2015–2016 Season Seeking the Human Element
Set in late 18th century France, this is a timeless tale of young love and the allure of life’s unavoidable temptations. Can a woman with a taste for the best things in life sacrifice it all – for the one man whose love is both unconditional and never-ending?
Starring Ailyn Pérez • Stephen Costello • Edwin Crossley-Mercer • David Pittsinger
Conductor Graeme Jenkins • Production Sir David McVicar • Director E. Loren Meeker • Set and Costume Designer Tanya McCallin
Opera in Brief
Unfamiliar with this opera? Let YouTube’s fizzylimon introduce you!
The courtyard of an inn at Amiens
De Brétigny, a nobleman, has just arrived, in the company of Guillot, an aging rake who is the Minister of Finance, along with three flirtatious young actresses. While the innkeeper is serving dinner to the party, the townspeople collect to witness the arrival of the coach from Arras. Among them is Lescaut, a guardsman, who tells his comrades that he plans to meet a kinswoman. The coach appears, and among the crowd Lescaut quickly identifies his fragile young cousin, Manon, who appears to be somewhat confused (“Je suis encore tout étourdie“) since this is her first journey, one which is taking her to the convent.
Manon is accosted by the opportunistic Guillot, who tells her that he has a carriage waiting, in which they can leave together. His heavy-handed seduction is undermined by the return of Lescaut, who then lectures the young woman (“Regardez-moi bien dans les yeux“) on proper behavior. He leaves her unattended once more and she admires the three fashionably-dressed actresses, but reproaches herself (“Voyons, Manon“), unconvincingly vowing to rid herself of all worldly visions.
Des Grieux, traveling home to see his father, catches sight of Manon, and instantly falls in love. When he approaches, she is charmed by his chivalrous address (“Et je sais votre nom“), and their exchange rapidly becomes a mutual avowal of love. Both their planned journeys, hers to the convent and des Grieux’s to his home, are swiftly abandoned, as they decide to flee together (“Nous vivrons à Paris“). But there are hints of incompatible aspirations: while he returns, over and again, to “tous les deux” (together), the phrase she fondly repeats is, “à Paris”. Making good use of the carriage provided by the disappointed Guillot, the lovers escape.
Manon and des Grieux’s apartment in Paris
With little hope, des Grieux writes to his father, imploring permission to marry Manon. Lescaut enters intent on creating a scene and accompanied by de Brétigny, who is masquerading as a fellow-guardsman. But his concern for offended family honor is only camouflage for his alliance with his friend. Trying to prove his honorable intentions, des Grieux shows Lescaut the letter to his father. Meanwhile, de Brétigny warns Manon that des Grieux is going to be abducted that evening, on the orders of his father, and offers her his protection and wealth, trying to persuade her to move on to a better future.
After the two visitors depart, Manon appears to vacillate between accepting de Brétigny’s offer and warning des Grieux. When her lover goes out to post his letter, her farewell to the humble domesticity she has shared (“Adieu, notre petite table“) makes clear she has decided to go with de Brétigny. Unaware of her change of heart, des Grieux returns and conveys his more modest vision of their future happiness (“En fermant les yeux“, the “Dream Song”). Going outside to investigate an apparent disturbance, he is seized and hustled away, leaving Manon to voice her regrets.
Scene 1: Paris, the promenade of the Cours-la-Reine on a feast-day
Among the throng of holiday-makers and vendors of all kinds are Lescaut and Guillot, the latter still flirting with the young actresses, while Lescaut expresses the joys of gambling (“À quoi bon l’économie ?“). De Brétigny arrives, soon joined by Manon, now sumptuously dressed and with a retinue of admirers. She sings about her new situation (“Je marche sur tous les chemins“), following it with a gavotte (“Obéissons quand leur voix appelle“) on the joys of love and youth.
Des Grieux’s father, the Comte, greets de Brétigny and Manon overhears that her former lover is Chevalier no longer, butAbbé, having entered the seminary of Saint-Sulpice. Approaching the Comte, Manon tries to discover whether his son still loves her. Guillot then attempts to win Manon over by bringing the ballet dancers of the Académie Royale de Musique, which she had expressed a desire to see. However Manon is seized by the desire to see des Grieux once more, and admits, to Guillot’s annoyance when asked, that she paid no attention to the dancers. She hurries off to Saint-Sulpice.
Scene 2: Saint-Sulpice
From the chapel, the congregation is leaving, enthusiastic over the sermon of the new abbé (“Quelle éloquence !“). Des Grieux enters, in clerical garb, and his father adds his voice to the chorus of praise, but tries to dissuade his son from this new life, so that he can perpetuate the family name (“Epouse quelque brave fille“).
