ALBUM TITLE: Puccini
WORKS: Manon Lescaut
PERFORMER: Flanders Opera/SilvioVarviso; dir. Robert Carsen
CATALOGUE NO: 100224
Robert Carson’s sharp and snappy production, taped at the Flanders Opera in 1991, is an impeccably stylish affair that combines passion with wit, exactly as docs Puccini’s score. In the title role, Miriam Gauci is vocally skilled and dramatically inventive, charting the rise and fall of the venal yet lovable heroine with taste and a lavish top register She’s ably partnered by the healthy Latin tenor of Spaniard Antonio Ordonez’s appropriately bookish Des Grieux. The late Jules Bastin’s lecherous Gcrontc meanwhile falls just the right side of parody.
Anthony Ward’s sets and costumes evoke an 18th-century ambience of gilded mirrors and powdered wigs -even the prostitutes embarking at Le Havre for the colonies ate well manicured and expensively dressed. The desert of the last act shows all this pomp and luxury broken up and thrown into a heap.
The acting is universally purposeful and detailed — from the principals down to individual chorus members – and the piece comes over with tremendous effect. Much of its success is due to conductor Silvio Varviso’s sensitive handling of the score, though he’s not ashamed to give Puccini’s outsize emotions their head when required.