Music review: Manon Lescaut, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Manon Lescaut, Usher Hall. Picture: Ryan Buchanan.
Manon Lescaut, Usher Hall. Picture: Ryan Buchanan.
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For all its non sequiturs – between certain acts you feel as if you’ve missed an episode – Puccini’s Manon Lescaut is as compelling an emotional adventure as his later, greater successes.

Manon Lescaut, Usher Hall, Edinburgh * * * * *

And that is made clear in this riveting concert presentation by Deutsche Oper Berlin, headlined by a cast that fired on every cylinder.

Last-minute cast changes proved inconsequential. Jorge de Léon, soaring effortlessly time and again to the tenor stratosphere, captured the irrepressible passion of Des Grieux, a highly-charged counterfoil to the menacing intensity of Carlos Chausson’s Geronte. Ya-Chung Huang’s matter-of-fact Edmondo and Thomas Lehman’s scheming Lescaut, among others, lent no-nonsense support. But what a performance from Sondra Radvanovsky as the opera’s eponymous heroine, a voice of infinite power and range; of shifting moods, from the roast chestnut rasp of the lower register to the transfixing power and purity of her top notes.

READ MORE: All of The Scotsman's 5-star reviews from the 2019 festivals

There’s a raw impetuousness to this music that conductor Donald Runnicles refused to suppress, his energised, uncompromising leadership eliciting visceral precision from his excellent orchestra – a golden string section and gorgeously ripe oboe – and efficient chorus, without lessening its soul-stirring heat. The orchestral Intermezzo in Act 3 was a breathtakingly transformative moment.

Ken Walton

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