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Thread: Massenet Manon on disc

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Default Massenet Manon on disc

    I was delighted with hearing Massenet's Manon from the Met the other night so I bought this recording which sounds fabulous. Both recording and performance.

    manon massenet.jpg

    In particular Pappano seems to make the score much more dramatic than we heard from the Met.

    But anyone else got any favourites?

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    Senior Member Granate's Avatar
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    Default Massenet Challenge: Favourite Manon

    Now that you posted this, I'm going to look for the challenge I made a year ago and never published. Indeed, I had looked up and there was no thread for this interesting French opera, DavidA. Here are my results and conclusions:

    Manon

    Winner



    Massenet
    Manon Live recording
    Victoria de los Ángeles, Nicolai Gedda, Ralph Herbert, Giorgio Tozzi, Alessio de Paolis, George Cehanovsky
    Orchestra and Chorus of the Metropolitan Opera
    Jean Morel
    Myto (1959/2009 Remastered Edition)


    Top 2-5
    02: Rudel NPO
    03: Plasson Toulouse
    04: Pappano Monnaie Brussels
    05: Monteux OpCom (deal with it)



    Out of Massenet’s early operas, his arguably biggest success, Manon, only made me pay attention to the libretto. I’m not too keen on following the life of a hesitant and shallow young woman (thanks to the author and librettists). The story spins make it avoid the nineteenth century stereotypes saving romantic love. But compared to Werther, this libretto seems like a masterwork. Anyway, this feels like a vehicle for the soprano but it provides a good range of styles and moods for all their characters. A kind of mixture between comedy and tragedy.

    There was a small number of recordings and not very concrete results. I didn’t notice important differences between the three stereo recordings saving the styles followed by two main soloists, appreciating all of them. I think there’s a fair winner in this challenge, but the rest of contenders were on point too. I’m not going to waste my time writing the credits of each other, but only voice my impressions about the fan-favourite of this challenge for lots of members: the genuine Pierre Monteux recording (who was a member of the orchestra that Massenet himself revised and rehearsed to perform Manon).

    Its brisk tempo is probably his best legacy. The mono recording has had the bad luck to face the live Metropolitan recording with VDLA giving 50% more than in studio, taking way more risks. Legay didn’t stand a chance against young Gedda. His Grieux is one of my least favourite of the five recordings, far too lightweight and sweet for my taste. Then comes the dull sound quality and the supporting cast, which does almost nothing to improve the level.

    The Pappano Brussels recording makes me quite cheerful but is again marred by vibrato diva Angela Gheorghiu as the main character. Roberto Alagna, no matter how eloquent and competitive he makes his Grieux sound, never makes me shed a tear. Not my taste.

    3rd: Michel Plasson, Capitole de Toulouse 1982

    I still have to go through my slight issues with Alfredo Kraus’ late career, but I was surprised for the second time. It’s now the second Plasson Toulouse recording that I hear warmth in. I had just given up hope, but it’s like he blossoms in the pit with Massenet. It has a sorrowful feeling given by Ileana Cotrubas’ Manon, which youthful style works out a lot in Act I and II, but I would have thanked more growth in the other acts where she’s literally chocking. I think she’s the highlight. The secondary cast is nice although Kraus’ Grieux is not very meaningful to me.

    2nd: Julius Rudel, New Philharmonia Orchestra 1972

    This is indeed the EMI recording of the LPs but well-transferred to CD by Deutsche Grammophon. I don’t know what was going on. Maybe Westminster had something to do. I was usually comparing this mid Gedda performance to his early live performance in New York. He loses grip in many parts, especially the light ones (Act I & II), while his French has earned a lot of dramatism in Act III Scene II. I’m convinced by the lead singers, but not of the secondary characters. For me, Beverly Sills has just enough subtlety and precision for Manon (I think she passes all the tough checkpoints).

    1st: Jean Morel, Metropolitan Opera 1959

    My unexpected winner was in fact my first listen of the opera on CD, before turning to the fan-favourite Monteux try. The cleanness and warmth of the register was a surprise. It’s my vocal choice not because of the secondary cast, but the main couple whose singers both beat by a mile their own studio efforts. Victoria de los Ángeles plays a stronger and more spectacular Manon in 1959, especially in the second half of the opera. Her sharp notes are more precise and her middle-tone voice allow her to play the most dramatic scenes in Act III and V, while keeping her ease in the rest of them. I didn’t notice first that the Chevalier des Grieux was making a memorable account not with stamina but delicious musicality. Only then I checked out that a young Nicolai Gedda was singing his role. Warm in voice and very idiomatic. They both were the stars, and it’s a pity that this Myto release is already OOP.

    Not an opera that I would enjoy listening to, least paying 30€ for a recording.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Default

    The Pappano Brussels recording makes me quite cheerful but is again marred by vibrato diva Angela Gheorghiu as the main character. Roberto Alagna, no matter how eloquent and competitive he makes his Grieux sound, never makes me shed a tear. Not my taste.


    Not an opera that I would enjoy listening to, least paying 30€ for a recording.[/QUOTE]

    Thanks for these thoughts!

    You’ll be pleased to know I only paid £6 for my recording (exchange) and am enjoying it hugely!

    I certainly haven’t got your problems over the soprano and as I never shed tears over opera on the grounds that there are far more important things to ship tears about, Alagna will do nicely.
    Last edited by DavidA; Oct-29-2019 at 23:21.

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    The opera is not a favourite of mine, but there are a few superb recordings. For an authentic French approach the Monteux is the one for me:

    Manon - Monteux.jpg

    This is a perfect performance of the piece with the wonderful De los Angeles as the heroine.

    The best all round recording (and totally complete - I'm not sure about the Monteux one) is the one that DavidA has suggested at the top of this thread. So that's two outstanding studio recordings before considering the Kraus/Cotrubas which is a strong performance or any of the live sets.

    I don't know the live De los Angeles/Gedda so I will have to try that one out.

    N.
    Last edited by The Conte; Oct-29-2019 at 23:18.

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    Senior Member Granate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    I certainly haven’t got your problems over the soprano and as I never shed tears over opera on the grounds that there are far more important things to ship tears about, Alagna will do nicely.
    I don't usually enjoy Angela Gheorghiu. Two summers ago when I was reviewing almost all major French opera recordings, she had recorded all of them. And forced to listen through all of it or just scrap the whole thing, I grew tireness out of her. She has the notes and the personality, yet not my love, more like my refusal.

    But you know performances in other characters I like from her? Recently, her Cio Cio San and more or less Charlotte.

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    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    I love this one, which features the great tenor Joseph Rogatchewsky:

    manon.jpg

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    Senior Member Diminuendo's Avatar
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    Not really a suprise to anyone, but I like this one. A chance to enjoy Di Stefano in his prime in the role which started his operatic career. A pity that he ruined his voice, because he was so great in lyrical roles, like Des Grieux. His fabulous diction and vocal control is really a treat to listen. And of course you have Licia Albanese and Jerome Hines too.

    Last edited by Diminuendo; Oct-30-2019 at 14:31.
    "First I sing loud. When I start to run out of breath I sing softer" Giuseppe Di Stefano on his Faust high c diminuendo

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  12. #8
    Senior Member Granate's Avatar
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    Never listened to those two. Interesting! Unfortunately Cleva isn't on print either.

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