Sunday, September 13, 2009

OSJ: Manon

Opera San José
Manon by Jules Massenet
California Theatre, San Jose
September 12, 2009 8 p.m.

Conductor: Joseph Marcheso
Opera San José Orchestra

Manon: Khori Dastoor
Des Grieux: Alexander Boyer
Lescaut: Krassen Karagiozov
Ct. Des Grieux: Silas Elash
Guillot: Bill Welch
Des Brétigny: Adam Meza
Pousette: Jillian Boye
Javotte: Betany Coffland
Rosette: Cathleen Candia

I am no fan of Massenet's Manon, yet somehow I found myself sitting through it last night for the opening of Opera San José. On the plus side, the very even cast had big, hall-filling voices, especially bass Silas Elash as Count des Grieux. I liked Joseph Marcheso's able conducting of the relatively small pit band, which played very well. I was impressed by their excellent intonation, as well as by nice solos from the violin & oboe.

It was the opera itself that bored me. The conventional staging had us looking at lots of wigs, fans & knee-breeches. I found myself re-imagining the evening as a Regieoper: Manon stealing Guillot's Mercedes in the 1st scene, des Grieux appearing as a televangelist in the seminary scene, a bear attacking Manon along train tracks in the final act.

The California Theatre venue, an opulently restored silent movie palace, is a good size for opera. The downstairs restrooms are a bit of a maze, & I nearly got lost, at one point mistaking a broom closet for an exit. I enjoyed hearing the theater organ in the lobby before the show. We also heard the auditorium's theater organ during the seminary scene, though the organist made a false entry at one point.

It was quite easy to glide into a post-performance party around the corner from the theater. The ample desserts were a bit intimidating.


Gavin Plumley said...

The seminary scene is one of the finest in all opera. The combination of the dialogue, the recit and then the aria is brilliant. 'Ah fuyez, douce image' is just sublime, to say nothing of the thrilling duet that follows. What a wonderful piece.

Axel Feldheim said...

Gosh, I certainly do not intend to denigrate Massenet in any way. I just happen not to be susceptible to Manon's obvious charms. The seminary scene is certainly a highlight. Apparently we were subjected to major cuts in this San Jose production.