Magical Massenet

Fleming reaches new vocal and theatrical heights in Massenet's Manon, supported by the Orchestre et Choeurs de L’Opéra National de Paris

Composer: Massenet
Repertoire: Manon
Artists: Renée Fleming (soprano), Marcelo Álvarez (tenor), Orchestre et Choeurs de L’Opéra National de Paris/Jesús López-Cobos
Rating: 5/5 
Genre: Opera
Label: Sony 0904582001

If ever there was a role Renée Fleming was born to play, it’s that of Massenet’s fickle, flirtatious and tragic heroine, Manon. The role calls for sumptuous lyricism, which Fleming delivers, but hearing her incorporate a captivating (and technically impressive) giggle into her voice; hearing her invest her parting to her lover (‘Adieu notre petite table’) with almost unbearable pathos; and hearing the urgency of her desire to be reunited with him - she radiates through this part.

Tenor Marcelo Álvarez is equally impressive as her tormented lover des Grieux; he has all the baritonal force of Domingo, the heroic, ringing top notes of Pavarotti, and a compelling, masterful approach to Massenet’s sweeping phrases. But perhaps the greatest achievement of the disc is in the engineering. The recording was made during live performances at the Bastille opera, and while you get an electric sense of occasion, the singers rarely muffle out of microphone range, and the stage/pit balance is excellent. López-Cobos conducts the whole with an unerring instinct for the drama, and the orchestra sounds utterly polished and luscious.