Saturday, September 1, 2012

SLO Manon Lescaut Review (31 Aug 2012)


Its SLO season again and opening night was a fantastic reward for all the build-up leading to it. E. Loren Meeker and Joshua Kangming Tan did a great job leading their forces. Many other websites and newspapers will be publishing their own reviews soon, so rather than bore you with another in-depth analysis, Hawk and I just sat down and had a chat about it.


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Steven: So... first impression?



Hawk: well played and well sung by all.


Steven: I thought it was a nicely done, very attractive looking modern production with some expressionistic touches, particularly in act 4. The glowing red backdrop framed in by dark edges gave the impression of blood-red passion being constrained by cold, stoney surroundings (for some reason the zig-zaggy sets and bridge in act 1 reminded me of the new LASALLE campus). It’s still a little tame actually despite not being done up with hoop skirts and other period effects, but it treads a nice balance between traditional and more avant garde productions.

Hawk: the crowd scenes were certainly well done. Crowd scenes are hard to do but they turned out well.

Steven: yeah, well sung.

Hawk: and good acting from all.

Steven: costume-wise, it’s great that the cast got to wear their own clothes onstage; it certainly looked that way.

Hawk: what I like most about the show is the singing and the music for me, it's always the singing and the music in opera and they really delivered. But I did wish the bedroom scene in Act 2 was more elaborate. I like excesses, hahaha…

Steven: Yeah I think they were going for elegance, but the mirror looked kind of dirty... I thought that Lee Jae-Wook's singing was breathtaking, I thought he knocked the ball out of the park!

Hawk: the tenor did sing everything with a strong lyric line, very good.

Steven: voice-wise he was a little constricted in Donna non vidi mai, but after that he pulled off all the stops vocally, all the high notes were there and with good volume. So passionate too!

Hawk: very generous with the use of voice without over straining, even though I think some pushing in Puccini is unavoidable. Puccini is not very grateful to the tenor voice.


Steven: and Ee-Ping? My first impression was that they could have done more to make her look 16. I mean we all can tell that she's no teenager, but her dressing, hair and make-up can be made to look younger with the right accessories and hair colours.

Hawk: I agree about the make-up. She has a very attractive voice. Unfortunately, it doesn't project as well in some instances.

Steven: agree on the voice part, there were times when she was facing the wings and became inaudible when the voice was not immediately directed at the audience. On the other hand there were times when she spun out some really stunning lines and big high notes.

Hawk: although a voice that stands well in the heavy music of Puccini, it may be one of those voices that would bloom better in a smaller venue, I suspect. It's funny how some small voices can do well in big venues and some large voices do better in smaller venues. I love her voice and I think it's a delicious voice that I would enjoy again and again.

Steven: she did have some issues with projection and some technical difficulties here and there, but she also had that intensity in the voice that I like. I think the music will settle deeper into her with the coming shows and she will find it more comfortable. Her rich voice suits the music well and its rewarding to see her stretch herself in such a demanding part.

Hawk: I do notice that she plays 'happy' better than 'panic'.

Steven: hehe… I admired her impulsive characterisation of Manon. The little directorial details such as running back to the school compound to pick-up her handbag when she was supposed to elope with des Grieux before Geronte’s mob comes to kidnap her, and doing so with a cheeky grin, illuminated her materialistic nature early on and foreshadows a similar but more intense situation later on.

Hawk: but the body language needs to be stronger for panic. Although that being said, they both play Act 4 extremely well. All the necessary emotions are play out nicely.

Steven: yes, they have very good chemistry together. I was very impressed in their act three scene as well, when they played off each other’s desperation.

Hawk: the dying scene by Manon was believable.

Steven: I also enjoyed Andrew Fernando's and William Lim's performances. Andrew has such an effortlessly smooth legato, it sounds lyrical even when he's declaiming recitatives. William's sarcastic expressions in act 2 had such a sinister undertone.

As for the orchestra, you know, there are many moments during act 3 and 4 when I just closed my eyes to soak in the emotional sweep of the music. Its just so gorgeous.Their intermezzo was so beautifully played, and they supported the singers so well. Apart from the moments when Ee-Ping was singing towards the wings, the balance between singers and pit was quite nicely done.

Hawk: I felt happy that the opera had a very good level of performance. There was so much to be enjoyed. I am also very happy that all the principals were good in their singing. Not a weak link. I am quite happy about the whole thing.

Steven: I thought it was a good visual and musical presentation of the work. They were faithful to Puccini's music but with an attractive, modern look, and there was enough blood and guts in the presentation, which to me is the attraction of Puccini's operas. I left with new respect for Ee-Ping’s art, and just wowed once again by Lee Jae-Wook.

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So like yeah that's our 'review'. But enough about us, how did YOU find it?



The SLO's Manon Lescaut runs till this coming Tuesday 4 September 2012. No show on Sunday. Get your  tickets now at SISTIC.


1 comment:

  1. Leading tenor Lee Jae-Wook was star of the show with very strong performace, Ee-Ping also OK as if the role was a little too much for her, but good effort from her, and these two stood head and shoulders above the rest. Lescaut and Geronte lacked conviction, but were acceptable.
    Usual good production, costumes, sets. Orchestra also performed very well.

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