Jules MASSENET (1842-1912) Manon - opera in five acts (1884)
Libretto by Henri Meilhac and Philippe Gille after Antoine-François Prévost’s
novel L’histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut (1731)
Manon Lescaut – Angela Gheorghiu
Chevalier Des Grieux – Roberto Alagna (tenor)
Le Comte des Grieux – Jose van Dam (bass)
Lescaut – Earle Patriarco (baritone)
Guillot de Morfontaine – Gilles Ragon (tenor)
De Brétigny – Nicolas Rivenq (bass)
Chorus and orchestra of the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Brussels/Antonio Pappano
rec. Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Brussels, June 2000. DDD. EMI CLASSICS
3818422 [3 CDs: 67.45 + 55.05 + 40.16]
This mid-price reissue
of Pappano’s Brussels “Manon” is sure to maintain its popularity,
even amongst the ranks of other justifiably famous recordings.
Germaine Féraldy, Victoria de los Angeles, Beverly Sills
and Ileana Cotrubaş have all, in their time, held sway
as leaders in the title role. If Cotrubaş under Plasson,
also for EMI, arguably recorded the work slightly late in
her career to be caught in fully resplendent bloom of tone,
her compatriot Angela Gheorghiu left nothing to chance in
that respect. The recording is one of the most successful
amongst her earlier studio roles for EMI. As such it is the
perfect companion for the equally successful recording of “Werther”,
recorded around the same time.
quality by itself is not enough to secure such a strong recommendation
for any artist in any opera: there has to be characterisation
too. This Gheorghiu provides aplenty. It’s a role that she
fully inhabits and the emotional identification with the
part is palpable.
are other seriously strong aspects to this recording as well.
Roberto Alagna makes for an ardent Chevalier Des Grieux,
forthright of tone and sentiment throughout> He also avoids
the slightly barked production that has occasionally come
to mar his singing in recent years. It is a stylish portrayal,
even if not quite as subtle as the still sorely missed Alfredo
Kraus. José van Dam reprises the Comte Des Grieux, a role
he had recorded some 18 years earlier also alongside Kraus
and Cotrubaş. Still in fine voice, his position as the
virtual house baritone of La Monnaie during the Pappano tenure
is amply justified. If anything the extra graininess in his
more mature voice imparts extra gravitas to the reading.
Many of the other cast members – Gilles Ragon and Nicolas
Rivenq – were at that time on the upward run towards international
careers via time spent in various Belgian houses. Whichever
way you look at it Sophie Koch is star casting in the role
me though what clinches this set is Pappano’s conducting.
There is no denying his way with Massenet – far from an easy
composer to realise – and he brings out passion without losing
sight of the Gallic roots of the music. Tragedy seems to
permeate every bar from the start, with vital playing from
the Monnaie orchestra. It is hard to believe that they were
quite so scathing about Pappano’s conducting in Brussels
as they were. What musicians can dislike, microphones can
love. You only have to hear this recording to know how true
that can be.
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