Years ago in
I thought of these miscast Veronesi this week when we watched a DVD performance of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, with Placido Domingo and Tiri Te Kanawa. Manon, as you may know, stands at the head of the tradition that culminates with Bridget Jones’ Diaries: a great soppy soap opera of a novel, beloved of courtesans and wanton shop-girls either. Manon the character has a prominent place in the rogues’s gallery of bad-news girls. De Grieux, the boyfriend, is just as much of a twit as you would expect him to be. Domingo and Te Kanawa do a fine job with the music, but because this is disc, we have close-ups, and so they have to act, too.
Manon and De Grieux must be not a lot older than Romeo and Juliet. Domingo and Te Kanawa are just about 40 (it’s an old performance). At first it looks silly, but on a thought, you can see the Romeo and Juliet principle at work: the grownup performance of the children’s parts operates as a criticism of the parts they pretend to play.
Actors have probably known this all along, but this echo-chamber effect is just now beginning to catch my attention. It amuses me that Faye Dunaway plays the wise old shrink on the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair as a sly riff on her performance as the romantic lead in the original (the remake was clearly superior, not so?). And that half the cast of Branagh’s Hamlet had played the prince before themselves (sample here). And I loved it when Marlon Brando parodied Marlon Brando (in The Freshman – but come to think of it, maybe in every performance he ever played). And yes, I am the guy who always looks for cameos.