A couple of weeks ago, I went to see Manon Lescaut at the Kennedy Center. I had never heard of it, but I like other operas by Puccini (like Tosca and my beloved, favorite, untoppable La Boheme) so I wanted to go.
In a word, meh. Part of it was my fault, a late arrival meant sitting in the back row for the first act and I couldn’t see the supertitles. But you can still kind of get the gist of what was going on, and I didn’t like it.
The whole premise was, there is this woman Manon who falls in love with a guy who doesn’t have much money. They’re madly in love, blah blah, but then a really rich guy swoops in and sweeps Manon off her feet and she marries him and lives in the lap of luxury. But all the while she’s remembering her first love.
Somehow, her brother smuggles the first guy into Manon’s palace with the intention that they should run off together. HOWEVER, and this is what I just found so stupid, they can’t escape fast enough (police were on the way to arrest her for adultery, I guess that was a crime back then) because she took too long grabbing jewelry and clothes out of her closet! Like really, you’re going to risk arrest and not getting to be with this man you’ve been pining for for years because you have to pack a bag of necklaces? Gag me! And why was it taking so long? Grab them and run! Ugh, I was so annoyed.
So she gets exiled to America. The scene where they’re shipping off all the prostitutes was very disturbing to me, the male characters were extremely aggressive with the female ones, there was a lot of shoving around and pushing down. The girls looked like rag dolls up there. It made me uncomfortable! Anyway, Manon and her poor fella end up wandering aimlessly through backwoods Louisiana when finally fat, spoiled, pampered Manon lays down and expires on top of a rock. Good riddance.
The music didn’t soar, but maybe just because I hated the main character so I couldn’t feel any love. Final review: don’t bother with this one. Sorry Puccini.