Massenet: Le Portrait de Manon
Berlioz: Les Nuits d’été

Susana Gaspar (soprano), Hanna Hipp (mezzo), Pablo Bemsch (tenor), ZhengZhong Zhou (baritone) Southbank Sinfonia, Geoffrey Paterson (conductor: Le Portrait de Manon) , Volker Krafft (conductor: Les Nuits d’été).

[Le portrait de Manon] makes a charming if slight piece, beautifully performed here under Geoffrey Paterson…[Les nuits d’ete] works well, with all three singers well cast…

Gramophone, June 2013


Release Date: 11th Feb 2013
Catalogue No: ORC47
Label: Opera Rara
Length: 75 minutes


Massenet: Le Portrait de Manon, Berlioz: Les Nuits d’été



Opera Rara's commitment to upcoming young artists has been an essential part of the company’s work since it began and this new release features a double bill of Massenet’s Le Portrait de Manon and Berlioz’s song cycle Les Nuits d’été, recorded from a live staged performances at the Royal Opera House with artists from the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme and the Southbank Sinfonia. This is the first time the composers Massenet and Berlioz have appeared as part of the Opera Rara catalogue.

Le Portrait de Manon (1894) – From the opening bars of Des Grieux’s celebrated air “Ah fuyez, douce image”, the score is peppered with familiar quotations from Massenet’s earlier work, Manon – written 10 years before. Des Grieux (ZhengZhong Zhou) is now an old man, still obsessed with memories of his lost love Manon, and keeps a portrait of her in a sealed box. He is worried when his impressionable young nephew Jean (Hanna Hipp) tells of his love for a penniless girl, Aurore (Susana Gaspar), convinced that she is little more than a gold-digger.

Persuaded by his friend Tiberge (Pablo Bemsch), Des Grieux comes to realise that their love is genuine when they discover the portrait and it is revealed that Aurore is, in fact, the niece of his beloved Manon.

Les Nuits d’été – We are more familiar with hearing the cycle performed in concert by a solo voice but Berlioz did, in fact, intend these songs to be distributed amongst a number of different voice types, so it seems a natural choice to follow this arrangement for the young artists performing here.

The 1CD set, a live recording from a staged performance, comes with a lavishly illustrated book, including a complete libretto for Le Portrait de Manon and song translations for Les Nuits d’été and detailed notes on these pieces from musicologist Hugh Macdonald.


GRAMOPHONE - June 2013

"[Le portrait de Manon] makes a charming if slight piece, beautifully performed here under Geoffrey Paterson...[Les nuits d'ete] works well, with all three singers well cast...The intimate acoustic of the Linbury Theatre is well caught"


"[Hipp's] voice has strength at the lower end of her register without being boomy or exaggerated...Because of its rarity, it will be the Massenet opera that probably catches the collector's eye...Zhou and his colleagues will not disappoint in this attractive little pendant to a major opera."

THE GUARDIAN - March 2013

"The best performance comes from Pablo Bemsch as Tiberge, an eccentric poet who sorts out other people's problems. Volker Krafft takes over as conductor for its companion piece, Berlioz's Les Nuits d'Été, whose songs are shared between Gaspar, Hipp and Bemsch in a performance of notable intensity."

VIDEO – Massenet: Le Portrait de Manon

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