This single CD contains a series of 'bleeding chunks' from the Naxos complete recording of Manon Lescaut. Let's be honest; it's worth the money three times over just to hear Gauci. She is quite out of this world, and to hear her sing In quelle tine morbide is a real musical and emotional experience. I can't wait to hear her Mimi - I'm sure my time will come! No need for analysis of technique or style; just listen.
The tenor, Kaludi Kaludov is not in the same league, or even, apparently, in the same opera at times. Clearly Des Grieux must project a different temperament from Manon, but we must be made to feel his poetic nature. Kaludov is perhaps too easily seduced by the vocal temptations on offer; he has a splendid (though not world-class) voice, and uses its heroic tones too indiscriminately. A pity, because he has some fine moments, best of all the intensity of Senti, di qui partiamo from Act 2. Vincente Sardinero supports ably in the relatively short appearances he makes here.
The recording is good, though lacking in a sense of depth and perspective, which makes it harder to visualise the action. The Belgian Radio orchestra's playing is honest and stylish, and at times much more than that; the Intermezzo between Acts 2 and 3, a fine movement, is given a really powerful reading. Little moments of untidiness really do not matter too much given the generally high standard of their contribution.
There is much wonderful music in this opera, which points the way forward to the great works of Puccini's artistic maturity. For those not familiar with the whole work, this disc makes an ideal introduction.