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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A "must have" operatic production - very moving
I have had a laserdisc copy of this opera on the shelves for many years but never managed to get past the first act so this BD was my first exposure to the complete opera.
A movie with a relatively thin story line succeeds because of the artistic ability of the actors just as one with a strong story line can fail because of poor acting. A successful operatic...
Published on 11 Aug 2009 by Mr. John A. Coulson

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5 of 26 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars INAPROPRIATE
MANON IS BASED ON AN 18TH CENTURY STORY BY PROVOST NOT SET AFTER THE COMPOSERS DEATH - A 1950S PRODUCTION GAINS NOTHING. MY COPY RETURNED UNOPENED
Published on 10 Sep 2009 by Arthur Wyatt


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A "must have" operatic production - very moving, 11 Aug 2009
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This review is from: Manon: Staatskapelle Berlin (Barenboim) [Blu-ray] [2008] (Blu-ray)
I have had a laserdisc copy of this opera on the shelves for many years but never managed to get past the first act so this BD was my first exposure to the complete opera.
A movie with a relatively thin story line succeeds because of the artistic ability of the actors just as one with a strong story line can fail because of poor acting. A successful operatic production requires just so much more with great acting, great singing, great music and great staging because most have rather thin story lines. Well this production of Manon has it all and I did not find the modern setting used by Staatskapelle at all inappropriate. The balance between voices and orchestra is fine as is the audio and video generally.
Now I must confess to a love affair with Anna Netrebco as her beautiful & powerful voice combined with stunning good looks have me completely captivated so be aware of this prejudice. But combine her talents with those of Rolando Villazon with the music of Massenet and you have a winner here. Their singing and acting brought tears to my eyes. What more can be said? Unreservedly recommended.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Electrifying ... charismatic ... phenomenal, 16 Aug 2009
By 
Amazon Customer (Bournemouth UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Manon: Staatskapelle Berlin (Barenboim) [Blu-ray] [2008] (Blu-ray)
Massenet - Manon (Netrebko, Villazon, Barenboim) [Blu-ray] [2008] [US Import]

Electrifying ... charismatic ... phenomenal said Opera Magazine about the extraordinary intensity that Netrebko and Villazon bring to this performance.

In a superb modern staging Manon is portrayed as a film star wannabee, changing personas in each act: Audrey Hepburn in Act 1, Gina Lollobrigida in Act 11, Elizabeth Taylor in Act 3, Marilyn Munro in Act 4, and finally Ingrid Bergman in Act 5. This staging provides a stunning vehicle to display Netrebko's outstanding acting abilities, and Villazon matches her note by note.

As Barenboim says you cannot have Manon without great singers, and this performance has them in spades.

Great orchestra support, and excellent 1080i Blu Ray transfer complete an unforgettable operatic experience.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The magic of Netrebko & Villazon - the dream couple!, 14 Nov 2010
By 
Nigel Mc (The Chilterns) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Manon: Staatskapelle Berlin (Barenboim) [Blu-ray] [2008] (Blu-ray)
I just love this production of Manon! Netrebko and Villazon are superb together - the dream couple. Massenet is not by any means my favourite composer but this production raises his work to a much higher level. I have no objection out of principle to the transformation to the 50's. Personally, I think that this works for this production with these artists. Nothing is lost by this period change and there is added benefit by the theme relationship styles portrayed by Netrebko with respectively Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and Ingrid Bergman.

For me, one of the most sublime moments of the opera is in Act 2 when des Grieux sings of his modest vision for their future happiness - En fermant les yeux. I have seen various versions and interpretations of this aria but none comes anywhere near the emotion dispayed by Villazon and Netrebko. It is sheer beauty, transforming Massenet's work to pure genius.

One of the previous reviewers effectively dismissed this production without seeing it, trashing it to 1* purely on the basis of the period change. That is his perogative and he is the sole loser! To other more open minded people I would just urge them to give this performance a chance. If you are still sceptical you could always preview sections on You Tube where you can sample the magic of Netrebko and Villazon.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The rise and fall of a sizzling starlet, 7 Jan 2010
By 
This review is from: Manon: Staatskapelle Berlin (Barenboim) [Blu-ray] [2008] (Blu-ray)
This is a live performance (or rather editing of 3 performances from 2007) from Berlin of a production by Vincent Paterson originally seen in Los Angeles.

