Le Portrait de Manon

Stage Direction

OPERA | Le Portrait de Manon

music > J. Massenet | Libretto > G. Boyer | First performance at the Royal Opera House | Aurore > Susana Gaspar | Jean > Hanna Hipp | Tiberge > Pablo Bemsch | Des Grieux > ZhengZhong Zhou | Conductor > Geoffrey Paterson | Orchestra > Southbank Sinfonia | Designer > Sophie Mosberger | Lighting > Warren Letton | Movement > Mandy Demetriou | Performance recorded by Opera Rara for future release | London UK | 2011| Backdrop Image: © ROH / Richard H Smith 2011

> Director’s Note

 Le Portrait de Manon c’est un petit fondant aux chocolat. At a first glance, it appears to be an ordinary plain cake but if we are willing to break through the surface-layer, we are bound to be overwhelmed by a secret sensual myriad of sugars and cream. The characters around pivotal Des Grieux, a man tormented by memories of a lost love, have such a brief dramatic lifespan, that we are brought to wish them new embroilments and ways of feeling love. This love, being itself hereditary, brings nearly fateful martyrdom to two young lovers. A young man who deduces love from every gaze, a girl who replicates the feeling of love in every pleasure of life and an old wise friend who prevents the inevitability of a tragic “love” story and puts a full stop on Manon’s circle of lingering memory.


“Sophie Mossberger’s spare, monochrome set for Le Portrait de Manon suggested all that we needed to know of the interior of the house of the aging des Grieux still mourning his lost Manon, with a door, a ramp and a desk,, and clever lighting by Warren Letton, leaving director Pedro Ribeiro to concentrate all the colour on the singers themselves, with ZhengZhong Zhou holding the centre as des Grieux and Susana Gaspar charming as Aurore. (…) These are the stars of the future”. > Crispin Wellbeloved | Global News Box

“For those with an inquisitive ear for new upcoming talent on the operatic scene, the introductory Meet the Jette Parker Young Artists Week is an obligatory calendar event. (…) The centrepiece of this autumn’s week-long offering at the Royal Opera’s Linbury Studio is an intriguing double-bill of Berlioz’s song-cycle Les Nuits d’été and Massenet’s Le Portrait de Manon, a one-act sequel to the composer’s ultimate masterpiece for the operatic stage, and here receiving its Royal Opera premiere. Director Pedro Ribeiro makes the best case possible for this charming bon-bon of a piece that will stimulate little in those not already familiar with the earlier full-scale work. (…)” > Richard Russell | Whats On Stage

“Massenet composed Le Portrait de Manon in 1894 as a one-act sequel to Manon. It is an excellent choice, coming after the Royal Opera House productions of Manon and Cendrillon. Knowing the background is valuable, as Le Portrait de Manon is essentally an epilogue to Manon. However, this Young Artists production was good enough that it could stand on its own. (…)Des Grieux (ZhengZhong Zhou) has grown old and bitter, so trapped in his grief that he’s irritated when his lively young nephew Jean (Hanna Hipp) falls in love and wants to marry. The set (Sophie Mosberger) is very well designed, emphasizing Des Grieux’s isolation, despite the trappings of wealth. There’s a long rumination, in which Des Grieux sings about his past. ZhengZhong Zhou (…) characterized Des Grieux’s personality with emotional depth. His makeup was so well done, he looked as mature as he sounded. Pablo Bemsch, as Tiberge, Des Grieux’s friend, was also very convincing, extending our sympathy with the predicament. (…) Hanna Hipp is a vivacious young scamp in trousers. If Manon the opera is tragic, Le Portrait de Manon is an invigorating romp, and in this performance, deftly executed. (…) Another good reason for paying attention to Young Artists Events, where repertoire is often approached in interesting ways.”

> Anne Ozorio | Opera Today

“The Jette Parker Young Artists double bill of Jules Massenet’s rare one-act opera Le Portrait de Manon (sequel to Manon) and Hector Berlioz’s Les Nuits d’été, featured romance, mystique and sumptuous singing. It has its inelegant features but the latest offering from the Royal Opera House’s emerging artists team brought imagination and wit to the programme, difficult to stage though it must surely have been. (…) (In Le Portrait de Manon) The addition of pop-up silhouettes to illustrate Jean’s fascination with his romantic history lesson was endearing and props aside, as the narrative unfolded, the characterisations became larger than life against the simplicity of Sophie Mosberger’s sparse set. A single roughly painted corridor slanting up to a single door, centre-stage, provided a haunting symbol of entrance and painful exit. (…)” > Katy S Austin | Bachtrack

“The Jette Parker Young Artists were sounding in good health in this unusual double-bill. Ribeiro’s direction and Sophie Mosberger’s designs kept things simple, (Le Portrait de Manon) Des Grieux (…) romantic looks and Byronic self-possession were matched by the weight and colour of his voice and its fluid, finely paced delivery. He was excellent in his opening gloomy narration, which usefully condenses three hours of Manon into a succinct few minutes. (…) Jean looked great, rather in the English-rose style, en travestie, and, as did all the singers, moved well and in keeping with her character. She was completely confident with the girl-to-boy artificiality, she had an attractive, easy presence that drew you into the role. Aurore aimed at revisiting the naive innocence of Manon before experience gets its hooks into her (…) the soubrette nature of the part engagingly realised. Des Grieux’s friend Tiberge was wittily played with an ear for the quiet humour and subtlety the role requires.” > Peter Reed | Classical Source