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Massenet: Manon / Monteux, De Los Angeles, Legay, Dens

Release Date: 08/19/2011 
Label:  Emi Studio Catalog #: 63549   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Jules MassenetErnest Chausson
Performer:  Victoria de los AngelesHenri LegayMichel Dens
Conductor:  Pierre MonteuxJean-Pierre Jacquillat
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Opéra Comique OrchestraParis Opéra Comique ChorusLamoureux Concerts Association Orchestra
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

With de los Angeles pure in tone and faithfully expressive of the carefree charm of Manon’s personality, this set has long been regarded as definitive.

...The fact is that the original 1955 mono sound is not the best example of the recordings of that era. In any case, once the opera began, with solo and choral voices in proper balance with the orchestra, I could concentrate on the music, and pursue Massenet’s elegant score with the greatest of pleasure. Unquestionably, Pierre Monteux—who began his distinguished career as a viola-player in the Opéra Comique orchestra more than a century ago—proves to be an ideal guide. He sets unerring tempos and, aided by an exceptional cast, provides a liquid flow connecting the
Read more spoken dialogues with the singing. An essential unity is thus maintained, infinitely helped by Monteux’s impressive command of the vocal and orchestral nuances, and the crystalline clarity with which the cast realizes the conductor’s intentions.

Victoria de los Angeles is, in many ways, an ideal Manon. Her French, incidentally, sounds flawless to me. The childlike and foolhardy innocence she displays in the first act goes with the character, as does the confusion and impetuosity in act II. Naturally, the brief arias like “Voyons, Manon” and “Adieu, notre petite table” are gems of delicate wistfulness, and the “Gavotte,” while not the last world in brilliance, remains pure in tone, faithfully expressive of the carefree charm of Manon’s personality. She is very effectively partnered with Henri Legay, a light-voiced tenor, perhaps not ideally suited to Des Grieux’s most passionate moments, though managing them well with Monteux’s expert guidance. There is youthful ardor in his singing and, above all, an elegance of style, a real doucement tenderness, turning diminuendos into mezza-voce or a well-supported falsetto without the loss of tonal quality. The farewell between these two artists at Le Havre is tear provoking.

Michel Dens is a lively and assertive Lescaut. While Jean Borthayre is not the true bass the role of the Comte requires, the wide-ranging compass of his aria lies well for his elegantly compassionate bass-baritone. René Hérent is a characterful Guillot, sly and vindictive, but stays clear of caricature. The veteran Jean Vieuille is a solid Brétigny, and the three playgirls harmonize prettily. The only substantial cut is the frequently observed abbreviation of the act I ending.

The 1970 EMI recording with Beverly Sills and Nicolai Gedda under Julius Rudel renders the opera uncut, and has much to commend it, particularly the passion and brilliance of Sills in the name part, and the overall superiority of the recorded sound. But, for me, this welcome reissue is a must.

-- George Jellinek, FANFARE [5/2006]
reviewing this recording previously reissued as Urania 22282

There have been a number of complete recordings, from an acoustic set in 1923 with Fanny Heldy through an early electric essay in 1929 with Germaine Féraldy and two early LP sets: Janine Micheau with Albert Wolff conducting and Victoria de los Angeles alongside Pierre Monteux at the helm. All of them were recorded with Opéra-Comique forces and French-speaking singers in the numerous solo roles. Of these the de los Angeles-Monteux set has long been regarded as definitive and though there have been a number of later offerings it still has claims to be a first recommendation, in spite of the mono sound.

-- Göran Forsling, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Manon by Jules Massenet
Performer:  Victoria de los Angeles (Soprano), Henri Legay (Tenor), Michel Dens (Baritone)
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Opéra Comique Orchestra,  Paris Opéra Comique Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1883-1884; France 
Date of Recording: 1955 
Venue:  Live  Paris, France 
Language: French 
Poème de l'amour et de la mer, Op. 19 by Ernest Chausson
Performer:  Victoria de los Angeles (Soprano)
Conductor:  Jean-Pierre Jacquillat
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lamoureux Concerts Association Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1882-1890; France 
Date of Recording: 2/1969 

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