Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spend an afternoon in Paris with the Met

Did you ever know someone who was too fond of love and luxury for her (or his) own good? That sums up the heroine of Massenet's "Manon," coming to movie theaters Saturday from New York's Metropolitan Opera .

Clocking in at 4 1/2 hours, "Manon" is one of the peaks of French grand opera --which is not just a description, but the name of the genre that reigned supreme in 19th-century Paris. The heroine is a young woman who, at the opening, is being packed off to a convent because her family wants to keep her out of trouble. But she takes a detour with young man instead, and her adventures begin.

While the length may conjure up notions of Richard Wagner's massive creations, opera lovers who don't have the patience for Wagner may find "Manon" much more palatable. Manon's affairs of the heart lead her through a gambling den, a Parisian carnival and the real-life church of St. Sulpice, where she makes a seminarian forget his vows (as you see in the photo of Anna Netrebko and Piotr Beczala by Ken Howard for the Met).

Massenet's music tips its hat to the elegance of the opera's 18th-century setting. But otherwise it goes all out with the lushness and red-blooded melody of Massenet's late-19th-century heyday. It's one of those operas that isn't likely to show up on a Charlotte stage anytime soon. That's just one more reason to take it in on Saturday. It starts at noon at Stonecrest near Ballantyne and at Concord Mills.