OP3298. MANON, Live Performance, 15 Dec., 1951, w.Cleva Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Licia Albanese, Giuseppe di Stefano, Martial Singher, Jerome Hines, Alessio de Paolis, etc. (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-805.
“Savoring Albanese and Di Stefano as the enamored pair, our musical tastebuds will likely relish the pasta more than the sauce (especially with Cleva conducting…reinforcing the passionate avowals of the lovers with expansive phrasing). But with two such elegant performers in the Italian style, appetite is amply whetted….[ Di Stefano’s] Des Grieux is all innocence and honest wonder as he first addresses Manon. Ardor is the nub of Di Stefano’s stage persona and vocal manner, and he cannot shelter it for long; it flames into passionate song as Des Grieux convinces Manon to fly to Paris wih him. The house erupts in a burst of excitement as the two close the first act with ringing top notes. The later acts confirm the immediacy of Di Stefano’s art; velvety tones and sincerity of expression are sufficient warranty for his obvious confidence in his charm. One of the few modern tenors to command both the mezza voce for ‘Le rêve’ and the full-throated vocalism required for the seminary aria, he does not disappoint in either…. Di Stefano’s voice is all of a piece; it glides easily from piano to forte and back again….Des Grieux’ agony is patent and Di Stefano’s vocalism moving….Within the silent walls of St. Sulpice, [Albanese’s] recitation chillingly evokes the austerity of the ancient church. And her skill beguiles not only Des Grieux but her radio audience as she twines Massenet’s sinuous lines round and about, seducing the reluctant seminarian with hoops of aural steel that bind him to her and a life of love and degradation….few sopranos depict the wayward girl’s feverish thirst for life and love as convincingly as she.”
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, pp.53-54.