Red Soprano Alert

Sorry. Coherent thought just went out the window over Patricia Petibon in Massenet’s “Manon”, as staged by Olivier Py, Geneva 2016.]

Well, if I had know Massenet’s “Manon” could turn out like that, I might have stopped complaining about the “women like sparkles, what are they to do, they can’t help it, they are mindless little h*ssies and do bad things to poor men if they are not sufficiently controlled” narrative and taken a deeper look.

And started a petition to give Petibon a trouser role because what she does with physical power dynamics and space in those ten minutes she is wearing this outfit is a thing to behold (take a look at the liveblog to see our initial reactions).

To be fair I did first perk up in March, when I caught Petibon with the Church Duet scene in the Ppéra Comique gala (I blogged about it, but the YT video has since disappeared), but this Geneva staging by Olivier was really enjoyable: examining Manon navigating her way through patriarchy, and perhaps ultimately failing, but never losing dignity or becoming someone’s toy. Also musically, with a more slender Massenet sound, the evening was a discovery, tailored around its heroine and the interpretation of Petibon. It’s still available for rewatch at ARTE Concert.

And then, of course, for the gambling scene (in the video, starting just under 2:00:00), there is this:

[Bernard Richter (Des Grieux), who did a very honest, non-camp take on the feminized position of being overwhelmed and played for gains in this scene, and Patricia Petibon (Manon) addressing the reversal of gendered positions in the plot. – Massenet’s “Manon”, Geneva 2016]


[Olé. – Patricia Petibon (Manon) in Massenet’s “Manon”, Geneva 2016]


[“Shut up and take my money”: If you ever gave Petibon a trouser role (we could start with Cinna, just for the heck of it), that would pretty much be my answer. – Patricia Petibon in Massenet’s “Manon”, Geneva 2016]


[Is anyone else thinking of soprano Giovanni? Because this scene is far too assertive to be page material. – Patricia Petibon in Massenet’s “Manon”, Geneva 2016]


[Just look at that stance work, by both if them. Gender is relational: please print this next to the article. Piere Doyen (Lescaut), Bernard Richter (Des Grieux, with special mention for carrying off that circus horse headdress with ingenue aplomb) and Patricia Petibon (Manon) in Massenet’s “Manon”, Geneva 2016]


[Look at the poses in this screenshot. Think about gendered notions of power. And then tell me who looks in charge here. – Pierre Doyen (Lescaut), Patricia Petibon (Manon) and Bernard Richter (Des Grieux) in Massenet’s “Manon”, Geneva 2016.]

16 thoughts on “Red Soprano Alert”

  1. this post is too short!
    You’re right that Bernard Richter did a really honest portrayal, without any hint of cariature. You can feel for him, trying hard at any cost to be with Manon here… they both somewhat reminded me of Jose versus VK’s Carmen in Zürich. The credit, in addition to the singers being good at acting, should go to Py as well for directing?
    Oh, and Py should direct PP’s Cinna! yeah!


    1. I may have forgotten in my enthusiasm to single out Py’s direction sufficiently… As someone who never liked Manon, his stripping down the piece to show the misogyny, but also the idea of Manon as someone trying to get by on her own terms, really won me over.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hot damn, that title shot! and all others, please never delete this post, I might return here once in a while. For PP trouser roles I also suggest a reversed Mitridate, may feel strange but I think it would work.
    And it’s true, I also immediately liked Des Grieux more in this outfit, as you both said, with dignity, while I think many guys would have tried to distance themselves by making it ridiculous.
    Now being torn between Artaserse and a rewatch of this scene…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. no, no, unless wordpress or Geneva shut me down, there will be no deleting of this.

      Sing me up for reverse Mitridate, too (they would come up with an interesting way to use the height difference again). Sign me up for all of this, in fact.

      And yes, I really think Bernard Richter (and Py) should get more credit for not going the safe-distancing ridiculous angle. I think that is also what made Manon as a character work for me this time: that it was not stories about her, but her story perspective taken seriously.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “Just look at that stance work, by both of them. Gender is relational: please print this next to the article.” Absolutely utterly completely – and what a pleasure, to see a production that estranges the relationships it performs (and offers that brilliant flashing vision of an alternative. Zow-ee!) Thank you for taking us there.
    “There is no relationship between the sexes that can so far be characterized in any satisfactory fashion. There is only evidence of the practice between the sexes of choreographing behaviorally a portrait of relationship. And what these portraits most directly tell us about is not gender, or the overall relationship between the sexes, but about the special character and functioning of portraiture.”
    Petibon, a portrait of Giovanni, yes! Or of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Or Le Chevalier de Maison-Rouge. That stance!


    1. I need a Scarlet Pimpernel opera with Py/Petibon, stat! (Though perhaps not saving aristocrats as much as the just in budding regimes of terror…)

      (“Zow-ee!” I thas been too long since I heard that. Or watched that. Thank you 🙂 )


        1. …in retrospect, my fervent early teenage aspiration of becoming a lyric soprano were a very, very bad idea because with the mainstream rep at hand and my feminist sensibilities? Oh dear.


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