Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Manon Lescaut (Highlights).
Mirella Freni (soprano) Manon Lescaut; Renato Bruson (baritone) Lescaut; Plácido Domingo (tenor) Des Grieux; Kurt Rydl (bass) Geronte; Robert Gambill (tenor) Edmund; Mark Curtis (tenor) Lamplighter; John Tomlinson (bass) Naval Captain; Paschal Allen (bass) Sergeant; Royal Opera House Chorus; Philharmonia Orchestra/Giuseppe Sinopoli.
DG Classikon 469 589-2 [DDD] [66'15]

Sinopoli's early reputation in this country as a champion of the avant-garde was soon tempered by his forays into the Romantic repertoire when he cemented his association with the Philharmonia Orchestra. This Manon Lescaut demonstrates why, on occasion, Sinopoli's deconstructionist approach can be so telling. Orchestral textures that are often undifferentiated in an attempt at a Puccinian saturation point are here cleanly and clearly presented. The Philharmonia Orchestra seems completely behind Sinopoli's philosophy and gives its all for him - as do the cast.

Domingo is in honeyed voice for Tra voi, belle, brune e bionde and his ability to sustain a long legato line is heard in the outpouring of Act One's Donna non vidi mai. Mirella Freni also seems to be on top form: she is searching in the final excerpt, Sola, perduta, abbandonata and laudably refrains from any vocal scooping in the extended duet excerpt from Act Two, O sarò più bella! … Tu, tu, amore? Tu?. In fact, all of the parts are well allocated, including Robert Gambill's pleasurable Ave, sera gentile (which opens the disc and which unfortunately suffers from the recording balance placing him too far back). Throughout, the orchestra is sublime.

A word about presentation, however. The Chorus of the Royal Opera House is not credited at all, despite several excellent contributions to these excerpts. The heading to the plot synopsis (no extra notes are offered) misspells the opera's title as 'Manon Lescuat'. Some care in this department would not have gone amiss.

This disc functions as an excellent introduction to the opera and may even provide the impetus to go out and buy a complete set. For that, the recent live La Scala recording on DG with Cura as Des Grieux and Muti conducting (463 186-2) might just fit the bill.


Colin Clarke



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