The Geneva 2016 “Manon” (Massenet) Liveblogging Thread

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Welcome to the White Shirt live comment thread for Massenet’s “Manon” from Geneva (2016), staged by Olivier Py and under the baton of Marko Letonja.

The cast features:

Marc MazuirMonsieur de Brétigny
Omar GaridoThe Pub Owner
Bálint SzabóLe Comte des Grieux
Seraina PerrenoudJavotte
Mary FeminearPoussette
Marina ViottiRosette
Patricia PetibonManon Lescaut
Bernard RichterLe Chevalier des Grieux
Pierre DoyenLescaut
Rodolphe BriandGillot de Morfontaine

The production is  available via ARTE Concert. If you would like to know what happens via the libretto, there is a web-based version in French, English and German here, and access to a French/English side-by-side version in pdf format through here.

A word of warning: this is a very straight opera. There is plenty of male gazing, and inapporpriate handling of female characters on all levels.
I haven’t seen the show yet, but I trust Py and Petibon to try and deliver a take that is a critique of that and to look at Manon not as a shallow prostitute fantasy, but as the story of a young woman making choices and trying to find a way to move through a patriarchic society (spoiler: yes, she does end up dead and imprisoned. Perhaps we should get out the liquor right now).

212 thoughts on “The Geneva 2016 “Manon” (Massenet) Liveblogging Thread”

  1. Is this a Moulin Rouge framing of male-gaze narrative? “I’ll now tell you the story of how I fell in love with a girl and patriarchy killed her looka t my manpain”?

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    1. actually it’s “Marketplace in the countryside”
      “Young man awaiting his (girl) cousin who is on her way to the convent” – “townpeople drinking and yelling for the innkeeper in the pub”.

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  2. I am kind of grateful for the cheap hotel and prostitute aesthetic because at least that is telling it like it is – what I hate most about “Manon” are the staging that try to pretend that the whole rape culture setting is somehow cutesy and normal.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. listening to the Massenet makes me think that at some point, we could liveblog the Pelly staging of “Cendrillon” with DiDonato and Coote. Or “Chérubin”. Or both.

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        1. i cant tell (woke up just before and navigating German site…) but since i started the capture it is best to just sit out. the cinducting is rather uninspiring. and Kalna is a way too undercontrol… more Belezza lamenting… please hurry up, Pp is waiting for me…

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  4. but other than most other Manons (fine, the few that I ahve enured), Petibon has a bit of her Lulu take in here – making the character half ingenue, half figuring out that the way to get by is playing that up.

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  5. how can you stage this anywhere BUT in a brothel?

    And to stage the instance of “one guy saves her from a sleazeball, and then her cousin steps in to take her away from evil” is a much harsher and grim account when actually all of them are hitting on her.

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  6. to me, it reads more as a comment on choices, and social expectations in this setting: the libretto notes of ‘Manon eyeing jewelry and money and having second thoughts about convent life’ transferred to ‘woman not having choices and needing to work around/with men to get anywhere because patriarchy, but how?’

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    1. especially since she has seen the other options – better this one that she can maneuver than the money-throwing others.
      (also, the quickest elope plan in opera history – three lines and the catch a coach to Paris)

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  7. in this setting it looks a lot more like Manon orchestrating everything, not Des Grieux (though I am wondering at what point he wil turn into a sleazeball, too)

    (still not over his hair)

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  8. But really, so far the only in a white shirt was a man in his 50s who also wore garters. There is room for improvement here.

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  9. See, that bit before she runs off with him: Petibon gives her some clarity and agency, not some ingenue being enthralled by a man and promises of romance.

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    1. ps- i quite like the music…
      that’s great, i do like how she and Py worked together… no need for topless. urgh guy under the bed too… it’s like a different world i just stepped in.
      omg, her voice.. one can just pretend not understand, and not have to look, just to listen to her voice as therapy

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  10. okay, the scene is actually about DesGrieux writing to his father about wanting to marry Manon. (that Traviata pattern of the fathers disagreeing about the brides. While possibly looking at them the wrong way.)

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  11. RichGuys tells Manon that TenorLocks will be taken away tonight by AngryDad and she better go with RichGuy quietly because that is where she will end up anyway. (all very Traviata)

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  12. If you look e.g. at Anna N. in the Vienna staging (which is 100% romanticized rape culture and “that dumb girl who was so superficial and wanted money ends up dead because she deserves it”), the scene is all about “oh look I like sparkles, oh, sigh, my poor tenor, ah well, SPARKLES! Women are like this, I can’t help it”

    And now look at this – and how non-lush, non-giggling Petibon is doing this, with no dramatic “woe is me!” either. Just heartbroken over being forced into an (economic) decision that will change her and she knows it. But it’s not that that f***ing “alas I am not worthy of him” attitude.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. One of those moments where i would say “But you can’t clap here, don’t you get what is happening, this is not about pretty singing”

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    1. but I do like the twist that the tenor is being the clueless abducted ingenue for a change.

      He sings this beautifully, though. And I really dig the very light orchestra sound.

