Magazine article Opera Canada

Calgary

Magazine article Opera Canada

Calgary

Article excerpt

Considering the popularity of Massenet's Manon and the local audience's general sympathy to French Romantic opera, it's somewhat surprising that Calgary Opera's season-opening production of the work (Nov. 21-27) was the company's firs:. The production rightly focused on Marion herself--her charms, her ebullience, her vacillating love for the man she loves and the pathos of her early death from consumption--and the star of the show was dearly Nathalie Paulin in the title role. With her petite figure, happy-go-lucky character and crystal-clear, lyric voice, she was perfectly suited to the role.

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Paulin was perfectly believable as the girlish Marion at the outset, and equally fine in her portrayal of the other personalities of Mauon seen through the opera. In all the arias, from the familiar "Adieu, notre petite table" in Act II to the famous "Gavotte" in Act III, her singing was always limpid and sweet while displaying the strength and brilliance to make the emotional climaxes thrilling.

There was much to enjoy in the rest of the casting. Tenor Richard Troxell made a fine dramatic partner for Paulin, as des Grieux, the scenes as young lovers natural and unforced, and the more passionate later scenes charged with strong emotion. Troxell uses his fine voice intelligently. He was heard to best effect in the mood-filled "En fermant les yeux" in Act II, a vocal highlight of the production. He was also convincing in the more dramatic moments in the final two acts, both of the big duets succeeding admirably.

Baritone Etienne Depths brought the right kind of hearty bluffness to the role of Lescaut, while baritone Peter McGil-livray made the most of the role of de Bretigny, Manon's rich lover. Michel Corbeil, a character tenor with good dramatic skills, was exceptional as Guillot de Morfontaine, his performance in the Act IV gambling scene being central to the success of this portion of the production. Lauren Phillips, Michelle Minke and Dionne Selinger (Javotte, Pousette and Rosette respectively) made a fetching trio as Guillot's actress "protegees." Bass Andrew Stew-art needed a little more patriarchal voice and presence as the younger des Grieux's father.

Brian Deedrick's direction was appropriate to the realistic way the story unfolds. The strongest scenes came in Act II with the two lovers in their Parisian apartment, and in the gambling scene, a difficult part of the opera but convincingly handled here. The sets and costumes, from L'Opera de Montreal, were true to the period and provided the necessary spectacle for grand opera, although the setting for the final act was rather abstract compared to what had gone before. …

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