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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The finest recording of this opera I've heard., 4 Jan 2001
This review is from: Puccini: Manon Lescaut (Audio CD)
Although Callas was not a huge fan of the Puccine repertoire, and never sang the role of Manon on stage, you would not know it to hear the interpretation preserved here. From young girl to dying woman, she is utterly convincing. The final scene, for once, is heartrending. Di Stefano's voice still has the wonderful, golden glow that it seemed to lose in some of his other recordings with Callas, and Fioravanti is excellent as Lescaut. May not be the most up to date recording in terms of technical presentation, but the singing is second to none.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegance and passion, 20 July 2011
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Ralph Moore "Ralph operaphile" (Bishop's Stortford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Puccini: Manon Lescaut (Audio CD)
This opera is a winning amalgam of Italianate passion and Gallic elegance: Puccini combines the refinement of drawing-room elegance with the unbridled emotionalism of verismo - and the result is captivating rather than incongruous.

This was Callas' last La Scala recording, made in July 1957 after a punishing recording schedule including Turandot; we are fortunate to find her and Di Stefano in such splendid voice knowing how soon they would both start running into more serious and frequent vocal difficulties. Callas' mentor Serafin is in good form, too; fleet and light in the bustling crowd scenes and indulgently permissive of rallentandos for his singers in plush outpourings like "Donna non vidi mai". This technique of placing intimate reflective revelations of inner thoughts against frenetic action is almost a cliché - or at least a trademark trope - in Puccini's operas, but he is such skilled craftsman it works every time, whether in "La Bohème", "La rondine" or "Turandot", and here it exercises its magic as he homes in on the feisty protagonist and the naive hero gamely battling against worldly cunning.

What a pity that this was recorded in mono just as stereo production was about to get going, but the sound is clean, clear and well-focused. Casting is from strength, the diction of all concerned is a joy. Baritone Giulio Fioravanti is little remembered but he was also very fine in Tebaldi's "Adriana Lecouvreur" recorded in 1961. Either I am increasingly grateful for their voices and thus more tolerant of minor blemishes or Di Stefano and Callas really are in excellent form here. It is apparent that Callas is singing carefully and even holding back a little in the earlier two Acts but this is could be as attributable to characterisation as caution; she is a credible ingénue and Di Stefano convinces as an impetuous youth. The morbidezza of "in quelle trine morbide" is enchanting; the flap on the B flats less so but negligible. Her lower register is brought in to devastating effect in the final scene and the culminating tragedy is deeply affecting, both singers giving it their emotional all. I don't see that the flaws are any more salient than recordings Walter Legge sanctioned for immediate release and in many ways this one is artistically superior.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The great recording of this..., 27 April 2014
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This review is from: Puccini: Manon Lescaut (Audio CD)
It remains the great, I bought this as my vinyls are wearing thin. There have been other good ones, which one should also have, (Te Kanawa Carreras) but it remains true that the voices of Callas and di Stefano convey real, profound lust deluding itself as love and sublimated as total disappointment and abandonment. This is how Puccini, in the end, modernises the story more powerfully than Massenet. Serafin too remains a conductor who understood drama of this kind and its pacing unlike, for example, Pappano, who always overpumps for the rather vulgar public of Covent Garden.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Manon to make you weep, 1 Mar 2014
This review is from: Puccini: Manon Lescaut (Audio CD)
The sense of desolation Callas brings to the closing act of this opera is unforgettable. All of the cast and orchestra are superb and are wonderfully conducted in a beautifully paced reading by Serafin. This is a very fine mono recording. The performance is of a dramatic, vivid, quality that shines through the sonic limitations. I very quickly adjust to the mono sound which is pretty well balanced for the period. The tragic drama in this performance is compelling.
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Puccini: Manon Lescaut
Puccini: Manon Lescaut by Giacomo Puccini (Audio CD - 1997)
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