[Met Performance] CID:186660

Manon Lescaut
Metropolitan Opera House, Thu, December 29, 1960

Manon Lescaut (99)
Giacomo Puccini | Luigi Illica/Giuseppe Giacosa/Marco Praga/Ruggero Leoncavallo
Renata Tebaldi

Des Grieux
Richard Tucker

Lorenzo Testi

Fernando Corena

Charles Anthony

George Cehanovsky

Solo Madrigalist
Joan Wall

Mary Fercana

Meredith Parsons (1)

Dina De Salvo

Alexandra Jones

Dancing Master
Alessio De Paolis

Calvin Marsh

Gabor Carelli

Louis Sgarro

Fausto Cleva

Review 1:

Review of Robert Sabin in Musical America

When Renata Tebaldi and Richard Tucker are in the mood, they can give the most wildly exciting performances imaginable of any roles they happen to be singing. Last season they did it in a performance of Andrea Chenier which I shall never forget, and they did it again on this occasion, in the season's sixth performance of Manon Lescaust, but the first in which they had appeared.

The evening was a steady crescendo of intensity, punctuated by heartfelt ovations that must have tested the utmost powers of Mr. Bing's applause-meter. So wrought-up did the audience become, that at the end of Act III, when when Des Grieux rushed up the gangplank to join Manon, people burst into wild cheers of exultation to see the lovers reunited. Not often do opera artists achieve such a high dramatic pitch of intensity as this.

Act I really belongs to the tenor, and Mr. Tucker took full advantage of his opportunities. Never has he sung better. He has retained the heroic, cantorial ring and power of his voice, but he has worked Italianate passion and color into it, and he has vastly improved his piano and pianissimo. Whether in the playful "Tra voi, belle, brune e bionde," or the impassioned "Donna non vidi mai simile a questa!," he poured out the sort of phrases which rouse opera audiences to the pitch of hysteria.

His exit with Miss Tebaldi on their tumultuous high A flat was a wonderful example of what makes grand opera grand. But it was in the later acts that the deeper aspects of his art came into play. The poignancy of his "Taci, taci tu, it cormi frangi" and the abandon of the "O tentatrice!" in Act II were superb. I have already praised the torrential sweep of his singing and acting in Act III, and in Act IV both he and Miss Tebaldi brought a very real sense of death and despair home to their audience. Many of us were in tears.

Like Mr. Tucker, Miss Tebaldi has one of those voices that exult in tremendous phrases but can also spin beautiful and delicate ones. Her top tones seem a bit harder in quality this season, but she can still make them blaze like lightning, and the lower voice is ravishing as ever. By the time she reached "In quelle trine morbide" she the audience in the palm of her hand and none of us will forget her performance in Act IV.

A special word of praise must go to Charles Anthony, who substituting for Giulio Gari, who was indisposed Mr. Anthony has improved both his vocalism and his style notably in recent years, and he sang the far from easy role of Edmondo with admirable vitality of tone and dramatic brio.

Although Lorenzo Testi's performance as Lescaut was a bit rough and routine, both vocally and dramatically, it had the virtues of vividness and impact. Fernando Corena, appearing for the first time this season as Geronte, brought his accustomed finish and artistry to this role. The other roles were capably handled.

Fausto Cleva took fire from the singers (and vice versa) and the result was a splendid performance from the orchestra, which played the Intermezzo between Acts II and III as beautifully as I have ever heard it done.

This banner evening represented a triumph over the production and stage direction, rather than a fulfillment of them. "Manon Lescaut" needs freshening-up at the Metropolitan, and the first steps should be to break up those wooden groupings in Act I and to get rid of those plump little transvestite abbes in Act II. But with such magnificent singing as we had on this occasion, who cared?

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