MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Not available in the USA

alternatively Classicsonline AmazonUK


Jules MASSENET (1842–1912)
(1884) [164.41] (1)
Claude DEBUSSY(1862-1918)
La Demoiselle élue
(1886/7) [19.21] (2)
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)
Les nuits d’été
(1841) [30.39] (3)
Manon Lescaut – Victoria de los Angeles (soprano) (1)
Chevalier Des Grieux – Henri Legay (tenor) (1)
Comte Des Grieux – Jean Borthayre (baritone) (1)
Lescaut – Michel Dens (baritone) (1)
Guillot de Morfontaine – Rene Herent (tenor) (1)
De Bretigny – Jean Vieuille (baritone) (1)
Victoria de los Angeles (soprano) (2, 3)
Carol Smith (mezzo) (2)
Radcliffe Choral Society (2)
Orchestra and Chorus of the Théâtre National de l’Opéra Comique/Pierre Monteux (1)
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Charles Munch (2, 3)
rec. 30 April–22 June 1955, Salle de la Mutualite, Paris (1); 11 April 1955, Symphony Hall, Boston (2); 12-13 April 1955, Symphony Hall, Boston (3)
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111268-70 [3 CDs: 66.59 + 80.13 + 67.29]


Experience Classicsonline

Massenet’s Manon has done rather well on disc. In addition to some interesting modern performances - Angela Gheorgiu, Renee Fleming, Ileana Cotrubas, Beverly Sills - the opera has appeared in a number of fascinating historic issues. Fanny Heldy, the reigning Opéra Comique soprano, recorded it in 1911, then Germaine Féraldy recorded in 1928. Heddle Nash and Maggie Teyte recorded excerpts in English (Dutton CDLX 7023) and the Opéra Comique returned to it in 1955 with Pierre Monteux conducting and Victoria de Los Angeles in the title role.

This 1955 recording has had various incarnations on CD and has just been re-issued by Naxos, coupled with de Los Angeles’s 1955 recordings with Charles Munch of Berlioz’s Les Nuits d’Été and Debussy’s La Demoiselle Élue.

Of the historic recordings mentioned above, this 1955 one is probably the only one which could be listened to on a regular basis without too much excuse required for its recorded sound. The set was recorded in good mono and I could imagine living with this recording. Whilst the sound-image is at times rather lively and aggressive - particularly in the ensemble scenes - the results are completely acceptable.

De Los Angeles makes an enchanting Manon. She does not have the light, bright timbre and effortless top which some French sopranos of the past have brought to the role. But she does have great charm, musicality and a plangency. You get the feeling that even in the innocent, girlish and charming exchanges, there is something deeper in Manon. Indeed, in the opening scene her attempts at girlishness can veer towards the embarrassingly coy. When it comes to the more dramatic episodes de Los Angeles’s tone quality and empathy bring real feeling to the part. She makes you care and brings out Manon’s dilemma. Thanks to her special qualities, Manon is not just some flighty little girl.

Of course, de Los Angeles is not perfect. Bright high coloratura is not her forte but she copes very well, and I would far rather have a moving Manon – as here - than one who is simply bright and brittle.

Whilst she might be seen as the star of this recording, in many ways the centre of attention is the ensemble of the Opéra Comique. This set belongs to that wonderful group of 1950s recordings where we catch the final flowering of the ensemble before internationalisation blunted its edges. This does not mean that every role is perfectly sung, but you do feel part of a company whose members are fully integrated into both the composer’s style and the dramatic needs of the piece.

The ensemble also has the immense advantage that every role sounds like a distinctive character, giving an advantage over more modern recordings where similar sounding, under-characterised voices leave you scrabbling for the libretto to check who is singing.

The cast has a notable depth of experience, René Herent made his debut as Guillot in 1918. And of course Monteux himself - in his eighties when the recording was made - played in the Opéra Comique Orchestra and performed Manon while the composer was still alive.

Whilst tradition can often lapse into schlamperei, here under Monteux’s watchful eye the Opéra Comique delivers a performance which is diamond-sharp. They sing, and speak, in idiomatic French, delivering Massenet’s music with an acuteness and avoidance of sentimentality which sets off the performances of the principals. The overall diction is superb and the opera can be followed easily by anyone with half decent French.

Henri Le Gay is, perhaps, a little light weight for Des Grieux; in fact the role was intended for Jussi Björling, but he refused. Le Gay is engaging and youthful sounding - the singer was 35 when the recording was made. He is wonderfully refined and if he does not quite have the power for the really big moments, his performance is so finely judged that you forgive him knowing that there are few tenors around that could do as well today … and certainly not in such lovely French.

The other principals are equally impressive and similarly nuanced. Michel Dens’s Lescaut mixes a lovely swagger with great charm. This is a character that we can easily love and hate. Jean Vieuille is suitably worldly as De Bretigny and Jean Borthayre is warm and personable as Des Grieux’s father, avoiding making him too much the villain.

Neither the chorus nor the orchestra are perfect, but they do not particularly let the side down and contribute immensely to the general style of the performance.

At a little over 160 minutes, Manon has to spread over three CDs to avoid awkward side-breaks. Naxos have filled the last CD with two more of de Los Angeles’s recordings of French music, Debussy’s La Demoiselle Élue and Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été.  Both recordings date from around the same time as Manon and de Los Angeles is finely accompanied by Charles Munch. Whilst neither recording would be at the top of my list the singing is charming and ravishing.

This set is essential listening for anyone who wants to get the feel for what Manon sounded like at the Opéra Comique. It is a precious record of a vanished performance style and has the great advantage of a ravishing Manon from de Los Angeles.

Robert Hugill



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.