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Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, May 2010

With Tullio Serafin at the helm we are offered a fresh idiomatic reading with well judged tempos. Giuseppe Di Stefano is as engaged and intense as ever but his singing is rather coarse to begin with. He improves and sings a sensitive Donna non vidi mai and in the last act he is heartrending…in general this is Callas at her most girlish: light-voiced, lyrical and with the power to make the dramatic climaxes thrilling. She is superb throughout…there is a fine line-up of comprimario singers. Giulio Fioravanti is a lyrical Lescaut, singing beautifully throughout. Franco Calabrese is a strong and expressive Geronte—as he was also on the RCA set—and the young Fiorenza Cossotto is a fine madrigal singer…The best of the five Puccini arias Di Stefano offers in the appendix is a marvellous 1947 E lucevan le stele

David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2010

If there were already worrying signs of stress in Maria Callas’s voice when she recorded Manon Lescaut in 1957, she had reached the very peak of her dramatic vocal acting. It is a very difficult role to bring off, for it starts as a very shy young French girl on the way to a convent; then is schooled into becoming a courtesan, and ends up dying in the deserts of Louisiana having been deported there as a prostitute. As she had never sung the role before, and was never to sing it on stage, she was so totally convincing as she moves through Manon’s life. The character’s emotional demands are handled better than anyone on disc, save for Renata Tebaldi, and her final death scene is heartbreaking. Giuseppe di Stefano, had made an incomparable recording of Des Grieux three years earlier, and here sings from the heart, his lyric voice perfect as an ardent young lover and almost repeating that earlier success. As with most of Callas’s recordings the supporting parts were mainly taken by resident Milan ‘house artists’, though at the time the company’s recordings headed by Schwarzkopf were given superb casts down to the smallest cameo roles. Thankfully Tullio Serafin draws the very best from the orchestra, shading the score with subtle colours and keeping the action pushing forward with urgent tempos, the third act deportation scene having real dramatic impulse. Where this release proves infinitely better than in its EMI counterpart is in the disc layout, the second act now contained on the first disc and obviating EMI’s break. That leaves space to include Di Stefano singing arias from Tosca, La fanciulla del West, Gianni Schicchi and Turandot. Recorded in 1947 and 1955, he never sounded in finer voice. There are many wedded, and with more than just cause, to Renata Tebaldi’s gorgeous recording of Manon Lescaut, but this one is also a jewel to be treasured.

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