Review: In ‘Manon,’ a Soprano Charms Her Way to the Top
From The New York Times
Lisette Oropesa’s performance in Massenet’s opera at the Met is alone worth the price of admission.
By Joshua Barone
Très charmante — especially as sung by the soprano Lisette Oropesa in the Metropolitan Opera’s revival of Massenet’s “Manon,” which opened on Tuesday evening. With a voice by turns brightly crystalline and arrestingly powerful, she persuasively inhabits the role of this chameleon coquette. When she blows a kiss at a crowd of men in Laurent Pelly’s often stylized production, their heads whip backward, as if feeling a sudden gust of wind. The audience can’t avoid catching a bit of the gale, too.
Ms. Oropesa slips into the title role as if it were custom couture. In her first aria, “Je suis encore tout étourdie,” sung with enunciation so clear it could be transcribed, she has an innocent lightness that gives way to intoxicating joy as it becomes apparent that Manon is already too grand for her humble packaging at the start: slight frame; childish hat and ponytail; plain outfit in muted blues.
As the opera continues — with Massenet’s effervescent and eclectic score, eager to please and utterly pleasing under the baton of Maurizio Benini — Ms. Oropesa’s musicality becomes even more layered.
It can be easy to play Manon as a ruthless femme fatale, for example, as she becomes the toast of Paris, and Ms. Oropesa was suddenly big-voiced, glamorously tossing off high notes with insouciant sprezzatura. But hear also how she shrinks her sound to a stark mournfulness in “Adieu, notre petite table,” pained yet chilly as she prepares to leave des Grieux for another man’s luxury.