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Massenet: Le Portrait de Manon; Berlioz: Les nuits d'été / Susana Gaspar, soprano; Hanna Hipp, mezzo-soprano; Pablo Bemsch, tenor; Zheng Zhong Zhou, baritone

Notes & Reviews:

This release features a double bill of Massenet's Le Portrait de Manon and Berlioz's song cycle Les nuits d'été, recorded from live staged performances at the Royal Opera House with artists from the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme and the Southbank Sinfonia led by Geoffrey Paterson and Volker Krafft. This is the first time the composers Massenet and Berlioz have appeared as part of the Opera Rara catalogue. The single-disc set comes with a lavishly illustrated book, including a complete libretto for Le Portrait de Manon and song translations for Les nuits d'été, as well as detailed notes on both pieces written by the eminent musicologist Hugh Macdonald.

American Record Guide, July/August 2013
This recording stems from a production of the Jette Parker Young Artists Program at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden. With only four characters and an offstage chorus, the one-act work seems a good fit for a conservatory or young company. Of the four singers, the most impressive are the young lovers. The soprano Susana Gaspar sings Aurore (Manon's niece) with a light, well-produced soprano. Her lover Jean (a pants role) is taken by mezzo Hanna Hipp, whose singing promises a fine career ahead, even in this era of excellent lyric mezzos. The role of Des Grieux (a baritone in the one-act work) is well served by ZhengZhong Zhou, and Pablo Bemsch displays a serviceable tenor as the friend Tiberge. Since the Massenet work runs less than an hour, the London production included a staging of Les Nuits d'Eté by Berlioz. The six songs are divided evenly among the two ladies and the tenor. More important, again the ladies are vocally impressive, especially Miss Gaspar. Miss Hipp sings well. I would certainly recommend this recording, especially to fans of Massenet's operas who want to see the character of DesGrieux in his maturity and to hear how the composer quotes his most popular work effectively in its sequel. The recording includes a full libretto and texts of the Berlioz songs, as well as interesting articles about the works and the recording.

The Guardian, 7th 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.

Gramophone Magazine, 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.

International Record Review, May 2013
[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.


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