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Manon Lescaut

Giacomo Puccini 1858-1924

Dramma lirico in four acts
Libretto by Luigi Illica, Domenico Oliva Ricordi and Marco Praga, based on Abbé Prévost
First performed February 1 1893, Teatro Regio, Turin

Sung in Italian with German and English surtitles
Introductory talks, in German, in the Holzfoyer half an hour before performances begin

No journey's end. A life of overwhelming passion, living beyond ones means in a permanent state of transit from which only death can provide the longed for refuge. In her desire for a more fulfilling, seemingly unattainable, life Manon changes her social situation with burning will and ambition. She soon realises that »total freedom« is fragile. The first thing she sacrifices is her love for Des Grieux, a student, who turns out to be the only anchor in the abyss of her (and his) future. The tragic love story of Manon Lescaut is about ifs, failure – the superficial gleaming enticement of the world and brutal reality. Giacomo Puccini shaped his own version of Abbé Prevost's scandalous novel, which inspired many composers down the years, going even further than the original in its »desperate passion«, radical approach and stark realism. The composer chose to concentrate on scenes of destruction, focussing on them in snap shot fashion, rather that judging the title figure's ambivalence or taking an idealistic look at an unlikely Amour fou. Rich in orchestral colour and modern contrasts, Manon Lescaut, which cemented Puccini's world fame in 1893, focusses on pure emotion as the meaning of life.

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