Manon Lescaut (1990)


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Freni, Dvorsky, E. Serra; Varviso. (1990). 134m. Color. Spanish subtitles.

Stephanie von Buchau, reviewing in The Oakland Tribune

“Filmed in 1990, when the Italian diva was 55, this Manon Lescaut is a monument to good genes and wise career choices.

“Freni doesn’t look a day over 25, even wearing a hideous red gown for act two (her elderly lover is an aristo; surely, he’d dress his mistress more tastefully?). And her voice has overwhelming reserves of pathos, sweetness and power.

“This is a must-see video for dedicated opera filberts. You know who you are.”

Her voice still fresh, Freni deepened her interpretations in her 50s. Since Zamboni and Olivero, no Manon has been fully satisfying–until Freni. Her soul rises to the role’s immense emotional demands on this, her most expressive performance on video. Her “Sola, perduta, abbandonata” makes me teary-eyed. No one else’s ever did. She finishes the performance in tears–and no wonder.

One has to go back to Pertile, Gigli and Di Stefano to find a Des Grieux with as much heart as Dvorsky. More artist than vocalist, he sometimes sounds taxed above the staff. But listen to the passion with which he sings “Abbandonarti.” Surprisingly Italianate, he’s also a sensitive musician who integrates dynamics and accentuations into beautifully molded phrases.–Stefan Zucker