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The Abbe Prevost's 18th century French story of the career of a young girl from the country who first invades, then conquers and finally is defeated by society was the inspiration for 19th century operas by Jules Massenet and Giacomo Puccini. Massenet's "Manon" opened this past weekend at the IU Opera Theatre.

David Effron conducted while guest David Gately was the stage director.

Saturday night's Manon was sung by Kristine Biller. The role requires a lot of dramatic range. We first meet Manon as a fresh young girl on her way to a convent. As she expires, she's a beaten, world weary woman being deported to Louisiana. In between, she runs away with a young nobleman, becomes the kept woman of a high official and rises to the top of risque society. That's a lot of depth to expect from a young singer. Biller has a lovely voice that handled the part nicely except for a few surprising departures from pitch on the high notes. Jeremy Hunt sang strongly as Lescaut, Manon's cousin.

Yoonsoo Shin was the young Chavalier Des Grieux who first falls in love with Manon. He was an able soloist and partner to Biller in their duets. Sam Spade had a nice solid performance as Des Grieux's father, the Count.

David Sadlier sang well and pranced effectingly as the foppish rich nobleman Guillot. Evan Rogister was effective as De Bretigny, one of Manon's keepers.

Leslie Heal, Amanda Hoffmann and Angela Shadwick made a colorful and musical trio as the three actresses who appear in all the festive scenes.

Massenet's score is melodious with lovely harmonies and intricate orchestrations. The IU Concert Orchestra gave a sensitive and detailed account of the score. Solos from the orchestra were nicely defined and the voices well supported. I did wish for some suspense, perhaps a bit more of musical and dramatic tension, but "Manon" at the Musical Arts Center was both visually and musically lush.

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