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Puccini – Manon Lescaut

Libretto by Giacosa, Illica, Leoncavallo, Oliva, Praga, Puccini, Ricordi, etc., after Abbé Prévost

Opera Holland Park
15 & 20 June 2006



Manon Lescaut – Amanda Echalaz
Des Grieux – Sean Ruane
Lescaut – Simon Thorpe
Geronte du Ravior – Lynton Black
Edmondo – Todd Wilander
A Musician – Kristen Darragh / Hannah Pedley
Dancing Master/ Lamp Lighter – Todd Wilander
Landlord – Nicholas Butterfield
Sergeant of the Archers – Howard Wong
Naval Captain – Adam Green

Conductor – John Gibbons

Director – Tim Carroll

Designer – Bob Bailey

Lighting – Mike Gunning

Amanda Echalaz as Manon and Simon Thorpe as Lescaut. Photo by Fritz Curzon

In contrast to the enjoyable Fedora, which opened this year's Opera Holland Park season, their second offering, Manon Lescaut, proved a disappointment.


On a calm evening the simple cream draperies that formed the basis of Bob Bailey's set looked cool and elegant and a perfect foil for the costumes in delicate subtly blending pastel shades. A few days later, in less clement conditions, the drapes billowed about in the wind in an unpleasantly distracting way.


Director Tim Carrol was making his OHP debut, and not an auspicious one. His direction was often clumsy especially when moving the largish chorus, and at times appeared totally inept. One also could not help wondering whether eight librettists for this opera was not a case of "too many cooks..."?


Amanda Echalaz (Manon) has all the hallmarks of a fine actress and whilst Sean Ruane (Des Grieux) is not her equal in that respect they make a handsome looking couple – but these roles are really too heavy for their voices as of now, and signs of strain were evident To their great credit they both managed to hold something in reserve for the final act and pulled out all the stops for those heart wrenching moments when they are stranded in the desert and hope runs out.


Simon Thorpe (Lescaut) and Todd Wilander (Edmondo) sounded equally challenged and looked somewhat wooden – something that better direction would no doubt have corrected.


Lynton Black was superb as the old roué, holding the audience in the palm of his hand and playing up to the OHP tradition of booing the villain as he appeared for his curtain call.


There were solid cameos from OHP regulars Nicholas Butterfield (Landlord) & Howard Wong (Sergeant) and new comer Adam Green (Captain). Hannah Pedley as I Musici made a notably stylish mark in her little song in the pastoral scene. About the only directorial touches of any distinction were in the efforts to entertain the pampered anti-heroine; it brought us a pleasurable smile to see the soft white string quartet instruments which failed to entertain the bored Manon, whose only interest was the trappings of riches - absent in the humourless, period dressed but cash-strapped production, which left to our imaginations the crucial luxury, which drives the plot to Manon's downfall,.


Puccini's sumptuous music (in a “reduced” arrangement) sounded thin at times despite intelligent conducting from John Gibbons, and the Chorus didn't sound as impressive as they did last year. Peacocks, aircraft and a coughing audience all contributed noisily.




© Peter Grahame Woolf