Jules Massenet's opera, "Manon," based on an early 18th-century French novel by Abbe Prevost, is the Metropolitan Opera live high definition broadcast on Saturday. Starting at 10 a.m. and running approximately four hours, the showing takes place
in the Finkel Auditorium at Colorado Mountain College, Breckenridge.
Attendees will be treated to interviews and backstage scenes as well as informal discussions during the opera intermissions, at which time light snacks and beverages will be served. Cost of admission is $20 for adults, $16 for seniors and $10 for students. The broadcast is co-sponsored by the National Repertory Orchestra and Colorado Mountain College.
Viewers are introduced to what life may have been like in early 18th-century France, described as a "corrupt society." Manon, an alluring young French girl from the country, is en route to a convent to enroll as a nun, sent by her parents to preserve family dignity in diverting her fantasies of wealth and shallowness. But Manon is a doomed woman, a "femme maudite." In a busy courtyard of an inn along the way, Manon immediately draws the attention of interested male paramours, among whom is the dashing Chevalier des Grieux, an aimless young man who falls in love with her on first sight. In a short time, he persuades her to run off with him to avoid her plight of having to enter the convent. The first act ends with the pair escaping in elopement.
Manon, in the acts of the opera to follow, experiences a series of highs and lows. Manon is seen to abandon des Grieux, as expressed in a superb "coloratura aria," in favor of the prosperous de Bretigny, who offers her a life of riches and fame. We next see Manon at a bustling public holiday promenade, arm and arm with de Bretigny, where she sings her joys of being the "queen of the demimonde." She learns, however, that des Grieux, in remorse after losing his loved one, has entered a local seminary. Manon then visits the chapel, where stage producer Laurent Pelly is accused of pushing religion over the edge with a scene in which Manon is seen straddling a bed behind the altar, ripping off des Grieux's shirt, bearing his chest, as the curtain falls.
In a tense gambling scene in Act IV, des Grieux is accused of cheating and apprehended by police. Manon is also arrested, to be deported as a woman of ill repute. In the last act, des Grieux, gaining the favor of one of the guards, is able to free Manon from her captors, only to have her die in his arms from exhaustion and consumption.
The part of Manon is sung by soprano Anna Nebrenko, whose vocal rendition of several arias is described as having richness with melding of runs and phrases into melodies of shimmering beauty. Tenor Piotr Beczala, described as a dashing, earnest Chevalier des Grieux, has an ardent, virile voice with impeccable technique. A supporting cast also has received high marks for superior performances.
The Metropolitan orchestra is described as "spirited and refined" under the baton of Fabio Luisi, and the chorus and a group of ballerinas add a lively spirit and comedy to this production. Pelly's stage arrangement is minimalist, where late 19th century costumes are mixed with skewered-looking sets in an attempt to make the story seem more pertinent and gritty.