He leaves, having failed to shake his son’s resolve and, alone, des Grieux relives memories of Manon (“Ah ! Fuyez, douce image“). As he prays, Manon herself appears, to implore his forgiveness for her faithlessness. Furiously, he attempts to reject her, but when (in “N’est-ce plus ma main ?“) she recalls their past intimacies, his resistance is overcome, and their voices join in an impassioned avowal of love.
A gaming salon at the Hôtel de Transylvanie
Lescaut and Guillot are among the gamblers, and the three young actresses are prepared to attach themselves to any winner. Manon arrives with des Grieux who declares his total love: (“Manon ! Manon ! Sphinx étonnant“). He is persuaded to gamble, in hopes of gaining the wealth she craves. He plays at cards with Guillot and continually wins, as Guillot doubles and redoubles the wager. As Manon exults, Guillot accuses des Grieux of cheating. Des Grieux denies the charge and Guillot leaves, returning shortly with the police, to whom he denounces des Grieux as a cheat and Manon as dissolute.
The elder des Grieux enters, and tells his son that, while he will intercede on his behalf, he will do nothing to save Manon. In a big ensemble, with Guillot exulting over his revenge, Manon lamenting the end of all joy, des Grieux swearing to defend her, and the rest expressing consternation and horror, the arrested pair are led away.
[Act 4, Scene 2 in the original version]
A desolate spot near the road to Le Havre
Convicted as a woman of ill-fame, Manon has been condemned to be deported. Des Grieux, freed by his father’s intervention, and a penitent Lescaut, now his ally, wait to waylay the convoy in which Manon is being marched to the port. A detachment of soldiers arrives with their prisoners. The would-be rescuers recognize the hopelessness of attacking so strong an escort, but Lescaut succeeds in bribing their sergeant to allow Manon to stay behind till evening. The convoy moves on, and a sick and exhausted Manon falls to the ground at des Grieux’s feet.
In his arms, near delirium, she relives their former happiness. Des Grieux tells her the past can exist again but Manon, now calm, knows that it is too late. With the words “Et c’est là l’histoire de Manon Lescaut” she dies.
Ailyn Pérez (Manon) American soprano Ailyn Pérez made her Dallas Opera Debut as Zerlina in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro in 2010. She is the winner of the 2012 Richard Tucker Award. Other career highlights include Violetta at the Royal Opera and San Francisco Opera, Amelia (Simon Boccanegra) at Teatro alla Scala, Berlin Staatsoper, and Zurich; Mimì with Los Angeles Opera and Zurich; Pamina (Die Zauberflöte) and Countess Almaviva at Chicago’s Ravinia Festival; the title role of Manon in Valencia; Juliette (Roméo et Juliette) in Philadelphia; and Marguerite (Faust) with San Diego Opera. She is a recipient of the George London Foundation’s Leonie Rysanek Award, a 2007 winner of a Shoshana Foundation Career Grant, and placed second in the 2006 Plácido Domingo Operalia Competition.
Stephen Costello (des Grieux) A native of Philadelphia, Stephen Costello made his Dallas Opera debut in 2006 as Leicester in Maria Stuarda where he also created the role of Greenhorn in the celebrated production of Heggie’s Moby-Dick. His recent engagements include Anna Bolena at the Metropolitan Opera, which was transmitted to theaters worldwide; La Traviata with the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, La bohème with Los Angeles Opera and L’Elisir d’Amore at the Vienna State Opera. The tenor’s career highlights include Rodolfo with the Vienna State Opera, Lord Percy with The Dallas Opera, Roméo at Opera Company of Philadelphia and the Salzburg Festival, Der Rosenkavalier and the title role of Gounod’s Faust with the San Diego Opera, and Donizetti’s Linda di Chamounix at Covent Garden. Recent and upcoming engagements include Rodolfo in Berlin, Tonio (La Fille du Régiment) in San Diego, Nemorino in Vienna and Edgardo in Toronto.
Edwin Crossley-Mercer (Lescaut) Mr. Crossley Mercer has already played in some of the most distinguished opera houses in Europe. Mr. Crossley-Mercer has appeared at the Komische Oper and Berlin Staatsoper, Glyndebourne Festival, Grand Theatre de Genève, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, DNO in Amsterdam, Opéra Comique in Paris and Paris Opera. In addition to the opera, he performs consistently as a recitalist in venues such as Dom Musiki in Moscow, Aix-en-Provence, the Opéra de Lille, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, Saint Petersburg festival, Bayreuth, the Louvre Auditorium, Bad Kissingen and the Festival de Colmar and Carnegie Hall in New-York. On the concert stage he has appeared with the Bayerischer Rundfunkorchester, Los Angeles Philharmonic and this upcoming season will debut with the Berlin Philharmonic.
