table. As the young man plays cards with Guillot, Manon and the actresses sing in praise of living for the moment. Guillot, losing every hand, accuses Des Grieux of cheating and goes off to summon the police; the authorities soon arrive and with them the Count Des Grieux, who rebukes his son but promises him that his arrest will be only temporary. Manon swoons as he is taken away.

ACT V. Manon is to be deported to Louisiana on charges of immorality. On the road to Le Havre, where she must pass, Des Grieux and Lescaut bribe the guards to release her. Manon, in the last stages of consumption, falls exhausted in her lover’s arms. Des Grieux, though despairing, comforts her as, murmuring of their lost happiness, she dies.

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