My DVD of Hans Werner Henze’s Boulevard Solitude arrived the day before his death at the weekend and so went straight to the top of the reviewing pile. It’s an intriguing piece. It’s based on the same Abbé Prevost novel as all the other versions of Manon but updated to the period of composition (1952) and told from the viewpoint of des Grieux rather than Manon. In this version des Grieux picks Manon up at a railway station while she is on her way to finishing school in Lausanne. They run away to Paris but des Grieux is broke and Manon’s brother pimps her to a rich old man, Lilaque. The brother robs the old man’s house which gets them both kicked out. Manon has a brief fling with des Grieux before her brother pimps her out again; this time to Lilaque’s son. By this time des Grieux has a pretty serious cocaine problem. The cocaine, naturally, is supplied by Lescaut. Lescaut is in the process of stealing a painting from Lilaque fils when Lilaque père shows up. Lescaut hands Manon a gun and she kills the old man. In the last scene we are back at the railway station where a disconsolate des Grieux waits for one last glance at Manon as she is taken to prison.
There’s lots to like in the 2003 Glyndebourne recording of Die Fledermaus. Let’s start with Stephen Lawless’ production. It’s attractively designed, quite slick and has a few good new gags without going overboard. The sets are designed with striking diagonals and staircases and gantries. Rotation is used both as a device to change the setting and as an element in the scene composition. The overall effect is that the scene changes from drawing room to a sort of “gilded cage” for Orlofsky’s party – which opens out to create space for the action – to a prison with minimum disruption to us or the action. Spots are used to create stagey effects and at one point Jurowski in the pit ostentatiously upstages the actors on stage. Lawless never lets us forget this is a “show”. Continue reading