[Met Performance] CID:196030
New production
Manon {194} Metropolitan Opera House: 10/17/1963.

(Debuts: Marcia Baldwin, Joann Grillo, Ali Pourfarrokh, Eugene Collins, Alicia Markova
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
October 17, 1963
New production


MANON {194}
Massenet-Meilhac/Gille

Manon...................Anna Moffo
Des Grieux..............Nicolai Gedda
Lescaut.................Frank Guarrera
Count des Grieux........Giorgio Tozzi
Guillot.................Alessio De Paolis
Brétigny................William Walker
Poussette...............Jeanette Scovotti
Javotte.................Marcia Baldwin [Debut]
Rosette.................Joann Grillo [Debut]
Innkeeper...............Robert Patterson
Guard...................Charles Kuestner
Guard...................Carlo Tomanelli
Maid....................Athena Vicos
Sergeant................William Stanz
Dance...................Carole Kroon
Dance...................Hans Meister
Dance...................Ali Pourfarrokh [Debut]
Dance...................Eugene Collins [Debut]

Conductor...............Thomas Schippers

Production..............Günther Rennert
Designer................Ita Maximowna
Choreographer...........Alicia Markova [Debut]

Production a gift of the Gramma Fisher Foundation, Marshalltown, Iowa

Manon received twelve performances this season.

Review of Jay Harrison in the November 1963 issue of Musical America

It is sad to say that operatic life did not improve perceptively on October 17 when the Met presented its first "Manon" of the season, also in a new production conducted by Thomas Schippers, staged by Gunther Rennert, with sets and costumes designed by Ita Maximowna. It was a valiant try at establishing Jules Massenet's major work as a pillar of the repertory, but it collided with the best French traditions and as a result collapsed entirely. This despite a cast including Anna Moffo, in the name role; Nicolai Gedda, as Des Grieux; Frank Guarrera, as Lescaut; Giorgio Tozzi, as Des Grieux the Elder; Alessio De Paolis, as Guillot; and William Walker, as De Bretigny.

Things got off to a sorry start with a heavy-handed, draggy introduction that opened onto a split-level candy-box set which should have warned us all what the future held. Then, when Miss Moffo arrived, the truth was out: this was to be a pastel "Manon" with the tints all faded. For looked at any way, Miss Moffo has a voice whose basically attractive color goes unvaried in and out of every scene and situation. In the first act, "Voyons, Manon, plus de chimères" was pale in the second, "Adieu, notre petite table," was pallid; and the third-act Gavotte, "Profitons bien de la jeunesse," though a touch brighter in spirit, was still rather drab. Neither was there any improvement in the following two acts. The basic stuff of Miss Moffo's voice is attractive, but rarely is anything done to make her soprano luminous, iridescent, or varied of nuance. Her Manon, in short, was plain and ordinary. There was neither sparkle to it nor sensuousness, which made one wonder whether she was Manon at all.

Mr. Gedda, as well, was nowhere near the top of his form. Apart from an appealing "Ah, fuyez," he seemed rather intimidated by the whole opera and even appeared uninterested when complete involvement was necessary. His enunciation, however, was exemplary - not a word was muffled or thrown away. But even his "Rêve" aria, sung at the appropriate pianissimo, lacked vocal distinction. It was lackluster, dull, even boring. His rendition provided a shadow of the Gedda we have come to know and admire.

The other members of the cast, excepting Mr. Tozzi, as a staunch Des Grieux père, and Mr. De Paolis, as a pixyish Guillot, were less than able. They seemed to share-all of them-the general fault of the production. It was graceless, lacking in charm and wholly un-Gallic in outlook. "Manon" bleeds when France forsakes it, and the new rendition seems little concerned with the elegance of French tradition. This extends to the direction, which is painfully conventional, and the sets and costumes, which are just painful. Apart from the Cours la Reine scene-with a balloon or two to give it lift-there is nothing seen on stage that any third-rate lyric theater could not provide. Viewing Act II is an experience that suggested to me that the furniture van had been lost in transit-the set is every bit that hare; and Act III seems made of cardboard from a laundered shirt.

But worst of all was that there was nothing tempting or yielding about the entire spectacle. It was all tough and splintery, and that is not what "Manon" is all about.



Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names


Back to short citation(s).