Tuesday, July 28, 2009

MANON LESCAUT performance

It was as exciting as ever to be going again to "our house". That first glimpse of it as you come down Macquarie Street gets me every time. 

BIG sing from Cheryl tonight. 

She was there and she was simply magnificent and in full command of her fantastic instrument in a pretty challenging role. She did look pleased and well she should and this happy chappy resorted to foot stamping like the old days. Trills, plural, a lovely mezza di voce, fabulous fabulous middle voice, shining confident top, and the voice sounded big and bigger, an absolutely compelling stage presence from near-nunnery to death in the desert, it was one of those nights where every aspect seemed effortless. Oh Cheryl Barker, I'm joining the swoon club I think.

Second only to the only other reason (see rave paragraph above) to see this show, as far as I'm concerned, was Alexander Polianichko. He extracted from Puccini'c embryonic score, with all the little cells of what his lifetime would evolve and differentiate, some extremely beautiful quite heart touching emotions which the AO&B Orchestra poured out as well, and as loudly, as I can remember. 

Jorge Lopez-Yanez tried his best, and his best was very good, but the sense of trying was a wee bit evident, though anything lesser would have detracted from the whole, and he didn't ever do that. It was quite fine. Act 1 was a bit rocky , and for that matter, it could go altogether with no loss. 

Teddy T R occasionally sounded like he had found some lyricism in his voice and played a poorly written and musically under-developed part of uncertain focus as the Hollywood rascal, yet again. 

Richard Alexander sang well but seemed uncomfortable straddling something between a fop and a geriatric and falling somehere in between. All good in the minor roles.

Apart from the appropriately huge Parisian mirror, all the better to see you with Ms Barker, I didn't care much for the staging. Well, actually apart from Act 2, which was beautifully choreographed, and then add Act 4, surely very difficult to stage manage, but they did it well, all credit to Cheryl Barker. So make that the staging not half bad, and with Act 1 chopped, there's only Act 3 to sort. Get rid of those dreadful cages for starters.

But a mighty showing from Cheryl Barker and the pit and we're home with a lot to be proud of.


Sarah said...

Swoon club. I like that. I had worn the wrong shoes (on purpose, superstition) and couldn't stamp my feet as I might have liked. It will have to be the clattery heels next time.

Anonymous said...

James Waites (where you and I have both commented) obviously shared your lack of enthusiasm for the staging and then some. Coming to opera from the theatre angle, he found that determinative against any "intrinsic artistic value."

I'm not saying that ML offered me any epiphanies about life. I did have a minor epiphany, but that was of a more technical nature: spotting all the elements of a successful formula which Puccini kept and refined in his later works, whilst thoroughly enjoying them in the successful execution which doubtless is what led Puccini to repeat them.

WANDERER said...

Yes, isn't the score a fascinating peep into some of what was already in Puccini's music box and I was mightily impressed how Alexander Polianichko managed to find those moments and send them our way so clearly. He really has the Puccini style and gets to heart of it.

Whatever intrinsic artistic value is, or perceived to be, I don't agree with James Waites that this ML is lacking in any, or enough to not justify putting it on. (I hope my 'lackings' and 'nots' don't cancel out and I end up saying the opposite).

Those musical values we've noted alone give it significance, while still recognising it as early Puccini, and the earliest work in the regular repertoire. And the playing on Tuesday when I went was very good especially after our little trip when I was thinking we might come back to a bit of a cringe. Not so.

But more so, it surely is a vehicle for a star soprano, with a star tenor beside her hopefully. With precedent - didn't Sutherland (in Sydney) sing Elletra (and Semiramide) in front of some pretty crappy sets. So the question is was Barker up to carrying it. No doubt in my mind.

James seemed stuck on a few things. One was that the company says it can't afford to alienate a conservative audience. Well it can't. But it can deliver a good mix, and it may not be Regietheatre or Kosky every night (the Goverment doesn't pay here) but the mix could be worse. You dealt with the matter of relative pricing and that leaves intrinsic artistic value. We found some; he didn't, which says only one thing about intrinsic artistic value.