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    2. as clueless as i’m about this opera prior to this, i think this is the right intro (and i had hope already b/c of the collaboration Py & PP, but yes, the orchestra. I think it being a a small haus allows for nuances in phrasing)

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      1. yes, good point.
        I think this is the only way I can stomach “manon”.
        when it’s not this “oh, i just love pretty things, gigglegiggle” approach that ends with women dead because they are such shallow, mean things.

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  14. nice callback here to the guys attacking the next newcomer in raincoat and with a suitcase, just like Manon: “this happens every day. to lots of women.”

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  15. at least everyone gets to be topless.
    (and the guys were not enthusiastic, but they did kiss.)

    topless hipsters with bears and trilby hats…

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  16. Her signing this aria in the Opéra Comique anniversary made me think for the first time that “Manon” could be interesting.

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      1. it’s HIS father.
        and she has overheard, and wants to find out what happened to TenorLocks. Probing for information (he knows who she is and does not want to tell her anything), and being heartbroken – look what she does just with her facial expressions out front, incredible.

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      1. yes, I’ve also wondered about that, also this Clown in the end. But such statements can easily go wrong, with people finding it funny, I actually did have to grin a bit at the ballet.

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        1. I think it was supposed to be some kind of takedown of sexist patterns? I just wish I had fully gotten it. May have to watch that again.

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    1. the tenor getting a lot of the usual soprano treatment – like now being beleaguered by women who find him hot – helps a lot. Reverse rape culture calls out the original.

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    2. (it’s Py , that’s why? i remember *really* like his staging of Trovatore, esp. making Leonora blind… this, and his close working relationship with Petibon and knowing her strength. i still remember reading that interview of hers where she said actually it’s Py who thought she’d be great in certain roles and staged things so as to bring out her strength)

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    1. yes, I guess so.
      He has decided to become a priest (and is father is mocking him and wants him to marry some ‘appropriate’ woman that fits into the family)

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  17. if you want to see why while established heteropatriarchy/paternalism is institutionalized evil: look no further than 19th century opera and its father figures.

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  18. this has some parallelization with Trovatore.. Leonora also came to “rescue” the tenor and got herself killed…
    (i think it’s Py’s staging that really brings out this similarity for me)
    (and i think i’ve heard PP sings this aria before somewhere, must be at that Comique Ball too)

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    1. but you also have the bit on Trovatore where she wants to enter the convent and he comes to abduct her. Actually, both guys come to abduct her.

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  19. And now it’s a mix of honesty, and using what she has at her repertory to get it – I think this only works through the honesty as approach, not some coquettish “Ah, I am evil, but also seductive and I will ruin the poor tenor”: I get the feeling Py/Petibon are queering the internalized misogyny of the setting.

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    1. Yes, i realized that too. I think at the moment she was desperate to get him back and revert to everything she’s been using so far to get the result (but because of desperation, not evil intention)

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  20. and it also fits that they do this whole scene – the one where Manon asks Des Grieux to go gamble because they are out of money – in the Baroque get-up and the cross-dressing because it takes it away from the whole “put put but I like sparkly things” attitude of “go out get me some money or I won’t love you because I am that shallow”.

    Whoever this Manon is, she is calling the shots at least.

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    1. i see it now, she used all her tools to try to get enough money to escape the whole set. That’s how i see it. At first i thought she was just used to this life and simply can not escape (which is also very realistic). But her true reaction as she heard the police knocking was quite telling..

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    1. I think thadieu has discovered a new poison.😉

      (but she really, really sells this outfit well. As she sells all her get-ups, but we rarely get to see this one)

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  21. this whole “I’ll wait for her and die for her” is really a soprano-tenor role reversal for the 19th century, especially if you take out that “the evil woman ruined him, poor guy” angle.

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  22. for a moment I thought he was hallucinating her.
    so does he want her, or his idea of her…?

    (the production gives me the feeling of two people making choices – they are both much better than the text here, and the visuals really counteract the ‘oh, I am so bad, I ruined you, I was such a hussy and now I will repent by dying beause that is the only way’ dialog)

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    1. yes, the libretto has some melodramatic “he screams and faints over her dead body”, not “he scrambles out there as soon as he sees she’s gone”, so it must have been a deliberate choice.

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        1. yeah, likely. i like his work.
          (since this is the year of discovering 19th century music with smart staging–and sopranos–i’d add ACA’s Medea to the list of things to potentially re-watch, in addition to Traviata)

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          1. ACA in anything an everything. I usually blank out around the kids, but Medea should be fascinating, too.

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    1. yes, it must be her limits. I get why she would fall ill, or cancel if not at 100%. Netrebko sings/used to sing this – much heavier, romantic voices.

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  23. On another note, it was s good to “see” you two tonight and watch something together after this nightmare week.
    We still have this, at least, and there still is smart opera.

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  24. (ok, time to jump oout of bed, then get milk tea and to work… but i’ll tune in again to this and re-read all comments.. PP really restores faith in human and goodness for me.. that, and being in the concert last night where everyone was putting forward positive thoughts and energy to help others in need..)

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    1. a beautiful final word for tonight!
      Hae a good day on your side of the pond – I’m off to sleep, and finish preparing my class for tomorrow!

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