Manon Lescaut. Puccini. Dresden

Semperoper in Dresden. 18 June 2013.
My trip to Dresden finish in a rather disappointing fashion. Manon Lescaut is not an easy opera. In fact, it is rather little showed. I myself have not seen it in stage for more than 6 years. The truth is that the result of the representation can be summarized in one word: boredom. Puccini without emotion is unbearable.
The stage production is a collaboration of the opera houses of Graz and Dresden, having been premiered in the Austrian city in October of last year to reach Dresden 3 months ago, taking advantage of that Christian Thielemann led the opera. Production takes the signature of one of the men’s fashion in Theatre today, the Norwegian Stefan Herheim, which boasts a true legion of admirers, that seem to compete with each other in their praise and who best understands the work of his idol. I do not always share the admiration for someone who needs to va fully interpreted to enjoy his work. The obligation of a stage director is to tell the story – many times, its history –  in an understandable way. If it is not understood, the blame is to the author and not the Viewer. The opera is not quantum physics.
One of the reasons for the failure of this representation lies precisely in the production of Stefan Herheim, who offered his own plot, just by eliminating any hint of emotion. The central motif of the production is the yearning for freedom of the protagonists, which is represented by the famous statue of liberty in New York, which could be visited in Paris until France made donation of the statue to the United States in 1886. The start of the opera is then not in Arras posts station, but the construction of the statue of liberty workshops, where Des Grieux appears to be the author and many visitors, among them Manon. The story narrated by History Herheim has to do very lite with the Abbé Prévost or Puccini’s one, since it seems that America is a dream of liberty for the protagonists, when actually in the novel and in the opera, Manon – and with her des Grieux – they are deported in a boat and not going on a pleasure cruise, as it seeks to make us believe Mr. Herheim. The Norwegian has no better idea than to add one character to the narration, which is none other than Giacomo Puccini, who directs the protagonists and points out them the changes introduced in the novel by Prévost, which they almost always carry in their hands and appear to recite. The problem is that Puccini is involved in the scene and thus the Sola, perduta, abandonata  is not singed by Manon intimately, she sings it to Puccini in his Office, dying in her arms. Where? Is supposed to be in America, but not on desert of Louisiana. There is no emotion at any time, because everything is in a performance with Puccini’s stage director.

To complicate matters further, Stefan Herheim organizes a mess with the costumes. In Act I workers wear 19th, while visitors are a mix of 18th and 19th centuries. The same Des Grieux goes from wearing a coat of the 18th in the second Act, to finish completely dress like before the French revolution in Act III. As for Herheim deportation is not such, but a release, lovers appear in America with other clothes, these from 19th century. I have enjoyed with other productions of Herheim, but not in this case. I think that his first obligation should be to serve the opera. Here he uses the opera. Stefan Herheim has offered a very personal story and spoiled all the excitement of the music of Puccini. His fans understand it. Not me.

The musical direction was announced Daniel Oren, but cancelled – I do not think due to sickness – being replaced by Pier Giorgio Morandi, whose address has been flat, superficial and boring, as if had been according to Herheim.

Nothing to complain about the Staatskapelle of Dresden, undoubtedly the best of the representation.

The protagonist, Manon Lescaut, was the Italian Norma Fantini, whose performance should be disposed as good, short of excitement, but with notes on its place. It is a solid singer, although has never gotten me thrill with her singing. Norma Fantini and Thiago Arancam with Piccini. Brazilian tenor Thiago Arancam was a deficient Des Grieux This singer has a totally artificial voice in the Center and bass, engoled and hollow, as well as incorrectly emitted, resulting continuously covered by the Orchestra. After the step his voice seems more natural, but the acute notes are always enforced, in addition to not very tuned. He has but the figure, it is the only thing that can explain that he can be singing in important theatres. As an actor is simply exaggerated, with doses of bad taste.
Markus Butter was a Lescaut scarce and poorly rendered, voice of those that do not appear on the stage even pushed.

Mauricio Muraro was good in Geronte. At least, we heard him.
In the secondary characters Abdellah Lasri tenor gave me good impression on Edmondo, doubling as teacher of dance and Lamparero.
Full of sound the captain of Tomislav Lucic.
The Semperoper offered an entry something above 90% of the capacity. The public was cold. I didn’t hear any bravo, but yes the boos for Arancam. The representation started promptly and had a total time of 2 hours and 27 minutes, including an intermission. Musical duration of 1 hour and 58 minutes. The final warm applause crawled for 5 minutes.
The price of the more expensive ticket was 91 euros. Platea armchair cost 88 euros, being the price of the last rows of armchair 64 euros. In the upper floors prices ranged from 64 to 39 euros. The cheapest ticket cost 22 euros.

Jose M. Irurzun

Traducción al inglés: María Garcia-Rosado