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Where Bach Swings and 'Manon' Soars

Recordings: Jazzers give new meaning to variations, while opera's first couple make Massenet come alive.

**** MASSENET: "Manon" Angela Gheorghiu, soprano; Roberto Alagna, tenor; Orchestre Symphonique et Choeurs de la Monnaiem, Antonio Pappano, conductor; EMI Classics

November 19, 2000|CHRIS PASLES

Manon turns out to be a wonderful role for Gheorghiu, who fully captures the complexity of Massenet's endlessly fascinating character, whether as dreamy innocent or feverish and dying penitent in the final scene. Alagna, her real-life husband, is less vocally resplendent as Des Grieux, although he has soaring high notes whenever he needs them. His greater strength, however, is his deeply persuasive vocal acting as ardent and desperate lover. Jose Van Dam makes a powerful Count, and Gilles Ragon is almost appealing as the lecherous Guillot. The weak link in the chain is Earle Patriarco, who brings a dull, unsteady baritone to the role of Lescaut. Pappano conducts Massenet's sumptuous, ravishing score with sensitivity and sweeping affection.

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