As Manon’s handsome suitor Chevalier des Grieux, tenor Brian Jagde was impressive in his fifth role debut this year. His voice resonating with ringing intensity and virile beauty, Jagde was ardent and dashing ...

“As Manon’s handsome suitor Chevalier des Grieux, tenor Brian Jagde was impressive in his fifth role debut this year. His voice resonating with ringing intensity and virile beauty, Jagde was ardent and dashing as the student from Amiens who quickly wins Manon’s heart, only to lose it but ultimately regain it. His character’s passion for Haroutounian’s Manon was palpable from the start, and their love duets were meltingly splendid.”
James Ambroff-Tahan – San Francisco Examiner

“In Manon, des Grieux sees more, drawn to her by both her beauty and a heart hidden by sadness and to whom American tenor Brian Jagde gave vocal force of Himalayan magnificence. Manon’s destiny lies hopelessly in the hands of others and while des Grieux presses into her life as a welcome hero, even he cannot alter a course of doom. In Abbé Prévost’s novel of 1731 novel L’histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut, on which the opera is based, des Grieux even precipitates it.

Forceful without showiness and having the physical presence that matters, Jagde whipped up unstoppable gusto as the valiant young man as emotions cascaded in thoughtfully targeted singing. With a tingling and wowing “Pazzo son!” that closed Act 3, as the captain of the ship sees des Grieux’s grief, Jagde gave substance to a moment in life when things change in a flash and let loose the greatest emotive highlight of opening night.”
Opera Chaser

“Brian Jagde has been forming a major career as a hefty-voiced tenor with a bright sound that could be heard through the blended harmony of a moderately large orchestra. In Act I, Des Grieux went from a boy who did not care whether the girlfriend of the day was blonde or brunette to a young man who had just seen the girl of his dreams as he sang a delightfully lyrical rendition of “Donna non vidi mai.” His character became bolder, almost to a breaking point, as in Act III he sang “No! No! pazzo son!” with beauteous high notes and heart rending passion. As a result, he was allowed to accompany his love in deportation. His character was so credible that it made me wonder what his life would have been like after Manon’s death.”
Maria Nockin – BroadwayWorld

“Soprano Lianna Haroutounian and tenor Brian Jagde are reunited as Puccini lovers after their impressive SFO performances in “Tosca” in 2014. Haroutounian made her Company debut in the title role. Both now make role debuts as Manon and Chevalier Des Grieux.

Jagde was in ringing voice on opening night, and his strong features and clear-cut acting continue to make a great fit for the War Memorial stage.”
Philip Campbell – Bay Area Reporter

“Manon’s lover is the persistent youth des Grieux, played by Brian Jagde, who has become the “go to” Puccini tenor for San Francisco Opera, where he had already sung the lead male roles of Cavaradossi, Pinkerton, and Calaf in three of the composer’s top operas (He has sung Rodolfo elsewhere). His voice possesses strength, flair, and a bit of an Italianate lilt. His delightful solo highlight “Donna non vidi mai” appears in Act 1.

The lovers give perhaps their most gripping and emotional singing in Act 2, with “Tu, tu, amore tu…” one of the great love duets from all of opera.”
Victor Cordell – Berkshire Fine Arts

“As Manon’s first love, the Chevalier des Grieux, Brian Jagde continued his exploration of the spinto tenor repertory, in a role debut that confirmed his ascendancy into the first rank of dramatic tenors. Puccini lavished his melodic gifts on the des Grieux role, which Jagde displayed with vocal power and lyric beauty.

Impressive in his opening aria Era von, belle, brune e blonde, Jagde masterfully performed the first act’s Donna non vidi mai, one of the greatest Italian operatic arias. As the opera progressed, Jagde’s comfort with this iconic role became inceasingly obvious, both vocally and dramatically.”
Opera Warhorses

“The leads, Lianna Haroutounian, as Manon, and Brian Jagde, as Des Grieux, both made their role debuts. They were stellar. Ms Haroutounian captures the pathos, silliness, beauty, and tragedy in Manon while fulfilling all that Puccini could desire through her voice. Mr. Jagde is ardent, naive, and heroic with a soaring voice and powerful presence.”
Lively Foundation

“The greatest joys of this production are the wonderful duets performed by the always excellent Brian Jagde and the great Lianna Haroutounian, both making role debuts. Jagde has been extraordinarily busy, playing a huge variety of roles in major opera houses worldwide. It is easy to see why he is in demand. He is a singer who seems to achieve his effects effortlessly.”
Charles Kruger – TheatreStorm

“Tenor Brian Jagde (pictured in Act III, photograph by Cory Weaver) is a dashing Chevalier des Grieux, his powerful voice can always be heard over the very bold and propulsive sound of the orchestra.”
Opera Tattler

“Soprano Lianna Haroutounian and tenor Brian Jagde, in their first turns as Manon and des Grieux, connect onstage with fiery vocalism. Haroutounian, a memorable Butterfly and Tosca here in recent years, sings her heart out with unleashed fervor and bright color. Yet, Jagde delivers the stronger performance of the two, unleashing his robust, ringing voice with radiant sound.

