Nicely Staged, but Musically a Little Unsatisfying
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 10/16/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is a DVD of a 1998 live performance at La Scala, under the excellent musical direction of Riccardo Muti, whose orchestra really shines. (It had previously been released as an audio CD by Deutsche Grammophon.) Unfortunately, the two stars, Maria Guleghina as Manon and José Cura as Des Grieux, while looking good and even acting well, leave something to be desired vocally. Guleghina's voice is a spinto that seems a bit too heavy in the loud passages, and in the softer passages, of which there are very many in this part, her voice seems sometimes to recede almost into inaudibility; one suspects she was not able to sustain the core of her voice when below a dynamic of mezzo-forte. (Since this is a live recording, one imagines this could be a fault of the sound engineers.) She also has some unsteadiness at times. Cura is better, but his singing is a bit coarse; he makes less than he could of the ardent and pleading aspects of the role. The voice lacks the necessary elegance. When he is at the top of his range and at or above forte the voice rings out brilliantly. And, of course, he looks the part better than any tenor currently before the public. Lescaut is sung by Lucio Gallo, who looks and acts the part well and sounds fine. Geronte is taken by the veteran Luigi Roni whose voice shows some wear but perhaps that is appropriate for the 'older man.' Not enough can be said for the playing of the orchestra in this almost Wagnerian score of Puccini's. And Muti leads a nicely paced and nuanced performance.
The staging, costumes and sets are gorgeous. Lighting is sometimes a little murky but otherwise fine. Sound is also a little unclear at times. We are given a choice of Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, and LPCM Stereo. Subtitles in English, German, French, Italian and Spanish.
A good performance that gets better as it progresses
A. BOSS | Mountainside, NJ United States | 10/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Manon Lescaut is not one of my favorite Puccini operas. In this performance, Acts I & II are well done but no better than many I have seen. However Acts III & IV (which I usually find less compelling that Acts I & II) are very intensely acted and sung and are very moving.
The costumes an scenery are very good, the singers look their parts as well as singing very well, and the orchestra is very good. Overall, this is the best Manon Lescaut that I have seen."
Enjoyable but not the top:
operamaryc | DIAMOND BAR, CA United States | 11/18/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I certainly agree with Scott Morrison's review and think Maria's vocal resources are weak in her middle voice where much of this role resides. I am a fan of hers, however, so I did enjoy her acting and top notes which were always forte, when it would be nice to see if she had the support to float a pianissimo. Cura is one of the best tenors today but not secure in this role. He was watching Muti to distraction. However, I did enjoy his performance overall. The filming was fine but the real stars are the orchestra and Maestro Muti! Gorgeous playing and exemplary conducting. I'll stick by my review of the Domingo/TeKanawa video as the best with The Met's video, with Domingo and Scotto second. This comes in third i.e. the 3 stars."