Tivoli Cinemas to present the Royal Opera’s contemporary update of ‘Manon Lescaut’

07/19/2014 7:00 AM

07/17/2014 12:47 PM

Summer can be a dry spell for classical music, but with the advent of HD broadcasts, opera lovers are able to enjoy great performances from around the world in the cool of the local cinema.

The Metropolitan Opera was the pioneer in HD broadcasts, but other top opera companies soon followed. The Royal Opera House, for example, has been broadcasting its acclaimed productions to cities around the world. This Thursday, the Tivoli Cinemas will show the Royal Opera’s “Manon Lescaut,” recorded live in Covent Garden on June 24.

Giacomo Puccini based his opera on Abbe Prevost’s 1731 novel about the young woman, Manon, who is saved from a nunnery by her devoted lover, the Chevalier des Grieux. Manon, who is materialistic and fickle, is also highly desirable, and is abducted by an older, wealthy lover, Geronte de Ravoir.

Des Grieux tracks down Manon, and the two lovers are reunited, but de Ravoir accuses Manon of stealing his precious jewels, and she is arrested. Des Grieux rescues her from prison, and the doomed couple find themselves fugitives in Louisiana.

Puccini’s publisher, Giulio Ricordi, was dead set against him writing an opera based on the Prevost story because Jules Massenet had already written the hit opera “Manon.” But Puccini was insistent.

“Why shouldn’t there be two operas about Manon?” he reportedly told Ricordi. “A woman like Manon can have more than one lover. Massenet feels it as a Frenchman, with powder and minuets. I shall feel it as an Italian, with a desperate passion.”

Puccini’s instincts were right on the money. The first performance in 1893 in Turin was a huge success, as was the first Metropolitan Opera performance in 1907, which starred Enrico Caruso as des Grieux. “Manon Lescaut” is now a staple of opera houses everywhere.

The Royal Opera’s production has received praise and brickbats. Its contemporary setting, which takes place in a corrupt, dystopian world, portrays Manon as a victim of sex trafficking, forced into a life of pornography.

Although critics are in disagreement about the update, all agree that the singing is superb. The up-and-coming Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais sings the title role, and the superstar German tenor Jonas Kaufmann is des Grieux. Antonio Pappano, no slouch when it comes to Puccini, conducts the Royal Opera Orchestra.

1 p.m. Thursday. Tivoli Cinemas, 4050 Pennsylvania. $10-$15. 816-561-5222 or www.tivolikc.com.

Summerfest: A Time to Dance

According to Ecclesiastes, there is “a time for every purpose under heaven.” Next weekend, it’s “a time to dance.” Summerfest continues its theme “To Everything There is a Season” with a program of chamber music that captures the spirit of dance.

From Astor Piazzolla’s tango-flavored take on Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” to the rococo rhythms of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, the concert promises to put a gentle lilt in your step.

In contrast to the mostly sunny repertoire is Samuel Barber’s “Dover Beach” for baritone and string quartet. Dan Belcher will sing Barber’s setting of Matthew Arnold’s poem, which contemplates mankind’s loss of faith.

7:30 p.m. Saturday at White Recital Hall, 4949 Cherry St. and 3 p.m. July 27 at Country Club Christian Church, 6101 Ward Parkway. $12-$29. 913-235-6222 or www.summerfestkc.org.

Harriman-Jewell Series flexible packages

The Harriman-Jewell Series’ upcoming 50th anniversary season is generating a lot of interest: With a lineup ranging from Yo-Yo Ma and Joshua Bell to Anne-Sophie Mutter and Emanuel Ax, that’s no surprise.

But even with a series as stellar as this, many patrons are no longer able to commit to every concert. In the past, the Harriman-Jewell Series, like other arts series, offered a rather rigid, all-or-nothing season ticket. But Tim Ackerman, associate executive director of the Harriman-Jewell Series, says that this year, patrons with busy schedules will have more choices.

“We’ve just added a flexible option we call You Choose,” Ackerman said. “Now people can cherry pick from season performances that were only offered as packages of eight before. It gives patrons the option of buying exactly what they want, and they’re rewarded for buying three or more by getting better seat locations and a 10 percent discount.

“ It’s a win all around.”

The tickets are selling well, Ackerman added. Tickets in the Choose 3 package range from $93 to $228, while tickets in the Choose 4 package range from $123 to $303. Buyers should know that the Choose 3 package does not offer all the concerts that Choose 4 does. Single tickets go on sale Aug. 4. For more information, visit hjseries.org.

Patrick Neas is program director for RadioBach.com. You can reach him at pneas@jccc.edu.

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