Customer Review

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine singing and acting in a sparkling modern production updated to the 1950's, 23 Nov 2011
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This review is from: Massenet: Manon (Barenboim, Netrebko, Villazon) [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
Like the Donizetti Love Potion, this also teams up Villazon and Netrebko to completely believable effect. Both are in good voice although there are a few early signs of the vocal strain which has recently caused Villazon problems leading to unreliable engagements. These are not of any real significance here though and should not affect any purchasing choice. The problem may stem from his apparent reluctance to hold back his enthusiasm to deliver fully in performance rather than saving his voice whenever possible. This is good for his audiences but is a potentially heavy long term price for Villazon. He certainly gives 100% here.

The setting is updated to the 1950's, but both Villazon and Netrebko have an aura about them that suggests a modern coupling would be appropriate. They are especially vibrant together and are clearly of an appropriate age for each other dramatically. This is a great advantage in any opera but is especially beneficial in this setting. Netrebko brings a dramatic aura of both glamour and decadence to her part and is in particularly good voice. The part seems made for her.

All the supporting roles are well sung and convincingly portrayed by Christof Fischesser, Alfredo Daza, Remy Corazza, Arttu Kataja, Hanan Alattar, Gal James, Silvia de la Muela and Mattias Vieweg although inevitably the limelight is dominated by Anna Netrebko and to a lesser extent, by Rolando Villazon.

The orchestra is also on top form under the sparkling direction of Barenboim.

The recording offers excellent surround sound in DTS 5.1, PCM 5.1 as well as stereo. The camera work is sympathetic with a nice balance of close detail and more distant shots. As another reviewer has remarked, it is vital that good singing is backed up by good acting in opera especially when the storyline is so slight and we are certainly offered a combination of fine singing and acting in this case. Fortunately we live in an age when the old stand and deliver approach has been replaced by far better stage training and camera awareness and that is what we get here.

In general terms, although I personally like the modern setting, I feel that there will be those who would prefer a more traditional staging and it should be noted that this production may not therefore be to everyone's personal taste. The musical values remain excellent however whatever views one may have on production choices and this performance certainly went down well with the audience. Providing that purchasers are prepared to accept the period updating to the 1950's this disc should give considerable pleasure. With that proviso in mind, it seems reasonable to suggest that 5 stars is a fair rating for those in sympathy with this modernised concept and that those who would reject that should look elsewhere for their choice of Manon.


Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:

I thought that you might like to know that before I buy a recording I now look through all the reviews to see if you have posted one. Your assessments and opinions are invaluable. Thank you. (US review)

I particularly like your format of review. They give the prospective purchaser an idea of the style of the playing and relevant comparisons. They are succinct. Keep up the good work! (UK review)

I'm sure there are many other serious collectors, besides myself, who wait for your synopsis and opinion before spending their hard-earned money on new releases...
Keep up the good work!
Thank you (UK review)

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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 15 Apr 2012 00:55:16 BDT
EXCELLENT Review, Ian!

It's like doing a University Course in Music!

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Apr 2012 19:37:34 BDT
I. Giles says:
Hope it doesn't put you off!
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Review Details



I. Giles

Location: Argyll, Scotland

Top Reviewer Ranking: 12