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Penguin Guide, January 2009

With Bjoerling as Des Grieux giving one of his very finest performances on disc and with Robert Merrill in glorious voice as Lescaut, the Romanian conductor Jonel Perlea conducts one of the most passionate performances of this opera ever recorded. Timing is masterly, and, though Licia Albanese no longer sounded girlish in 1954, she has the deepest understanding of the role of Manon. The transfer is bright and clear, with an edge that can readily be tamed. This was one of the very first complete operas recorded by RCA in Italy, and the thrust and enthusiasm of the whole company reflect that. As a bonus comes a valuable collection of Albanese’s solo recordings, including most of the arias for which she was especially famous. Also the celebrated Aria from Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas No. 5 with Leopold Stokowski conducting.

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