MusicWeb International's Worldwide Concert and Opera Reviews

 Clicking Google advertisements helps keep MusicWeb subscription-free.

Other Links

Editorial Board

  • UK Editors  - Roger Jones and John Quinn

    Editors for The Americas  - Bruce Hodges and Jonathan Spencer Jones

    European Editors - Bettina Mara and Jens F Laurson

    Consulting Editor - Bill Kenny

    Assistant Webmaster -Stan Metzger

    Founder - Len Mullenger

Google Site Search


Internet MusicWeb



J. Massenet,  Manon:  Soloists, Orquestra de la Generalitat Valenciana, Cor de la Comunitat Valenciana. Conductor: Jordi Bernàcer. Palau de les Arts, 18.12.2010 (JMI)


Coproduction: Opera Los Angeles and Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin

Direction: Vincent Paterson (Original), Mark Streshinsky (Revival)

Sets: Johannes Leiacker

Costumes: Susan Hilferty

Lighting: Duane Schuler (Original), Daniel Ordower (Revival)


Manon: Ailyn Perez

Des Grieux: Jean-François Borras

Lescaut. Artur Rucinsky

Conte Des Grieux: Raymond Aceto

Guillot: Emilio Sánchez

Bretigny: Andrea Porta

Pousette: Ilona Mataradze

Javotte: Ekaterina Metlova

Rosette: Natalia Lunar

The Cabaret Transilvanie with Ailyn Perez - Picture © Tato Baeza

These performances of Massenet’s Manon in Valencia have been plagued by cancellations. Lorin Maazel cancelled weeks ago due to health problems. Trying to find a replacement, the Palau came up with Frenchman Patrick Fournillier. But he could not conduct all the performances initially programmed under Lorin Maazel. Replacing the replacement in these instances—including this occasion—was the young local talent Jordi Bernácer. Then Vittorio Grigolo had to cancel his Chevalier Des Grieux, replaced at the eleventh hour by French Jean-François Borras. As we say in Spain: “too many tomatoes for a couple of eggs”.

The stage direction was originally by Vincent Paterson, who works mostly with musicals and has created the choreography for concerts by Madonna and Michael Jackson. The whole point of this production was initially to show off Anna Netrebko. This information helps in understanding this Manon. Mr. Paterson’s work is all around the "show business" and the glamour of the movie stars... in this case a meta reference to Netrebko and Rolando Villazón who starred opposite her in Berlin and LA.

Paterson brings the action to the 1950s and introduces us to Manon as a young girl obsessed by the glamour of movie stars, devouring the magazines and at one point assuming the character of Marilyn Monroe. The change of epoch does not alter the plot, as it is done with much care, offering the first scene in a railway station, the Cours-la-Reine as a parade of famous people and Hôtel de Transylvanie Hotel as a Parisian cabaret, including a strip joint, ending with Manon dying in the arms of Des Grieux surrounded by spotlights, as if it were the shooting (no pun intended) of her own life. The production wouldn’t not raise an average audience’s objections or ire, but it doesn’t add any exciting new ideas, either. The biggest problem is that this it has been tailored so specifically to Anna Netrebko’s talents that it suffers too much without her.

Jordi Bernàcer is a young conductor (34) who has worked regularly with Maestro Maazel and he was making his debut in opera in the pit of this theatre. To conduct such a difficult opera as Manon is genuine heroism for a relatively inexperienced conductor. Jordi Bernàcer seemed well prepared, technically, directing with clear gestures and suavely coordinating stage and pit. I was not convinced by his reading of the score, though, as the subtlety, elegance and delicacy of the music of Massenet were not readily present. It’s almost as if he had been conducting Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, not Massenet’s. A general proleblem was the excess of sound in a reading that was more visceral than nuanced. I did like the way he shaped the scene of Saint Sulpice, though.

American soprano Ailyn Pérez made for an acceptable but hardly exciting, Manon. Neither her acting, voice, nor charisma can match Netrebko’s. Dowdy opera singer, yes. Hollywood starlet? No. Her appealing lyric voice succeeds in the middle range but weakens toward the bottom and the top notes in forte are always shouted.

It was a pity that Vittorio Grigolo cancelled, since he was the biggest attraction left for this Manon. Jean-François Borras does not play or sing in the same league and he just saved the performance. His fast and constant vibrato is annoying. Artur Rucinsky offered a light and pleasant voice as Lescaut. Good for Lescaut, but I am not convinced that that will suffice for an intriguing Onegin in January, for which he was announced. Raymond Aceto offered more sound than quality as Conte Des Grieux.

Secondary characters were well covered, with some more pleasant (Ilona Mataradze’s Pousette), others slightly less (Emilio Sánchez’ Guillot). Only Andrea Porta suffered through the night as a very poor Brétigny.

José Mª Irurzun


Back to Top                                                   Cumulative Index Page