Registrazione dal vivo / live recording, Napoli 1961
CLASSICS TODAY "The raison d’être for the release of this live, 1960 Neapolitan performance of Puccini’s oft-recorded Manon Lescaut is clearly the Des Grieux of Carlo Bergonzi, then in his early prime. Aficionados know what to expect from Bergonzi: intelligent, sensitive phrasing and acting with the voice; passion, good taste, an even register from top to bottom; fine musicianship and reliable high notes (this last certainly until the last few years of his career). But here he is all that and more—indeed, the finest Des Grieux on disc, and I am including Björling. His total involvement, the magnificent squillo, the long breaths—it’s a glorious performance.
His is a particularly great reading when you consider that he is singing opposite the Manon of Floriana Cavalli, a soprano with many of the right dramatic intentions but with a nasty tone, particularly at the top, and a series of bad habits—the silliest, most annoying use of portamento I’ve ever heard (she sounds as if she’s falling off a couch)—that almost make her performance a party event. She’s listenable, but that’s it. Giuseppe Valdengo is luxurious casting as Lescaut, and Gabriele Santini’s conducting, occasionally startlingly slow, works well when Bergonzi is singing. The sound ranges from acceptable to quavery and poor. Just a four-page insert with cast and track listings is included. This can’t be ruled out due to Bergonzi, but the rest of it is a struggle." (Robert Levin)