To La Monnaie this evening to see a new production of Giacomo Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, with a mise-en-scène by Mariusz Trelinski. The evening’s performance was hit by the illness of Brandon Jovanovich, playing Des Grieux, but he nevertheless soldiered on, miming the part on stage, whilst a brave and excellent Italian tenor, whose name we didn’t catch and who had been flown in the same morning from London, sang the part from the shadows under the proscenium arch. He did a very good job (and if somebody can send me his name I’ll put it in this post). Eva-Maria Westbroek sung the title role brilliantly and Carlo Rizzi conducted with aplomb. We had our doubts about Trelinski’s production. He chose to place the action in an evocation of a cross between a metro and a London underground station, with its hints of the endless sweep and flow of life and humanity. For some reason, it didn’t quite come off. Nevertheless, the production was vindicated by an extraordinarily powerful and unforgettable portrayal of the roll call of the courtesans (Act III) with the parade of half-naked women, staggering, bound hands above their heads, lurching repeatedly towards their awful destiny, heavily redolent of the slave trade with which the Americas were already familiar and of the horrors twentieth century Europe would all too soon know. It is an image that stays in the mind.