A little drab but the musical direction and singing are great
Manon Lescaut is not my favourite Puccini, but it still does move me and has some of Puccini's most beautiful music. This Vienna State Opera production is pretty good. It's not up to the standard of the 1980 Met and 1983 Covent Garden performances but is infinitely better than the 2007 Chemmitz production(the only Manon Lescaut I've seen that's unwatchable). The production isn't perfect, the production values are a little too drab for my tastes. The settings like the boudoir could have been more sumptuous and more authentic, while the costumes are flat in colour and perhaps a little too sordid. The lighting is also rather dark at times. The staging however from Robert Carsen is thoroughly decent, the final act is heart-breaking though Act 3 is a little dull. Musically though it is much better. The orchestral playing is lush and beautiful, and Seiji Ozawa conducts with his usual sensitivity. The performances are very good, the most consistent being Boaz Daniel. His singing is beautiful, and he allows Lescaut's sympathy to come through. Geronte is also suitably grotesque. Barbara Haveman is wonderful also in the title role, the performance is beautifully and also very intelligently sung and as well as bringing out the girlish naivety and innocence of the role she is feisty and characterful also. Her attractive appearance also helps. Neil Shicoff is rather stenotorian and mayn't be everyone's idea of a young, ardent lover. However, he still has the high notes and sings them with power and ring. His tone not quite honeyed here, but lyrical and musical still. All in all, musically great, left wanting visually. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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