Devoted lover or vile temptress? It certainly isn’t easy to box in the title character of the final opera of the OdM’s 2012-2013 season. Manon (Marianne Fiset, Soprano) is en route to join a convent, when she meets the Chevalier des Grieux. Hopelessly in love, they flee to Paris to live together in blissful squalor.
But poverty does not suit Manon, and eventually she leaves her lover to pursue a life of endless indulgence alongside another suitor, Monsieur De Brétigny (Alexandre Sylvestre, Bass-Baritone). Unable to fill the void left by her departure from the Chevalier de Grieux (Richard Troxell, Tenor), she returns to him and begs him to take her back. This, of course, is a tall order, as he has entered the seminary of Saint-Sulpice. Overcome by Manon’s heartfelt plea, he leaves the seminary for a second chance at love.
But, as in all tragedies that have preceded it, love alone is never enough. Tempted by being able to have it all, Manon entices des Grieux to attend the casino and win them their fortune. This sets off a series of events that end in heartbreak.
A tale in five acts, spanning over three hours, this opera is quite the undertaking. The sets, which change no less than five times, had a magical and whimsical quality. Though, according to the second act, it seems that living the life of a pauper in Paris during the 1800 may not have been much of a hardship. As usual, the costumes were grandiose and integral in keeping the audience engaged with the world created on stage.
The performances were strong all around, with a noteworthy effort by Richard Troxell who stepped in to perform in lieu of the indisposed Bruno Ribeiro, originally cast as the Chevalier des Grieux. As well as an undeniable performance by Alain Coulombe (Bass) as Le Comte des Grieux, with a voice that demands your undivided attention.
Unfortunately, despite all its strengths, this production lacked that charisma that captivates and demands that you transcend ambivalence and engage as more than a mere spectator.
You still have a chance to catch the remaining three performances on May 21, 23 and 25, 2013. For tickets – www.operademontreal.laplacedesarts.com