One has the impression that he all but creates Manon on the stage, urging her first to engage with him and eventually to turn her back on the lecherous Geronte’s jewel caskets and escape to a happier life together. The drama of Manon’s exile with a shipload of prostitutes is carried by Jagde’s des Grieux; he details the scene as he does the finale and Manon’s death with ease.”
Caroline Crawford – Local News Matters

“Richard Tucker cited Puccini’s Renato des Grieux as his favorite rôle. Hearing recordings of his performances of the part opposite Dorothy Kirsten, Renata Tebaldi, Licia Albanese, and Raina Kabaivabska at the Metropolitan Opera, Montserrat Caballé in Buenos Aires, Virginia Zeani in Rome, and the inimitable Magda Olivero in Caracas, it is easy to discern why the rôle appealed to Tucker … his {Brian Jagde’s} inaugural interpretation of the part revealed a superlative affinity for the music. Upon his first entrance in Act One, Jagde suffused his des Grieux with youthful disenfranchisement that enhanced the believability of the character’s impulsiveness. The tenor sang ‘Tra voi, belle, brune e bionde’ with suitable ennui, fostering a significant contrast with his awestruck enunciations of ‘Dio, quanto è bella!’ and ‘Cortese damigella, il priego mio accettate’ after Manon’s arrival. ‘Donna non vidi mai simile a questa!’ is one of Puccini’s finest arias for the tenor voice and, melodically, can be argued to be more gratifying than several of its companions in the Puccini canon. Jagde sang the piece ardently, untroubled by the top B♭s. Enchanted by his Manon, this des Grieux voiced ‘Oh, come gravi le vostre parole!’ rapturously.

Finding Manon ensconced in the splendor of Geronte’s Parisian residence, des Grieux’s wounded pride and anger electrified Jagde’s voicing of ‘Sì, sciagurata, la mia vendetta’ … the intensity of his singing of ‘Senti, di qui partiamo’ and ‘Con te portar dei solo il cor’ was exciting, the latter taking him to a magnificent top B. Des Grieux’s music undergoes a further metamorphosis in Act Three, and Jagde responded with a lyrical reading of ‘Manon, disperato è il mio prego!’ that, as in his transition from sangfroid to romantic zeal in Act One, facilitated a meaningful distinction between the sadness of the act’s first scene and the avidity of the subsequent scenes. Jagde’s galvanizing voicing of ‘No! no! pazzo son io!’ recalled Franco Bonisolli’s singing of this music, his traversal of the largo sostenuto ‘Guardate, pazzo son’ throbbing with emotion and cresting on another ringing top B.

Vocally, Jagde was on near-best form throughout the evening: dramatically, he was most effective in Act Four. The voice remained strong, but the tenor’s demeanor as he sang ‘Tutta su me ti posa’ exuded exhaustion and faltering determination. Jagde approached ‘Vedi, vedi, son lo che piango’ and ‘Tutto il mio sangue per la tua vita!’ without artifice, and the emotional directness of his singing of ‘Nulla rinvenni l’orizzonte nulla mi rivelò’ was touching … he was in this performance a forthright, clarion-toned des Grieux.”
Joseph Newsome – Voix des Arts

“Opposite her as the Chevalier des Grieux was American tenor Brian Jagde, also making his role debut. His is a big booming voice that is capable of softness and subtlety when needed … They have performed together in San Francisco in 2014 in Tosca, also to great success and are very well matched vocally and physically. Their love duets in every act were beautiful to hear and so very romantic.”
Elsa Tranter –

“At first, Des Grieux, sung here by tenor Brian Jagde, reproaches Manon. However, overcome by her beauty and her protestations of love, Des Grieux melts; and the reunited lovers sing an impassioned duet, “Vieni! Colle tue braccia stringi Manon che t’ama”/“Come, love! In your arms enfold Manon who loves you.” Musically and dramatically, this is the highpoint of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut; and it was sung beautifully by Liana Haroutounian and Brian Jagde …”
James Roy MacBean – Berkeley Daily Planet

Image by Cory Weaver

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