Passion at a Price: Massenet's Manon

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

'Manon' performed by the Malmo Opera starring soprano Georgia Jarman as Manon and tenor Joachim Bäckström as Des Grieux. 'Manon' performed by the Malmo Opera starring soprano Georgia Jarman as Manon and tenor Joachim Bäckström as Des Grieux. (Malin Arnesson)

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On this edition of World of Opera, host Lisa Simeone presents Manon from the Malmö Opera in Sweden, starring soprano Georgia Jarman as Manon and tenor Joachim Bäckström as Des Grieux, in a production led by conductor Leif Segerstam.

The opera opens with the title character, an innocent 15-year-old, being shipped off to a convent for her amorous inclinations. At first that seems a bit harsh, but by the time the opera is over it has become clear that Manon's parents had the right idea. To introduce the title character, Massenet gives us music representing Manon's beauty and innocence. As the drama progresses, the music still reflects her beauty, but not so much her innocence.

During her journey to the convent Manon falls for a well-meaning young man of modest means, who adores her. Before long it's clear that Manon has a taste for opulence as well as romance. The opera reveals she's not above cavorting with rich men she doesn't love in exchange for a luxurious lifestyle. While the plot doesn't seem very hard-hitting, Massenet's opera doesn't pull any punches. The opera has the complex, emotionally powerful music it needs to drive home some pointedly unsavory realities.


Conductor: Leif Segerstam, conductor
Manon: Georgia Jarman 
Des Grieux: Joachim Bäckstroöm 
Lecaut: Alec Avedissian
Count Des Grieux: Daniel Hällstöm
Guillot: Jonas Durán
Bretigny: Kosma Ranuer
Pousette: Sofie Asplund
Javotte: Kamila Genhamza
Rosette: Kristina Wahlin
Malmö Opera Orchestra and Chorus

Hosted by:

Lisa Simeone

Comments [1]

Jerry S. from NYC

Medea, Electra,Carmen are all formidable women. Violetta's past was not without stain. Yet it is difficult to think of a heroine of any opera who--at least in the novel which inspired them--is a more shallow, heartless chit than Manon Lescaut. She runs off with her lover, a gifted seminarian,and in the earliest days of their passion, without the slightest thought or regret leaves him for a wealthy protector who espies her, by chance, at her window. In the novel, her brother becomes her pimp. The latter teaches our hero to become a professional card sharp. Together, the three conspire to find a new protector for her, and pass the lover, our hero, off as her younger brother. She has neither guilt, nor shame, and never apologizes for her multiple betrayals of this man befuddled by a passion which persists beyond sanity, let alone sense. By the time the book ends, one can only wonder what there is to sympathize with in either of these sorry wretches. One must wonder that not one, but two composers, thought this story (with these characters) was worthy to set to music, and to make audiences believe any of it mattered. Of course, they began by eliminating all the most unsavory elements in that story, and cutting the characters to a template that a conventional audience could find forgivable, if not entirely acceptable.

Apr. 27 2014 09:09 PM

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