The Met’s ‘Manon’ live in HD in Whitefish

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The Metropolitan Opera’s production of Jules Massenet’s “Manon,” an opera that tells the tale of an enchanting heroine who wants both love and luxury, will be broadcast at 10:55 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center.

Set in Paris in the late 1800s and sung in French with English subtitles, it runs just over four hours with two intermissions. Tickets are available at the door for $20 for adults, $5 for students, and $10 for college students, cash or check.

Jules Massenet was a French composer (1842-1912) wildly popular in his day. He wrote beautiful piano music, songs, oratorios and 27 operas. His “Manon” score is ravishingly beautiful and sensually expressive, both in the vocal line and in the orchestra. Massenet’s specialty was writing spectacular arias.

Based on a French novel written in 1731 and then banned in France, the opera features the fickle young woman Manon who is torn between passion and her love of material pleasures — a timeless theme that endures in our culture even today. Manon is punished for wanting to have her cake and eat it too — exactly what the Parisian men around her did without consequence.

Singing the difficult role of Manon is 36-year-old Louisiana native Lisette Oropesa, a coloratura soprano whose career has exploded in the last couple years both in Europe and the U.S. This year Oropesa won two of the most coveted awards given to opera singers in the USA: the Beverly Sills Artist Award and the Richard Tucker Award.

Manon’s leading man is star tenor Michael Fabiano, who sings the role of the handsome Chevalier Des Grieux who falls hard for her. Fabiano is a 37-year old New Jersey native who was a baseball umpire in his young adulthood, considered being a business major, then decided to study vocal performance at the University of Michigan. He began his professional singing career only 12 years ago and since has won prestigious vocal awards and many leading roles at the Met and around the world.

Rounding out the rest of the vibrant young cast is Polish baritone Artur Rucinski as Lescaut, Manon’s cousin; Canadian baritone Brett Polegato as De Bretigny, Lescaut’s friend; Italian tenor Carlo Bosi as the repulsive suitor Guillot who vies for Manon’s affections; and South Korean bass Kwangchu Youn as Comte Des Grieux, the Chevalier’s father. Maurizio Benini conducts this Laurent Pelly production.

This opera could easily be subtitled, “So Many Seductions, So Little Time.” Perhaps because of her history with the opposite sex, Manon’s family forces her to join a convent, and her cousin Lescaut accompanies her there where two men flirt with her. She leaves Guillot and runs off with the handsome Chevalier Des Grieux. The jilted Guillot vows revenge. Manon and Des Grieux go live together in Paris. Cousin Lescaut and his friend De Bretigny come to visit; De Bretigny seduces Manon and she runs off with him. Manon later hears that Des Grieux has become a priest and visits him at his monastery, where she seduces him anew. Manon and Des Grieux are back together again and soon run out of cash. To win money, they go to a casino where Des Grieux has great luck. Unfortunately, the revengeful Guillot is also at the casino and has the lovers arrested for cheating. Des Grieux’s father helps get his son out of prison, but no one helps Manon. Finally, Cousin Lescaut and Des Grieux go to her rescue, and the lovers reunite. What happens then? The finale will not be disclosed here ...

Oropesa was a Grand Finals winner in the Met National Council Auditions in 2005, graduated from the Met’s young artist development program in 2008, and then was faced with a great challenge: the Met powers-that-be told Lisette that if she wanted an opera career, she would have to lose weight. At that time, Lisette weighed 210 pounds. She and her husband changed their diet and started running. Over a few years, Lisette shed nearly half her weight. She has since competed in six marathons and runs four to five days a week even during opera season. Besides being healthier and more energetic, she looks fantastic — a perfect choice for leading lady in Massenet’s timeless story of romance and passion.

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