Lisette Oropesa, where have you been all my life?
Of course, I've heard her before--she's appeared 100 times or so at the Met so one could hardly miss her--but never in a showpiece like the title role of Jules Massenet's MANON, opposite tenor Michael Fabiano's Chevalier des Grieux, on the second night of the Met's new season.
As Manon, Oropesa showed off her voice's clear, clean, pretty top...but make no mistake: She is not simply a songbird. The voice has some heft to it (ok, she's no Brunnhilde in the making). And she's also a fine actress: Oropesa is about the only one I've heard as Manon (or its step-sister, MANON LESCAUT by Puccini), who could pull off the girlish 16-year-old of Acts I & II and not seem frumpy or ridiculous. When librettists Meilhac and Gille say "no voice could be sweeter...no face more enchanting," they could have had Oropesa as their model.
In the famed Cours-la-Reine scene that starts Act III--staged something like Cecil Beaton's Ascot Gavotte in the original MY FAIR LADY--it's interesting to see the change in Oropesa's demeanor: there isn't much. Usually, the Manons I've seen have become grand dames by this point--I particularly recall the portrayals of Beverly Sills and Anna Netrebko--but in Oropesa's account, she is still the teenager at heart with an eye on pleasure, but despite the fancy clothes, it's like she's wearing her older sister's gown.
This seems more in character in a story that appears to unfold over very few years, even though, by Act III, the girl can wrap any man she wants around her finger, with Oropesa singing gorgeously about the joys of love and wealth in "Obeissons quand leur voix appelle." Oropesa is a pleasure to hear and see, even when she expires at the end of Act V on a road that looks like a stretch of an LA freeway. (This Manon never gets to America, to expire in the desert of Louisiana as in MANON LESCAUT.)— Richard Sasanow • Broadway World