Yes, not Puccini, not Massenet. By Auber is this Manon Lescaut, altogether set on a lighter note by the simplified libretto by Scribe and by Auber’s sparkling melodies. Meyebeer attended the premiere at the Opera Comique and wrote about it…”full of freshness and invention, melodious and witty…the opera gave me much pleasure”. By the way the opera’s first Manon was Marie Cabel, a Belgian soprano and Manon Lescaut was played in Liège as early as February 1875.
Fourny’s setting starts from a university library (!), part of which is seen throughout. The clothings are 17-18th century and all move well on stage. Cyril Englebert supports the singers well but when the orchestra is alone I would have wished a bit more sparkle and more rubato as the musical language comes over metronomic. Sumi Jo needed most of the conductor’s support. Her voice has lost almost all glitter and sparkle which the role requires. Sumi Jo has to walk on eggs to reach all the right notes. She certainly does, and her singing is still very elegant, but this Manon is a bit unexciting. Wiard Withold on the other hand surprises with a beautiful warm timbre and excellent singing, which make the couplets and the duet of Act 2 the most interesting part of the evening. A singer with potential is also Enrico Casari with bold top notes. All other singers sang also very well.
Conductor-Cyril Englebert, Director-Paul-Émile Fourny, Set designs-Benoît Dugardyn, Costume designs-Giovanna Fiorentini, Lighting designs-Patrick Méeüs, Manon Lescaut-Sumi Jo, Marquis d’Hérigny-Wiard Witholt, Des Grieux-Enrico Casari, Lescaut-Roger Joakim, Marguerite-Sabine Conzen, Madame Bancelin-Laura Balidemaj, Gervais-Denzil Delaere, Renaud-Patrick Delcour