WNO’s production of Henze’s Boulevard Solitude

I had been waiting for over thirty years to find a performance of Henze’s Boulevard Solitude and when eventually it turned up, as part of Welsh National Opera’s current season of Fallen Women, I was not disappointed. Far from it. The reinterpretation of Manon Lescaut in a post-Second World War society where moral and social values have disintegrated and where Armand, the one real person in the piece, is left lonely and without hope, because he cannot relate to that world, is highly compelling. Grete Weil’s libretto, in the excellent translation by Norman Platt, is intelligent, moving and never banal; and Henze’s brilliant jazz-influenced score captures so well the contrast between Armand’s idealistic fantasies and the decadence of the society which inevitably destroy them.

A superb production by the gifted Polish director Mariusz Trelinski was gripping from beginning to end; never vulgar, in its choreographed, stylised movement and its clever visual images, it caught exactly the spirit of the piece. Full marks also to Lothar Koenigs and the WNO Orchestra for their account of the score and to Sarah Tynan as Manon, and Jason Bridge as Armand, who both musically and dramatically provided totally convincing portrayals of the brutal reality and the false illusions which lie at the heart of this work.