It’s the french composer Jules Massenet’s birthday today! Massenet was born on May 12, 1842 and died on August 13, 1912. He is especially famous for his operas Werther and Manon. The libretto (sung text) in his operas is of course in french.
Pavarotti sang only one opera by Massenet. It was Manon, in the role of Le Chevalier Des Grieux, which he sang at La Scala in Milan in the late 1960’s. The great italian soprano Mirella Freni, also born in Modena, sang the role of Manon herself.
The great surprise here is that these La Scala performances were sung in italian! The another surprise is that this opera is based on the same story as that of the Puccini opera “Manon Lescaut”, also an opera Pavarotti recorded with Mirella Freni (on Decca CDs). Pavarotti also performed arias from that opera in concerts. Pavarotti always sang “Manon Lescaut” by Puccini in italian, of course!
A recording of one of these performances at La Scala in June 1969 is issued unofficially, among them on CD on the label Opera d’Oro (se CD cover below).
The first video below is an audio recording from this performance, “Chiudo gli occhi nel pensier”, a duet sung together with Mirella Freni. In the second video Pavarotti sings the wonderful aria “Ah! Dispar, vision” from a Pavarotti Plus concert in New York in 1994.
So let’s celebrate the birthday of Jules Massenet!