... to rescue the music of Manon Lescaut, Puccini's earliest success, from mediocrity. I had hopes that John Eliot Gardiner, with the London Philharmonic and the Glyndebourne Chorus, could make me revise my opinion of this opera, make me recognize the qualities that have kept fresh it in the repertoire when so many excellent operas by other composers have fallen into desuetude. But no. The music is mediocre, and that's that. There are only so many 'slots' to be filled in the calendars of opera houses worldwide, and to plug one of them with Manon Lescaut is simply a waste.
However, DVDs of operas are another matter entirely, and on that basis again I had hopes that this production at Glydebourne would at least be at the high standard of most other productions there. Another disappointment! The staging is sparse and dull; okay, I can tolerate sparse staging. The acoustics are badly imbalanced and the singers sound muffled; okay, that's so common a problem of opera DVDs that I have pnly to grin and bear it. But Adina Nitescu, as Manon, is an outrage. Even on a CD sound-only, her singing would be unimpressive and lacking in any affective nuance. But in a visual presentation -- a DVD of an opera is a FILM, even when it's filmed as a live staging -- Nitescu is hopelessly unappealing. She's simply not glamorous enough to make Manon plausible. Lack of attractiveness could be overcome, to be sure, by passionate singing and capable physical acting, but Nitescu is inert, unresponsive to any physical cues from her male associates. Even if I loved this opera, which obviously I don't, her leaden performance would spoil it for me.