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Jules Massenet: Manon
Renée Fleming (Manon Lescaut), Marcelo Álvarez (Le Chevalier Des Grieux), Jean-Luc Chaignaud (Lescaut), Alain Vernhes (Le Comte Des Grieux), Michel Sénéchal (Guillot de Mortfontaine), Franck Ferrari (Monsieur de Brétigny), Jaël Azzaretti (Poussette), Isabelle Cals (Javotte), Delphine Aidan (Rosette), Christophe Fel (L’hôtelier), Josep Miquel Ribot, Nigel Smith (Deux gardes), Sandrine Seubille (La servante), Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra national de Paris, David Levi (Chorus Master), Jesús López-Cobos (Conductor), Gilbert Deflo (Direction), William Orlandi (Set and Costume Design), Joël Hourbeigt (Lighting Design), Anna Yepes (Choreography)
Recorded live at the Opéra national de Paris-Bastille (2001) – 164mn
Picture format: 16:9 – Sound format: PCM Stereo, DD 5.1 – Region Code: 0
ARTHAUS MUSIK Ref. #: NTSC 107 003 – Subtitles in French (original language), English, Spanish, German, Italian, and Chinese – DVD booklet in French, English, and German

This Arthaus Musik DVD features Opéra national de Paris' 1997 arresting production of Manon. Revived in 2001 and captured by François Roussillon, Massenet’s masterpiece is tastefully staged by inspired director Gilbert Deflo. The minimal sets, often consisting of a quasi-bare stage and shaded abstract backdrops, as well as the sophisticated lighting by Joël Hourgbeit, allow the spectator to better focus on the characters. This further accentuates the theatrical panache of period costumes, reminiscent of paintings by Fragonard or Watteau.

Renée Fleming has publicly claimed that Manon was her favorite role. Indeed, the part seems to be tailored to bring out the strengths of the charismatic American soprano. Her performance as the innocent girl who turns into a corrupted seductress is polished. The satin-timbered voice is superb, the high notes easily reached, the French enunciation perfect. Nonetheless, as is often the case, by relying on her glamour, Fleming will irritate more than one with vocal mannerisms and excessively bulging lines that make the delivery here and there fussy. This is particularly true in “N’est-ce plus ma main que cette main presse…”, or in the final duet with Des Grieux. However, “Voyons, Manon, plus de chimères…” and “Adieu, notre petite table” are stamped with genuine sincerity.

Tenor Marcello Álvarez is in fine voice, with a ringing, effortless high register. He sings with passion and fire (his rendition of “Ah, fuyez, douce image” is heart-breaking), but the Argentinian, clearly not an actor, appears a bit gauche on stage.

Supporting roles are held with irreproachable style, especially by Alain Vernhes in the thankless part of Count Des Grieux, Jean-Luc Chaignaud as Lescaut, and the unbelievable Michel Sénéchal as the old roué Guillot de Mortfontaine.

Maestro López-Cobos, with his consummate talent for conducting opera, offers a penetrating and nuanced reading of Massenet’s score, placing appropriate emphasis on the melody, while keeping a firm grip on dramatic tension. The Paris Opera Orchestra and Chorus are in top form and respond remarkably, energized by the excellence of the vocal performances.

Christian Dalzon




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