David Pittsinger (Le Comte) American bass David Pittsinger is renowned as a stage performer of the greatest distinction, appearing in the world’s major opera houses such as the Metropolitan Opera, Washington National Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Portland Opera, Glimmerglass Festival and Teatro Real. His voice has been heard in the summer festivals of the world such as the ones in Salzburg, Dresden, Macerata, Tanglewood and Santa Fe. Other notable orchestral engagements have included appearances with the Vienna Philharmonic and the L.A. Philharmonic. He has sung at the Metropolitan Opera, and can be heard on the Virgin Classics recording of Carlyle Floyd’s Susannah, and Cavalli’s La Calisto on the Harmonia Mundi label. Mr. Pittsinger reprises the role of Le Comte des Grieux for The Dallas Opera. He recently sang this role in new productions of Manon at the Metropolitan Opera and Los Angeles Opera.
William Ferguson (Guillot) Acclaimed for his versatility, William Ferguson has become and artists in demand all over the world. Highlights include debuts with the Santa Fe Opera, Opera Australia, The Metropolitan, New York City Opera, The Aspen Music Festival, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Virginia Opera, Opera Omaha, Gotham Chamber Opera, Music Academy of the West, Tanglewood Music Center and the Chautauqua Institution. Ferguson has also performed with Opera Orchestra of New York at Carnegie Hall on several occasions. A compelling interpreter of new music and concert performer, Ferguson has appeared with BBC Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Houston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. He holds both a Bachelor’s and Masters of Music degree from The Juilliard School and is a native of Richmond, Virginia.
Troy Cook (Bretigny) His 2015-2016 season brings anticipated performances with The Dallas Opera, as de Brétigny in Manon, Austin Lyric Opera as Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia, and Virginia Opera and as Jupiter in Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld. On the concert stage, he appears with the Pacific Symphony for Handel’s Messiah. Future seasons include a debut with San Diego Opera. Last season brought several notable role debuts, including Sharpless in Madama Butterfly (Utah Opera), Germont in La traviata (Central City Opera) and Rodrigo in Don Carlo (Opera Philadelphia). Concert engagements included the San Francisco Symphony, Portland Symphony and Winston Salem Symphony.
Kathryn Leemhuis (Javotte) American mezzo-soprano Kathryn Leemhuis is widely gathering acclaim for having “a large, beautiful, dark instrument, intelligently used, and spot-on dramatic timing” (St. Louis Today). Most recently in the 2014-15 operatic season, Ms. Leemhuis performed the role of Dorabella in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte with Fort Worth Opera, Inez in Verdi’s Il Trovatore with Cincinnati Opera, and the Mother in Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors with the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. An alumna of the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center, Ms. Leemhuis has performed roles such as Zerlina in Mozart’s Don Giovanni with Opera Theatre of St. Louis; Paquette in Bernstein’s Candide with the Boston Symphony Orchestra; Florence Pike in Britten’s Albert Herring with Florentine Opera; and Amaltea in Rossini’s Mosé in Egitto with Chicago Opera Theater.
Katherine Whyte (Pousette)Soprano Katherine Whyte has performed on opera and concert stages across her native Canada, the United States and Europe. The 2014-2015 season included Brigitta in Iolanta at the Metropolitan Opera, Iris in Semele at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with the Canadian Opera Company, and her debut at the Princeton Festival as the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro. In 2015-16 she makes her Dallas Opera debut as Pousette in Manon and returns to the Metropolitan Opera as Countess Ceprano in Rigoletto.
Audrey Babcock(Rosette)Mezzo-soprano Audrey Babcock is renowned for her portrayal of Carmen which she has performed with Lyrique-en-Mer in France, Florentine Opera, Nashville Opera, Anchorage Opera, San Antonio Opera, Toledo Opera, and Utah Festival Opera. She has premiered several new operas including Tobias Picker’s Thérèse Raquin (NY Premiere -- Dicapo Opera), With Blood, With Ink (World Premiere -- Fort Worth Opera), La Reina (American Lyric Theater, NY), The Poe Project (American Lyric Theater), and appeared as Mother in Winter’s Tale with Beth Morrison’s Prototype Festival in NYC. Additional highlights include Maddalena (Rigoletto) with Boston Lyric Opera, Opera Omaha, Tulsa Opera, and Florentine Opera, Erika in Vanessa (Sarasota Opera), the Secretary in The Consul (New Jersey Opera), and Jo in Little Women (Utah Opera and Syracuse Opera).
