Man-on-Manon action

La Cieca must be getting her librettos confused. She knows that Baby Doe promises she will wait for Horace Tabor near the entrance to the Mineshaft. And, of course, back in the late ’70s, any number of Gotham-based operatic evenings wound up at this venereal venue. But this is the first time La Cieca has ever heard that Manon Lescaut was a devotee of S&M — as evidenced by her participation in this blistering scene:


This photo (by Dan Rest) is from Playbill Arts’ feature on the new Lyric Opera of Chicago production production of the Puccini opera. And note that the caption reads: “bottom: Karita Mattila as Manon Lescaut.” And La Cieca was sure Karita was a top!

5 Responses to “Man-on-Manon action”

  1. I wanted to go to Chicago to see her Manon Lescaut. Thanks for the picture. I am glad I didn’t go. saved me a few bucks. I really find these kind of eurotrash productions offensive and dull. Obviously these directors have no real feel or understanding for the works. These works have survived because they are great works in their own right and don’t need to be revised. I really don’t enjoy seeing Butterfly set in Hiroshima or La Forza del Destino set on an ocean liner with the Virgin Mary carrying Leonora’s luggage (A production I read about about twenty years ago, I couldn’t make that up) I remember Cotrubas’s objections to the old Don Pasquale production. She said it was created for one singer (Sills) but had no integrity in its own right and pulled out of the production. getting saddled with Eugene Kohn in Boheme was the eventual reason for her leaving the Met.And while some of these off beat productions can be entertaining once in a while.they grow tired very fast and then we are stuck with them for years. (e.g. Fidelio,) or else they are such fiascos that we will never see them again , Thank god( eg. Trovatore, Zambello Lucia, )

  2. Well, I don’t know that you can call this production of MANON LESCAUT “Eurotrash.” It’s clearly set in the correct period, and the scene depicted is, if rather lurid, consistent with the narrative of Act 3. (Apparently the women are branded with a hot iron before they are shipped off to the New World.)

  3. Just Another Tenor Says:

    I find it unfortunate that the term “Eurotrash” can be thrown about so easily and without any reason. Does any updating or creative production warrant that term? I believe people have forgotten how the term orignially came about – through productions in which the director was WILLINGLY going against the text and music. A good example of that was a Rosenkavalier in Paris, in which in the second act, as everyone is clamouring how beautifully dressed Octavian is in white and gold, he appeared in a green nightshirt!
    However, what do we know of this production and how can be dub it Eurotrash based on one picture? Perhaps it has been updated, and perhaps it is not the most traditional of stgaings (I dont know, I have not seen it), but perhaps the director, along with the other artists, have taken great pain to justify every move, course of action, and acting choice. If that is done, than I don’t even mind La Traviata being updated to nowadays (eg: Traviata in Verona), and having Violetta be a rock star dying of cancer – as long as the throughline of the piece is caried through. If there is even one moment that does not work in the updated setting, than yes, it should not be done.
    I have seen many productions dubbed “Eurotrash” and taken part in several others, in which wonderful things happen. if the director is intelligent, and the singers accept to take a chance, the result can be electric beyond belief. I would rather see five “Eurotrash” productions out of which one is sublime and four are awful – because when they succeed, the thrill of witnesssing that in unparalleled. i would rather that than see five Zefirelli productions (or most productions by regional american opera houses) that are unimaginative, bland and syruppy.

  4. rysanekfreak Says:

    When I travel to distant big cities for opera, I always try to work in one all-day visit to an art museum. In New York, I always go to the Met Museum. I want to see the El Grecos and the Rembrandts. I look for a Moreau. I want some Caravaggio, please.

    Only once did I go to the Museum of Modern Art, and that was to see the special Warhol exhibit.

    My attitude toward opera is the same. I sort of want the museum approach with old fashioned sets and costumes that look that the pictures I grew up with in the old Victor Book of Opera.

    One of my most memorable nights was a very old-fashioned “museum quality” production (Montressor’s)of “Herodiade” in San Francsico with Zajick, Fleming, Domingo, and Pons. I saw it the way Massenet probably wanted it done, and since this will obviously be the only time I get to see “Herodiade” on the stage, I was glad I got to see it in an old-fashioned vision.

    With operas I’ve seen countless times (“Traviata,” “Carmen,” “Boheme”) I guess I can live with one updating every now and then.

    I saw a brillaint “Fidelio” redone in a South American banana republic setting with jeeps, searchlights, German shepherd dogs, barbed wire.

    I saw an amazing “Tosca” set during World War II that really worked….although the surtitles had to do away with references to Napoleon.

    But we have to remember that at each opera performance, there will be some people in the audience who are seeing that opera for the first time (as I was with “Herodiade”) and I feel those people deserve to see a production that does not violate the spirit of the composer’s intentions (if we can really intuit those intentions).

    An example of this is a “Puritani” I saw in which the baritone stabs the tenor to death and gives us the reason why Elivira was crazy, since the whole story was a flashback and the director wanted us to know why she was crazy. People encountering this opera for the first time might go away thinking that Arturo gets killed at the end of the opera, whereas Bellini and Romani wanted a happy ending with Arturo still alive. Later, if you try to tell these people about the happy ending, they are going to say, “No… the baritone stabbed the tenor to death. That’s not a happy ending.”

    In an ideal world, you could have two opera houses near each other (the way you can have two art museums), and one company (The Met) could present museum productions, while another company (NYCO) could present modern avant-garde non-traditional productions.

    But if your city has only one opera house (and lucky you if you have one), you have to live with some old-fashioned mixed with some modern…the way some cities have museums with a modern wing.

    If I’ve droned on too long, I’m sorry, but this is one reason I’ve sort of stopped traveling to see opera. That dreadful “Macbeth” that was inflicted on Houston and Chicago has sort of turned me off of taking the chance of traveling for opera performances.

  5. Chalkenteros Says:

    that’s right — a daring, avant-garde production is not going to destroy the integrity of these works. Not that the Chicago Manon Lescaut is too daring or avant garde — I’m not going to comment on a production I haven’t seen. As “Just another tenor” said, I’d prefer something daring and original to a Zeff production that is unimaginatively literal. Interpretations which play on the margins of the libretto and score can open up whole new experiences of the opera.

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