Updated to the 1950s, Manon is an aspiring wannabe, obsessed with glossy magazines featuring her film star idols, and the opera is told in a series of film-style vignettes, with Manon changing her image as much as her underwear! From Audrey Hepburn-like naivete at the beginning, through to Marilyn Monroe-stunner, she is a chameleon of her times, desperate for fame, and would certainly have been on Big Brother if it had been invented then! Generally this updating works very well, and unusually for a modern production, doesn't get in the way of the plot. The staging of the St Sulpice scene works extremely well with the distanced lovers meeting once again through the chancel railings - who in the relationship is the "caged bird" and who is free?

Bring on the stars - tickets don't get much hotter than this, with Netrebko and Villazon heading the cast. Neither of them are natural French singers, and to be honest, half the time you wouldn't be able to tell what language they are singing in. Netrebko's consonant-less soprano and Villazon's latino warmness does not = Massenet. And yet, despite all the odds against them, and despite my better judgement, the two singers gripped me throughout, making this a stunningly moving portrayal that actually merits the hype! Barenboim conducts (apparently at short notice with just days to learn the score), and although I've never seen a grumpier conductor at the curtain call, he manages to serve Massenet well and bring lightness and sweeping emotion to the score.

Manon is a stunning opera, full of wonderful melodies and heart-wrenching scenes, and I shall enjoy watching this recording again and again. In fact I enjoyed this so much I traded in my ordinary DVD player for a Blu-Ray version - the quality is even more stunning!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best I've yet seen., 3 Aug 2012
By 
This review is from: Manon: Staatskapelle Berlin (Barenboim) [Blu-ray] [2008] (Blu-ray)
Having entered into an on-line debate with a guy who reviewed this and gave it one star without even watching it(!!); I felt obliged to add my words to those of the other illustrious reviewers. To that end, my wife and I sat down last night and rewatched the bluray and I will tell you first, that once again, we loved it.
Until entering the on-line conversation debate with Arthur Wyatt and Eli, I'll be honest, I hadn't really considered the consequences of updating this story to the 1950s, but rewatching last night I do think it works brilliantly, up until Act V. Then, for the first time, I found myself wondering how Manon had contracted dysentery in a French prison in the 1950s (if you've lived in France for any period of time, as I have done, you will know how meticulous the French are in adhering to bureaucracy and health and safety regulations!).
However, this is a minor quible and if I could remove half a star then I would, but it is far too minor to remove a whole star in what is quite simply a brilliant production (other than a slip in continuity with the set under the Eiffle Tower at the start of Act III).
The supporting cast are very good, but Manon (as in Werther) lives or dies on its two protagonists - and what a consumate performance they both give. I've only seen Villazon once in the flesh (at Covent Garden on his return from his breakdown; appropriately singing Werther) and I have to confess that on that ocassion I was disappointed. Not here though - he is magnificent - and I can see how he took the world by storm. In previous DVDs/blurays (Carmen, Traviata & Don Carlo) I thought he was too manic and over the top in his portrayals, but here his interpretation is spot-on (although I suspect that Jonas Kauffmann might add a little more subtlety to the role).
Netrebko looks and sings to perfection (10 stars wouldn't go a miss here) and I look forward to the Met's HD release later in the year.
To my surprise, Barenboim's conducting was a little slack; but this a minor quible in what is truly a great theatrical experience - I wish I had been there.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely the Best Version of Manon on DVD/Blu-Ray, 21 Feb 2012
By 
Trev-R (Boston UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Manon: Staatskapelle Berlin (Barenboim) [Blu-ray] [2008] (Blu-ray)
Video quality - 5 stars, pin sharp in high def with the costumes from the 1950's period looking nearly 3 dimensional.

Audio - 5 Stars in both Stereo and Surround, the sound is natural and not over engineered as sometimes is the case in modern interpretations of opera on DVD/Blu-ray.

Anna Netrebko - At her most gorgeous, if you are an Anna Netrebko fan you will not find her more attractive in any other production. Vocally she is superb, this role could have been written for her. Considering Manon is only 15 when she meets Le Chevalier des Grieux I cannot think of any Soprano performing at the time of this recording that could have just about passed for the youthful Manon. Act 2 opens at Manon and des Grieux's apartment in Paris with Anna Netrebko in some very skimpy underwear cavorting on a double bed with Rolando Villason, again one for the Anna fans.

