Review by Willard Manus

The combination of glitzy production and fiery performances by Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon resulted in a memorable version of Jules Massenet's MANON at the Music Center this fall. Directed with Hollywood style and pizzazz by Vincent Patterson, who updated the l9th century opera to 1950 Paris, the opera's melodramatic love story was delivered with unabashed gusto and passion. "If you've got it, flaunt it," was the order of the day for Los Angeles Opera (whose artistic director, Placido Domingo, spiritedly conducted the company's orchestra, making it sound full-throated and bold).

Johannes Leiacker's set design, heavy on gold and red (with appropriate gloom in the cathedral scene), and Susan Hilferty's pop-art costumes were big plusses too, but most of the credit for MANON'S success must go to its two young stars.

Netrebko brought Manon to life with her astonishing acting, singing and dancing. The Russian-born soprano has a voice that combines power and beauty (even at the upper registers), and she threw herself into the role of Manon with a lustiness and joie de vivre that was both infectious and captivating.

Netrebko's chemistry with Villazon was equally impressive. The Mexican tenor made his love for Manon palpable and matched her, note for thrilling note, in their arias and duets. He is without question one of the finest, most exciting opera singers working today.

LA Opera also made news with its recent annoucement that the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Foundation has given $6 million to be the lead sponsor of a new, upcoming production of Richard Wagner's Ring cycle. This will be the company's first presentation of Wagner's epic four-part masterpiece.

The Broad Foundation had previously underwritten LA Opera's 2005 productions of Pagliacci and Parsifal as well as the company's 20th anniversary celebration which marked the opening of the current season.

On Nov. 19 LA Opera will launch a holiday presentation of Humperdinck's classic children's fairy tale, HANSEL AND GRETAL, directed and designed by Douglas Fitch. Performances are through Dec. 17, with both matinee and evening performances.

November/December will also see the company premiere of Monteverdi's THE CORONATION OF POPPEA, starring Harry Bicket, Susan Graham, Frederica von Stade and counter-tenor David Daniels. Pierre Audi directs the Baroque masterpiece.

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave. Call (213) 972-8001 or visit For disability access, call (213) 972-0777 or e-mail