International superstars Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón give inspired performances in Massenet's passionate opera, Manon. Netrebko gives full range to her abilities as a singer and actress in portraying innocence, lust... more », greed and, above all, beauty. It is Netrebko's mesmerizing performance which makes Villazón's youthful passion and ultimate despair even more authentic and heart-breaking. The setting in this production has been updated to the 1950s and the entire opera takes place as if Manon were the star of her own film. Indeed, Netrebko transforms her character from the innocence of Audrey Hepburn through the voluptuousness of Marilyn Monroe into the tragedy of Ingrid Bergman. The work of director Vincent Paterson, known for his work on Broadway and in music videos, is especially effective in creating an energetic and ultimately tragic performance with stunning visual splendor. Netrebko and Villazón, the true dream-team for this opera, are joined by the conductor Daniel Barenboim who leads the Staatskapelle Berlin in a spontaneous and passionate performance.« less
"Anna Netrebko creates another magical performance as Manon in this updated production from Berlin. Originally performed in Los Angeles, the production then travelled to Berlin in 2007.
Anna Netrebko adds Manon to a list of amazing roles she has created on stage. Set in 1950's Paris, Manon is cast as a glamourous actress. Her coloratura is as beautiful as she is in a range of gorgeous period gowns. At one point she is pole dancing in a gold lame gown while singing some beautiful notes. Simply astonishing!!
Rolando Villazon is again superb in the role of the student Des Grieux. His beautiful sound serves Massenet's music very well.
You will regret not getting this DVD. It does not get any better than this. This simply is a must have DVD for anyone who collects opera on DVD."
Perfect balance of music and theater
Constantine A. Papas | 09/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The theatricality of this life performance of Manon on DVD is amazing. Paterson's idea to update Manon into the 50s is the creation of a genius with so many metaphors and symbolism. Like many sixteen-year-old girls, Manon dreams of becoming a movie star for fame, prosperity and the "good" life. The presence of cameras on stage from the beginning gives a physical glimpse of her dreams. And every bobby soxer dreams of the day she'll put on sheer hosiery with the sexy seam in the back. The black magic-marker line Manon inscribes on the back of her nude sexy leg is a raw manifestation of her subconscious desire that Paterson captures to perfection. What about the music? After all, Manon is an opera. Personally, Manon is not one of my favorite operas. The first two acts, musically speaking, are rather tedious and tenuous. The heavy dramatic singing picks up later and if it's well sung, it makes Manon a heavyweight and a tearjerker. Netrebko's Manon, with the help of Paterson's intelligent direction, projects the character's flaws, immaturity and shallowness with honesty that makes you feel sorry for her. And her singing? Netrebko's in total command with unbelievable either playful or dramatic color. And her death scene in the end is destined for prosperity. Netrebko not only sings and acts well but she even dies better! Villazon is in excellent form with secure top but he appears to be a liitle cautious with the size of his sound. He and Netrebko make the "dream team" one more time, as this production shows; and this DVD is highly recommended. The sound of the orchestra is underpowered at times, maybe due to a little sluggishness from the podium.
Constantine A. Papas El Paso, Texas"
Outstanding theater that happens to be opera
Robert G. Leroe | Saugus, MA USA | 09/28/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The director admits in the documentary that he doesn't care for opera because too much attention too often is given to the singing and not enough to acting and staging. And he fixes that beautifully here in a Broadway-worthy theatrical presentation that should keep everyone glued to the action on screen. The updating to the 50's gives it a glitzy retro look similar to the Australian La Boheme. The sets, costumes, and especially the stars ("singing actors") make this a memorable piece, which viewers will want to watch repeatedly. No "stand-and-deliver" here."
Paris in Hollywood
Janet Bedell | Baltimore, Maryland USA | 10/23/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Here is the second major production of Jules Massenet's "Manon" to come out on DVD in 2008. Earlier, we had David McVicar's gritty, unsentimental production, set in the story's own period of the early 18th century, from Barcelona's Liceu Opera House. Now comes a much "prettier" production, updated to the 1950s in a glamorous Hollywood treatment by Vincent Patterson for Los Angeles Opera and the Berlin Staatsoper. These DVDs are as different as their two female stars -- Natalie Dessay and Anna Netrebko -- though interestingly they share the same male star, tenor Rolando Villazón. And if you love this opera, or French opera in general, you probably should get them both.
