Sunday, May 21, 2006

Manon. Not Puccini's (sigh), but Massenet's version ain't half bad!

The performance in La Scala was really excellent. It wasn't easy for me to see the stage from the balcony, what with people ahead of me craning their necks right in my line of sight; but frankly, there wasn't a lot of action taking place onstage. So with each scene opening, I'd stand up and use my binocs to get the lay of the land, so to speak, then relax and concentrate on the music.

IT WAS GORGEOUS. Ion Marin (very handsome dude) conducted the orchestra, which balanced perfectly against the vocalists - who were brilliant. Massenet's music and orchestration is lush, melodic and dramatic.

The plot of Manon (the same Manon of Puccini's "Manon Lescaut") involves a self-centred, lying, deceptive little tart/twit whose motto is, as Sueann Ramella would put it, "ME! ME! ME!! IT'S ALL ABOUT ME!!!!!!"

How to sum it up? Act 1 is something like this:

Manon: I am so beautiful!!
Des Grieux: I think you are beautiful!
Manon: I am so beautiful!!
Des Grieux: You are not the sort of girl I should consort with, but...
Manon: I am so beautiful!!
Des Grieux: I think I am falling in love with you.
Manon: Hey! Are you listening to me? I am, like, so beautiful!!
Des Grieux: Oh damn you, I am going to get me to a monastery and take holy orders.
Manon: I am so beautiful!! Oh yes, I am too too beautiful!!

Well, just as he tries to become a priest, La Tart shows up with a change of heart.

Manon: I am so sorry, please don't wear those robes, they look so dowdy, and they won't look good when you walk beside me, because....remember....I AM SO BEAUTIFUL!!!
Des Grieux: Damn you woman, leave me alone!
Manon: no, really, you should accept my offer, because...I am still the same woman you fell in love with, and even though four years have passed and I am now an old hag at age 20...I AM STILL SO BEAUTIFUL!!!
Des Grieux: Damn you, woman, get thee behind.....oh what the hell, I give up. Let's go. I cannot resist you anymore, the end....YOU ARE SO BEAUTIFUL!!

You just know it's going to end badly.

OK, so that's not exactly how it goes, but it's not a complete fabrication either! REALLY.

Tsk. Such a bad message for young girls.

All right, it's now almost 4AM (Milan time) and I am bleary-eyed after being up for nearly 22 hours. I've just recorded some audio updates for NWPR and posted them back to the studio, so barring any problems, they should be airing Monday onwards.

Yawn. We're off to Genoa tomorrow morning, I'd better get a bit of shuteye, then. Buona notte, amici!

Up on the Roof.

Sunday morning I went with two members of the group up to the Duomo rooftop to get up close and personal with the saints. I especially like those who sinned incomparably before turning it all around, thereby earning the right to be on the Duomo.

I took the paid elevator up, but you still have to walk the last bit up to the top. Here are a couple of shots from that excursion.

Cherri and Liz by one of the arches. You can see from the carved marble above them why the Duomo looks so lacy from the street.

Wish I knew enough about mythology and/or saints to know this guy's story....if you know why he's being held up (or pulled apart) by the cherubs, please post a comment to let me know!

You can walk across those massive roof tiles and get right up to the stained glass windows. Mass was in session when this shot was taken. I could hear the choir very clearly and smell incense too!

Now, THAT's a downspout, eh? Just one of the many gargoyles on the Duomo. One of them closely resembles a duck-billed platypus. No wonder Mark Twain said the statues including "every creeping thing!' (how King James....)

Imagine living with a Gothic cathedral right up against your home! See how close the saints and spires are to this block of apartments (possibly offices?), with rooftop gardens?