Rolando Villason is both vocally superb and acting wise, totally brilliant with his expressive face bringing the character to life. The highlight for me vocally from the whole opera is Act 2, Scene 2 where Villason sings Ah! Fuyez, douce image with such beauty and clarity while maintaining full control and focus (unlike the Alagna version)

The supporting cast are all good enough not to spoil the production but not great enough to make any individual performance stand out.

As far as I know the only other version available on DVD is the 2007 Barcelona performance again with Villazon but Natalie Dessay as Manon. This is also a good version but it comes down to Netrebko or Dessay and Netrebko wins hands down.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Delight!, 13 Jan 2012
By 
Adrian Drew (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Manon: Staatskapelle Berlin (Barenboim) [Blu-ray] [2008] (Blu-ray)
It just works! An outstanding cast, particularly Netrebko, and a clever director produce an extraordinary production of this superb opera. The image and audio are generally excellent and more than demonstrate how Blu ray can enhance the opera viewers experience.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine singing and acting in a sparkling modern production updated to the 1950's, 23 Nov 2011
By 
I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Manon: Staatskapelle Berlin (Barenboim) [Blu-ray] [2008] (Blu-ray)
Like the Donizetti Love Potion, this also teams up Villazon and Netrebko to completely believable effect. Both are in good voice although there are a few early signs of the vocal strain which has recently caused Villazon problems leading to unreliable engagements. These are not of any real significance here though and should not affect any purchasing choice. The problem may stem from his apparent reluctance to hold back his enthusiasm to deliver fully in performance rather than saving his voice whenever possible. This is good for his audiences but is a potentially heavy long term price for Villazon. He certainly gives 100% here.

The setting is updated to the 1950's, but both Villazon and Netrebko have an aura about them that suggests a modern coupling would be appropriate. They are especially vibrant together and are clearly of an appropriate age for each other dramatically. This is a great advantage in any opera but is especially beneficial in this setting. Netrebko brings a dramatic aura of both glamour and decadence to her part and is in particularly good voice. The part seems made for her.

All the supporting roles are well sung and convincingly portrayed by Christof Fischesser, Alfredo Daza, Remy Corazza, Arttu Kataja, Hanan Alattar, Gal James, Silvia de la Muela and Mattias Vieweg although inevitably the limelight is dominated by Anna Netrebko and to a lesser extent, by Rolando Villazon.

The orchestra is also on top form under the sparkling direction of Barenboim.

The recording offers excellent surround sound in DTS 5.1, PCM 5.1 as well as stereo. The camera work is sympathetic with a nice balance of close detail and more distant shots. As another reviewer has remarked, it is vital that good singing is backed up by good acting in opera especially when the storyline is so slight and we are certainly offered a combination of fine singing and acting in this case. Fortunately we live in an age when the old stand and deliver approach has been replaced by far better stage training and camera awareness and that is what we get here.

In general terms, although I personally like the modern setting, I feel that there will be those who would prefer a more traditional staging and it should be noted that this production may not therefore be to everyone's personal taste. The musical values remain excellent however whatever views one may have on production choices and this performance certainly went down well with the audience. Providing that purchasers are prepared to accept the period updating to the 1950's this disc should give considerable pleasure. With that proviso in mind, it seems reasonable to suggest that 5 stars is a fair rating for those in sympathy with this modernised concept and that those who would reject that should look elsewhere for their choice of Manon.

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Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:

I thought that you might like to know that before I buy a recording I now look through all the reviews to see if you have posted one. Your assessments and opinions are invaluable. Thank you. (US review)

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I'm sure there are many other serious collectors, besides myself, who wait for your synopsis and opinion before spending their hard-earned money on new releases...
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5 of 26 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars INAPROPRIATE, 10 Sep 2009
By 
Arthur Wyatt (London England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Manon: Staatskapelle Berlin (Barenboim) [Blu-ray] [2008] (Blu-ray)
MANON IS BASED ON AN 18TH CENTURY STORY BY PROVOST NOT SET AFTER THE COMPOSERS DEATH - A 1950S PRODUCTION GAINS NOTHING. MY COPY RETURNED UNOPENED
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