Having been a sportswriter my entire career, I can’t say I know a whole lot about the finer points of opera.
But having covered Mike Tyson and Alex Rodriguez, I can say I know a thing or two about power. And I can tell you that the Metropolitan Opera’s current production of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut is a powerhouse from start to finish.
In this production, the title role is being split among sopranos Kristine Opolais and Anna Netrebko. I saw the beautiful, Russian-born Netrebko Friday night and her singing and stage presence came as advertised. She was, simply, breathtaking.
But while I and, I’m sure, much of the audience came to see Netrebko, many left wowed by Marcelo Alvarez, who inhabited the key role of Des Grieux, the young student who becomes infatuated by Manon, suffers through her greed-driven association with an older, wealthier man, and ultimately bears witness to her tragic death at the conclusion of the emotional fourth act. Even if you don’t understand much Italian — the libretto is translated into English on small screens on the back of each chair — you will have no problem understanding the depth of feeling coming from the Argentine-born Alvarez’ powerful baritone.
The sets are remarkable as well, although Puccini purists may quibble with the decision to transport the story, originally set in the 18th-century, to 20th century war-torn France. But no matter the setting, Manon Lescaut is a moving experience that transcends language barriers and a lack of formal knowledge of opera.
There are six performances left: Opolais will sing the part of Manon on Nov. 21, Dec. 7 and and Dec. 10; Netrebko returns to the title role on Nov. 25, Nov. 30 and Dec. 3. Curtain times vary: complete schedule here.
Running time: 3 hours and 7 minutes, two intermissions.
Tickets begin at $25; for prices, more information, or to place an order, please call (212) 362-6000 or visit www.metopera.org. Special rates for groups of 10 or more are available by calling (212) 341-5410 or visiting www.metopera.org/groups.
Same-day $25 rush tickets for all performances of Manon Lescaut are available on a first-come, first-served basis on the Met’s Web site. Tickets will go on sale for performances Monday-Friday at noon, matinees four hours before curtain, and Saturday evenings at 2pm. For more information on rush tickets, click here.