Graeme Jenkins (Conductor) The English conductor and The Dallas Opera Music Director Emeritus, Graeme Jenkins studied at the Royal College of Music and at the University of Cambridge. Over the course of his career, he has received numerous engagements, among others to Glyndebourne, the ROH Covent Garden, the English National Opera, the Scottish Opera, Opera North, the Australian Opera, the Canadian Opera, the Deutsche Opera Berlin as well as the Paris Opera. At The Dallas Opera, where he was music director for 20 seasons, he celebrated success with the Ring des Nibelungen, Wozzeck, Jenufa, Ariodante, Lohengrin, Pique Dame, Macbeth, Fledermaus and Roberto Devereux. As an orchestral conductor, he has stood and continues to stand among others on the podium of the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Melbourne and West Australian Symphony Orchestras, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo as well as numerous American orchestras.
Sir David McVicar (Original Production) The Scottish director born in Glasgow is acclaimed as one of the world’s foremost Opera directors. His productions are regularly seen worldwide as well as on television and DVD. He trained at the Glasgow School of Art and the Royal Scottish Academy as actor, designer and director. Productions include performances at The Met, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco, Opera Australia, Festival D’Aix En Provence, Royal Opera House, Strasbourg, New National Theatre of Tokyo, Wiener Staatsoper, ENO, Scottish Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Glyndebourne, Opera North, Theatre Champs Elysee, Paris, La Monnaie, Brussels, Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg, Madrid, Dallas, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Berlin State Opera and the Salzburg Festival. He was knighted in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday honours list for Services to Opera. His productions of Adriana Lecouvreur, The Turn of The Screw, Alcina, The Rape Of Lucretia, Rigoletto and La Clemenza Di Tito have all been nominated for Olivier Awards. He has also been nominated for the Outstanding Achievement in Opera Olivier Award.
E. Loren Meeker (Stage Director) American stage director E. Loren Meeker was assistant director for San Diego Opera from 2005-2007. She has served on the directing staff at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Portland Opera, Glimmerglass Opera and Central City Opera where she was the 2006 recipient of the John Moriarty Award. Recent engagements include a collaboration with composer William Bolcom on Lucrezia for the Boston University Opera Institute, Cloclo for Chicago Folks Operetta, Don Giovanni for the Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Die Fledermaus for San Francisco Opera and Penn State University, and Albert Herring for Red House Opera Group. Also known as a choreographer, her work includes Vanessa at Central City Opera, Orpheus in the Underworld at Glimmerglass Opera and The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni with Houston Grand Opera.
Tanya McCallin (Set and Costume Designer) is a distinguished theatre and opera designer who works extensively in Europe, the U.S. and Australia. She has been associated with many important London theatre productions including premieres of works by Arthur Miller, Pam Gems, Mike Leigh, Chekhov, Sheridan and Shakespeare. After training at Central St. Martins School in London, she became resident designer with a number of British regional repertory companies. This led to a close association with Hampstead Theatre where her designs include Ancient Lights, Nancy Meckler´s production of Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi, which was subsequently seen in the West End, Paris and New York, Abigail´s Party, also filmed for the BBC, and Dennis Potter´s Sufficient Carbohydrate, which later transferred to the Albery Theatre.
David Zimmerman (Wig and Make-up Designer) has worked with The Dallas Opera and other opera companies around the world. These include the Metropolitan Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Santa Fe Opera, Paris National Opera, and Opera Santa Barbara. Mr. Zimmerman’s career extends to Broadway as well, where he has worked on shows including Wicked, Rocky Horror, Show Boat, South Pacific and Evita. His personal clients include Deborah Voigt, Joyce DiDonato, Patricia Racette, Martha Stewart, Olympia Dukakis, and Ricky Martin. He has also done the make-up for the DIFFA Fashion Runway, Dallas Fashion and Art Charity, and the Yelp.com fashion event. His print credits include two features in Opera News plus features in both Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. Television and film credits include Glamour magazine’s Women of the Year and a feature film.
Alexander Rom (Chorus Master) is a native of Kharkov, Ukraine, and holds a Master’s Degree in Choral Conducting from Leningrad Conservatory of Music. Since immigrating to the U.S., he has worked as a performer, conductor, educator, voice teacher, opera coach, and composer. He has been the chorus master for The Dallas Opera since 1990 and an opera coach with the Metropolitan Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Savonlinna Opera Festival, Cincinnati Festival, and Ravinia Festival. He has worked with world renowned singers including Paul Plishka, Mirella Freni, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Jorma Hynninen, Helga Dernesch, Martti Talvela, Joyce DiDonato, and Jerry Hadley. Maestro Rom is an honorary Visiting Professor at Sibelius Academy Helsinki Conservatory and was a Visiting Professor at Savonlinna Opera Festival Music Institute.