In celebration of ten years of The Met: Live in HD being shown on cinema screens around the world, including Cinema Nouveau, opera fans can see a production of Puccini’s opera, Manon Lescaut, which can be seen from Saturday, March 26 for limited screenings.
This obsessive love story stars soprano Kristine Opolais in the title role of the country girl who transforms herself into a Parisian temptress. She performs opposite tenor Roberto Alagna, (who replaced tenor Jonas Kaufmann due to illness), who plays the dashing student, des Grieux, who desperately woos her.
Massimo Cavalletti sings the role of Lescaut and Brindley Sherratt is Geronte in this production. Director Sir Richard Eyre places the action in occupied France in a film noir setting. “Desperate passion” is the phrase Puccini himself used to describe the opera that confirmed his position as the pre-eminent Italian opera composer of his day. Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi leads the stirring score.
The world premiere of Manon Lescaut was staged at the Teatro Regio, Turin in 1893, with the Met premiere on 18 January, 1907. Few operas have surpassed Manon Lescaut in the depiction of the urgency of young love.
The French tale of a beautiful young woman destroyed by her conflicting needs for love and luxury had already inspired Massenet’s Manon (1884), a relatively new and immensely popular work at the time of Manon Lescaut’s premiere.
Puccini made the story his own and infused it with a new level of frank emotion and a flood of melody. The opera was his first great success, leading George Bernard Shaw to name him “the successor to Verdi”.
The first three acts of the opera take place in various locations in France, around the year 1720: the first in the town of Amiens, the second in a magnificent palace in Paris, and the third on the waterfront of the port city of Le Havre.
The fourth act is set in a desolate location in the New World, an imaginary place described in the libretto as ‘a vast desert near the outskirts of New Orleans’.
Sir Richard Eyre’s new production moves the action to the 1940s.
Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924) was immensely popular in his own lifetime, and his mature works remain staples in the repertory of most of the world’s opera companies. Writing the libretto for Manon Lescaut was a laborious process, in which a number of people were involved, including journalist Domenico Oliva, novelist and playwright Marco Praga, playwright Giuseppe Giacosa and poet Luigi Illica (both would later collaborate with Puccini on La Bohème, Tosca, and Madama Butterfly), fellow composer Ruggero Leoncavallo, and Puccini’s publisher, Giulio Ricordi.
The work that thrust Puccini onto the international stage as Italy’s foremost opera composer, Manon Lescaut, is built on lessons learned from Richard Wagner, translated into a thoroughly Italian, full-blooded thrill ride. The title character grows from a bored and pouty youth in Act II’s elegant and self-pitying aria, ‘In quelle trine morbide’, into a fully-realised adult facing untimely death in Act IV’s shatteringly dramatic, ‘Sola, perduta, abbandonata’.
The orchestra plays a prominent role in propelling the action, with the waves of sound during the powerful Act II love duet among the most blatantly erotic in opera history.
Watch an excerpt from Manon Lescaut in which Kristine Opolais (Manon) and Roberto Alagna (des Grieux) perform an excerpt from the Act II duet:
In addition to the production, lovers of opera are invited behind the scenes with the Met’s stars. Singers serve as hosts for the HD series, conducting live interviews with cast and crew members as well as the production teams, giving cinema audiences an unprecedented look at what goes into staging an opera at one of the world’s greatest houses.
There are also interviews with Manon Lescaut stars Kristine Opolais and Roberto Alagna, and director Sir Richard Eyre.
Manon Lescaut has limited screenings exclusively at Cinema Nouveau and select Ster-Kinekor theatres countrywide at 5 pm on March 26, April 5 and April 7; 2.30 pm on March 27; and 11.30 am on March 29 and April 6.
The running time is approximately three hours, including two intervals.
For booking information on The Met: Live in HD season, visit http://www.cinemanouveau.co.za or http://www.sterkinekor.com. Download the Ster-Kinekor App on any Nokia, Samsung Android, iPhone or Blackberry smart phone for updates, news and to make bookings. Follow us on Twitter @nouveaubuzz and on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For information, call Ticketline on 0861-Movies (668 437).
Still to be screened are Madama Butterfly (23 April), Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux (07 May) and Elektra by R. Strauss (28 May), to end the current season.