Notes and Editorial Reviews
This Manon from the Paris Opera is as lovely to look at as it is to listen to. William Orlandi is responsible for both sets and costumes, and while the former are understated and suggestive more than extravagant, the lavish "Cours de la Reine" and Gambling scenes are almost over-the-top glamorous. Renée Fleming is so sumptuously gowned and coiffed that the viewer is tempted to keep score (her hair color keeps changing). Gilbert Deflo's stage direction is always intelligent, with the intimate moments truly so--the lighting helps tremendously--and the big scenes well-handled. Despite the lack of gigantic sets, this is Parisian Grand opera at its best.
Taped in June, 2001, Fleming is caught at her vocal best,
with few irritating slides and scoops to mar her performance. Vocally there seems to be little she can't do: she dazzles with her coloratura and secure high-Ds in the "Cours de la Reine"; her tender "Adieu" is very moving--she could seduce a stone, let alone Des Grieux, in St. Sulpice with her meltingly beautiful singing, which is filled with subtle, sensual shades. She never quite convinces as an innocent teen in the opera's early act, but as it progresses she makes the role her own dramatically.
Singing even more handsomely and convincingly is Marcelo Alvarez as Des Grieux; this is his finest portrayal to date. His voice is juicy yet lyric and healthy enough to be used at all volume levels, with endless breath and truly sensitive phrasing. Not a great actor, his hotheaded behavior nonetheless rings true. Jean-Luc Chaignaud's clear baritone is well used as Manon's half-caring, half-pimping cousin Lescaut, and bass Alain Vernhes adds a dignified Comte des Grieux.
Jesus Lopez-Cobos leads the Paris forces with great energy and sparkle, bringing out the sensuality inherent in the music. He cuts the score somewhat, but only purists will complain. There are English, French, Spanish, and Italian subtitles, a choice of Stereo, 5.1, or Digital 5.1. The picture and sound are crystal clear. This is a stunning confection that probably won't be bettered for some time.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Manon by Jules Massenet
Renée Fleming (Soprano),
Marcelo Alvarez (Tenor)
Written: 1883-1884; France
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