Though I think that McVicar's version presents the story much more powerfully than does Patterson's somewhat superficial interpretation, this newest version is a pleasure to watch, full of gorgeous costumes and eye candy galore. Patterson makes Manon into a Hollywood-obsessed Material Girl, who lives her life as her own film, channeling by turns Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, and in her death scene, Ingrid Bergman. The glamorous Anna Netrebko carries off all these transformations with exuberance and a spectacular star wardrobe. Yet, though most of the story seems operetta-light in this production, Netrebko does manage to induce tears in her final death scene, aided in no small measure by Villazón's heartfelt performance. And her rich-voiced singing is generally gorgeous, save for the occasional shrill top note or slightly messy coloratura run. While she is not the subtle actress Dessay is, she is fully convincing as a woman men would all but kill to possess.
Villazón manages to create almost a different character in his portrayal of her lover Des Grieux in comparison to his performance with Dessay. He seems here to be much younger, more playful and more completely dominated by Manon. His singing is impassioned and exciting, but sometimes sounds under stress. Not so his singing of the famous aria "La Rêve," which floats with great sweetness and touching sincerity.
The rest of the cast is uniformly strong, especially Alfredo Daza as a firm-voiced Lescaut, Manon's cousin, played as a much less sinister, more good-hearted character here than in McVicar's production. And bass Christof Fischesser is an outstanding Count Des Grieux with a sonorous voice and authorative acting presence -- far superior to Samuel Ramey in the Liceu DVD. Daniel Barenboim, though not the last word as a French stylist, directs the Staatskapelle Berlin ably.
If you wonder what all the "Dream Couple" fuss is about or are already a Netrebko-Villazón fan, you owe it to yourself to get this DVD. The sizzling, sexy connection between this pair is truly something special in the world of opera. It's not hype, it's not marketing: this couple has chemistry and charisma squared if not cubed! The Saint Sulpice scene here is hair-raisingly intense as Manon stalks the would-be-priest Des Grieux, who is like a caged animal behind the sacristy gates.
While I admire the Liceu production more, I can't resist this charmer. "
An Excellent Manon
David D. Dollinger | Pasadena, CA | 10/28/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For some time I have tried to resist the charms of Netrebko; I listened to her Gilda from the Met; well sung but something was lacking. When Virgin released the L'Elisire from Vienna with Villazon and Netrebko I got it principally for Villazon who didn't disappoint. The diva was charming but she faced stiff competition in this arena: Scotto, Gheorghiu, etc. Considering Nucci's age it was an amazing performance but at least it was in a repertoire that he should never have strayed from.
But back to Manon. I had already purchased the Virgin DVD and loved it although there were deficiencies but this is not the place to discuss them. For conservative opera goers this Berlin production is probably not the version to buy. As everyone knows the action as has been moved up to 1950 or there abouts. For me this works even though Massenet clearly evokes a France of the 18th century in much of the music. And Anna? she is a charmer entering fully into the the directors concept. She pounts, she flirts, she charms, she lies and she loves all with passion and commitment. Oh yes, she sings well. Is it a French Manon? Well, hardly, but she does make the attempt--a language coach is credited. There is only one Frenchman in the cast, but a stylistic French Manon in the 21st century is unlikely. One wonders when was the last time a Massenet opera was performed in Berlin, and to have Barenboim at the helm. This is hardly his fach, if one can borrow a singer's term. It is amazing to see and hear this great conductor who has spent his life with Mozart, Beethoven and Wagner conducting what many consider a frivolous entertainment. The notes indicate that he took over some ten days before the performance was to debut; he learned the score in that time; surely a rest from the rigors of his usual repertoire and a bravo for not patronizing the music.
For me it would be impossible to choose Berlin over Barcelon or vice versa; I am glad I have both. I prefer either one to the Fleming version even though it was produced at the Bastille. Renee is weak in the first two acts--Dessay it probably the only Manon who can claim to be 15 and not look like a liar. And even though I have not seen it, the Vienna production has no allure for me. I may be accused of being sexist here, but Gruberova has little on not sex appeal for me and the voice is insufficiently glamorous. "