Renée Fleming live Paris Opera 1997 Conductor: Gary Bertini
"Allons... Il le faut... Adieu, notre petite table"
Renée Fleming making her role debut in Massenet's Manon in Paris 1997. As such this is her earliest live recording of the role. She later recorded this aria with Charles Mackerras on the eponymously titled albm "Renée Fleming" which is an even more heartrending and sensitively detailed reading than we hear here which she had to sing for the cavernous and unforgiving acoustics of the Bastille in Paris, but this is nevertheless one of her most beautiful live accounts. Her 2001 performance of the same role, in the same opera house, and the same production was released on CD and DVD.
In the line of Thais and Esclarmonde, Manon is another absurdly challenging soprano role by Massenet, who had a knack for vocal writing that demands everything of a performer technically and interpretatively. The role of Manon has been referred to as the French Brunhilde because of it's exceptional vocal demands - it is an extremely long role, requiring a flawless range from middle C up to (written) top E6s, a solid middle voice, excursions into chest register, a proper trill, flexibility and skill in managing the big registral shifts, coloratura in Act I and III, and surging power over heavy orchestration in Acts II, III and IV. It is often cast with very light lyric coloratura voices who are able to easily encompass the high notes, but then the rest of the role is usually left severely underpowered and musically ineffective.
Renée Fleming sings here the Act II aria in which Manon says farewell to the life she has built with Des Grieux. It is very simply written in both the orchestration and the vocal line, which encompasses a small range compared to the rest of the role. This makes it a superb opportunity for an artist to reveal their ability to imbue a line with pathos, pure legato, and expressive detail.
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Watch videos with other singers performing Adieu notre petite table:
MANON Allons! Il le faut pour lui-même… Mon pauvre chevalier! Oui, c'est lui que j'aime! Et pourtant, j'hésite aujourd'hui. Non, non!... Je ne suis plus digne de lui! J'entends cette voix qui m'entra”ne contre ma volonté: Manon, Manon, tu seras reine... Reine... par la beauté! Je ne suis que faiblesse et que fragilité... Ah! malgré moi je sens couler mes larmes... Devant ces rêves effacés, l'avenir aura-t-il les charmes de ces beaux jours déjà passés? Peu à peu elle s'est approchée de la table toute servie. Adieu, notre petite table, qui nous réunit si souvent! Adieu, adieu, notre petite table, si grande pour nous cependant! On tient, c'est inimaginable... Si peu de place... en se serrant... Adieu, notre petite table! Un même verre était le nôtre, chacun de nous, quand il buvait y cherchait les lèvres de l'autre … Ah! pauvre ami, comme il m'aimait! Adieu, notre petite table, adieu! entendant Des Grieux C'est lui! Que ma pâleur ne me trahisse pas!
English Libretto or Translation:
MANON Come now, I must do it, for his sake... My poor Chevalier! Yes, he's the one I love! And yet today I'm still hesitating. No, no!... I'm no longer worthy of him! I keep hearing this voice that attracts me against my will: Manon, Manon, you will be queen... A queen... by your beauty! I am nothing but weakness and frailty... Ah! in spite of myself I feel my tears flowing. After these dreams have been erased, will the future have the charms of these beautiful days that have already passed? Manon approaches the table, laid for supper. Farewell, our little table, which brought us together so often! Farewell, farewell, our little table, which for just us two seemed so large! It's unbelievable, but we take up so little space... especially when we're embracing. Farewell, our little table! We used the same glass, the two of us, and when each of us drank, we tried to find the other's lips. My poor friend, how he loved me! Farewell, our little table, farewell! She hears Des Grieux returning. It's he! My paleness mustn't betray me!