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Put on your Tuesday clothes

MANON;ROHLa Cieca’s old, old, old friend Intermezzo (not pictured) reacts to last night’s prima of Manon at the Royal Opera: Anna Netrebko “sang strongly, the voice fuller and darker than ever before, looking gorgeous” and Vittorio Grigolo‘s “technique and stamina were truly spectacular.” The pair “were, deservedly, a huge hit with the audience…. authentic and vital.” The Laurent Pelly production offers “some stylish stage pictures, but his storytelling doesn’t hang together.” [Intermezzo]



    RIP Giacinto Prandelli, June 14. “Attention must be paid to such a man.”

  • richard says:

    Prandelli was a very elegant sounding lyric tenor.
    I never heard him live; he retired around the time I started to go to opera performances but I was familiar with his work on records.

    When I was younger and more impressed with decibels than I am now, I thought he was sort of unimpressive.

    But I returned to some of his recordings a few years back and had a new appreciation for his work, he never shouted or tried to make a bigger sound than he had. And I really enjoyed his Maurizio on the Cetra recording of Adriana with Carla Gavazzi, both singers clearly understood the style of the music they were singing but neither turned the opera into a screamfest, which destroys the atmosphere that this piece should have.

  • thomas says:

    It’s shocking that this run of Manon is not sold out.

  • Popp Fanatic says:

    Well, I went to the second performance on Friday despite the fact that Manon is not one of my favourite operas (sue me). I really only went because it is a new production from a director whose work I have greatly admired in the past and, yes, for Trebs. She may be flawed in some aspects (which artist isn’t?) but she’s also quite unique in many others. We’re fortunate to be able to enjoy such a talent performing live; avoiding her because of the publicity surrounding her is just silly.

    Anyway, to my unrefined and uneducated ears this was a top rate performance. Indeed most of the enjoyment went to those second-rate sensory organs, since the production was sadly uneven: there were moments where it really worked (e.g the dirty old men ogling and groping at the ballerinas in Act 3 was extremely perceptive in the context of the period the piece was transposed to) but many more where it didn’t (e.g the annoying fluorescent lights in Act 4 which spoiled our night vision so that we couldn’t actually properly see the performers!).

    But I found the performances almost uniformly marvellous. Sure, you can always find little things you can nitpick. For instance, Grigolo is a very impressive talent from a vocal athleticism point of view and has an exciting voice, but I prefer singers who are more nuanced and don’t blast out full volume just because they have the ability. He’s still a work in progress, but it remains a very impressive Covent Garden debut, and he’s one to watch in the future.

    Trebs was probably at her best I’ve seen her live. In my opinion she has greatly matured as a performer over the last few productions I’ve seen her. Starting with the 08 Trav, continuing with the 09 Caps and Monties and now with this Manon she seems to be turning into a more subtle performer: she doesn’t go for backflips or hanging upside-down from the edge of the orchestra pit these days, and the result is much more satisfying. Her singing was gorgeous and, probably due to the extensive rehearsals, as precise as I’ve ever heard it. Even her breathing -which can be dodgy sometimes- was fine.

    As for the athletic report, since you people here are mostly American and so you care about the bottom line: she hit all those silly high Ds or whatever they are. One or two came out a bit thin and reedy, the other nice and clear, and for all of them I will say again: Who cares really? Go listen to a tuning fork if you must have the perfect pitch.

    Honestly, I don’t understand people who shell out 200 quid so that they can have a good moan afterwards. We have disasters enough in opera (cancellations are my personal bete noire and Trebs is particularly annoying when it comes to that), and lord knows how many times I’ve felt short-changed because of a conceited production or singers mailing the performance in. Here we were lucky enough to witness one of the good nights: talented performers and a top-rate director going all-out for our benefit, and mostly succeeding. Was it perfect? No. Was some other performance a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away much better? Probably. So? I personally had a great time and I don’t even *like* bloody Manon that much!

    • ilpenedelmiocor says:

      Hell yeah, she’s a world class musician, why should she have to worry about stupid things like pitch?

      • Popp Fanatic says:

        Har, har, how witty. It’s not like we’re talking about the whole score being sung off-tune! It’s 2-3 (whatever the number is, it’s not my favourite opera and I don’t know it by heart) extreme notes. If they’re hit, fine, if they’re not, big deal. I’ll take a beautifully coloured, quite unique, voice bringing out the emotion in the score (not to mention the theatrical performance) but missing 1-2 notes any day of the week.

        This is not sport we’re talking about, chaps. Or rather, it’s a bit like a good 0-0 draw in soccer. It’s not the number of goals in the game, it’s how it’s played (a bit like “size” and how you use it :-) ).

        I have concluded quite a long time ago that to look for “perfect” performances was not only futile, it was also philosophically repulsive to me. I don’t get along with Plato and his ideal archetypes, you see. Opera at its best is a live art form, shaped by the performers and the orchestra in a different way every night. An infinity of flawed but alive perfomances is preferable to a perfect (and dead) archetype. I guess this approach makes me crass and uncultivated, but it also definitely makes me a happier camper than many around here.

        • judycadanna says:

          Amen. And if she looks like a DollyLeviIdLikeToFuck while doing it, so much the better!

  • Constantine A. Papas says:


    Well done; but don’t blame Trebs for backflips and upsidedowns. These are directors’ ideas who take advandage of Netrebko’s theatrical and athletic capabilities. She may like them but she doesn’t invent or demand them.

    • kashania says:

      I never understood why people reacted so strongly to Netrebko hanging her head in the orchestra pit for five seconds in Puritani. Why not? It was interesting moment of staging and has been talked about ever since. One has to take risks in order to achieve something remarkable. Yes, for most people, that bit of staging was a mistake but I don’t fault her for taking the risk. It was a striking physical gesture and it got people talking. Sopranos usually run all over the stage during mad scenes anyway, so why not hang her head in the pit? How is that any less legitimate than running back and forth and on stage?

      • BETSY_ANN_BOBOLINK says:

        Simple, Kash. It breaks “the fourth wall,” the tacit agreement between performer and audience that what is occurring on-stage is just like real life, only louder, brighter, more expensive, and set to music. There just weren’t that many Puritan castles with orchestra pits, and when she hung her head over the side it jarred the audience into remembering that what they were witnessing was taking place in a theatre, instead of in a 17th Century home populated by two dead horses, a portrait of Mao Tse-Tung, a phalanx of servants dressed as Japanese beetles, and assorted Regie-mimes with daffodils stuck in their asses.

        • luvtennis says:


          Breaking the 4th wall can work in some very limited circumstances -- but ONLY when done with a very particular effect in mind. The Callas Bernstein Sonnambula comes to mind -- as you recall, they turned up the house lights for the final cabaletta which was addressed directly to the audience.

        • BETSY_ANN_BOBOLINK says:

          I haven’t believed in the 4th wall since Our Town.

  • Constantine A. Papas says:

    Sorry; the above comment was meant for Popp Fanatic, #14

  • Popp Fanatic says:


    Well, according to her interviews both of these examples were her idea; I recall her saying that the the upside down bit was made in a desperate attempt to spruce up that neolithic Puritani production.

    In any case, I don’t “blame” her. I actually *like* the woman! I meant to illustrate that these days she goes for a more understated acting approach, that just happens to be more effective than the energetic outbursts of old, fun though those undoubtedly were.

  • manou says:

    Okay -- here is a less dithyrambic review :

    from our old old friends at Opera Britannia.

    The Sundays are still gushing and very complimentary.