Notes and Editorial Reviews
This belongs in the pantheon of great opera recordings. In 1970 when the performance was taped, Beverly Sills had only sung the role that eventually hurt her voice--Elisabetta in Donizetti's Roberto Devereux--a handful of times, and so she was at the peak of her powers. The voice never was opulent or grand, but it was all the other things we hope for in a great vocal instrument: beautiful, expressive, agile, thoroughly even from very top (E-flats and Es) to bottom, with a flawless technique, extraordinary breath control, and a capability in any dynamic range, from the quietist pianissimo to an impressive forte. These traits, coupled with a lively, curious, intelligent mind and a commitment to drama,
made her the finest dramatic coloratura of the late-'60s and very early '70s (Caballé could be emotionally and vocally lazy; Sutherland's interest in drama was ancillary).
There are other very good recordings of Manon on the market: Victoria de los Angeles is glorious, Gheorghiu and Alagna on EMI are excellent, and an odd, live performance on Myto, with Giacomo Aragall and Jeanette Pilou, is a wonderful surprise, full of passion. But this one is a desert-island set: Sills is girlish and demure at first, later alluring and sure of herself, then cajoling and outright lusty in the St. Sulpice Scene, and truly tragic at the end. Her coloratura is glittering, her "Adieu" heartrending. Nicolai Gedda is a very extroverted Des Grieux, singing with big, forward tone, but also (as usual) with great sensitivity and attention to dynamics. Gérard Souzay sounds a bit long-in-the-tooth for Lescaut, but he's a very classy singer and he does get the character's smarminess across. Gabriel Bacquier is a fine, authoritative Count, and the rest of the cast is superb. All sing in excellent French. Julius Rudel leads a more-than-complete score, with an additional aria for Manon in the Cours de la Reine scene that Massenet added for another soprano, and the orchestral playing is all you'd want it to be. The sound, once glaring, is now close to perfect. This is it. [06/22/2004]
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Manon by Jules Massenet
Gérard Souzay (Baritone),
Gabriel Bacquier (Bass Baritone),
Michel Trempont (Bass),
Patricia Kern (Mezzo Soprano),
Nico Castel (Tenor),
Michele Raynaud (Soprano),
Nicolai Gedda (Tenor),
Helia T'Hezan (Mezzo Soprano),
Beverly Sills (Soprano)
New Philharmonia Orchestra,
Ambrosian Opera Chorus
Written: 1883-1884; France
Manon / Act 1: Holà! Hé! Monsieur l'Hôtelier?
Manon / Act 1: Hors d'oeuvre de choix!
Manon / Act 1: Entendez-vous la cloche...Allez à l'auberge voisine
Manon / Act 1: Je suis encore tout étourdie
Manon / Act 1: Partez! On sonne
Manon / Act 1: "Il vous parlait, Manon?...Regardez-moi bien dans les yeux"
Manon / Act 1: Restons ici...Voyons, Manon, plus de chimères!
Manon / Act 1: "Quelqu'un...J'ai marqué l'heure...Et je sais votre nom"
Manon / Act 1: Nous vivrons à Paris tous les deux!...Plus un sous!
Manon / Act 2: Prélude - "Manon! Avez-vous peur que mon visage"
Manon / Act 2: Enfin les amoureux
Manon / Act 2: Allons, il le faut...Adieu, notre petite table
Manon / Act 2: C'est lui...Instant charmant...En fermant les yeux
Manon / Act 3: Voyez mules à fleurettes!
Manon / Act 3: A quoi bon l'économie...Bonjour, Poussette!
Manon / Act 3: Voici les élégantes
Manon / Act 3: Je marche sur les chemins
Manon / Act 3: Obéissons quand leur voix appelle
Manon / Act 3: Et maintenant restez seul
Manon / Act 3: C'est elle? Oui, c'est Manon
Manon / Act 3: Répondez-moi, Guillot!...Voici l'Opéra!
Manon / Act 3: Ballet..."C'est fête au Cours-la-Reine!"
Manon / Act 3: Quelle éloquence!
Manon / Act 3: Bravo, mon cher...Epouse quelque brave fille
Manon / Act 3: Je suis seul...Ah, fuyez, douce image
Manon / Act 3: "Ces murs silencieux...Pardonnez-moi, Dieu de toute puissance"
Manon / Act 3: Toi! Vous!...Oui! Je fus cruelle et coupable!
Manon / Act 3: N'est-ce plus ma main?
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