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Manon Lescaut

Giacomo Puccini 1858–1924

Dramma lirico in 3 acts
Libretto by Luigi Illica, Domenico Oliva, Giulio Ricordi & Marco Praga
First performed February 1st 1893, Teatro Regio, Turin

This production first seen October 6 2019
Sung in Italian with German & English surtitles

Introductory talks (in German) in the Holzfoyer 30 mins before performances begin and available here on video shortly before opening night

A station. Evening. Edmondo, a student, with nothing but love on his mind, delights in the joys of youth. He urges his friend Des Grieux to look for adventure too. Des Grieux starts flirting with girls for fun. More travellers arrive, including Manon and her brother Lescaut. Des Grieux is overwhelmed by her beauty and talks to her at the earliest opportunity. When Lescaut calls for his sister, Des Grieux insists on seeing her again. The young woman also caught the eye of a wealthy older gentleman, Geronte. Having heard about his beautiful sister's qualities from Lescaut, he decides to abduct her. Geronte makes arrangements while Lescaut is busy playing cards. Edmondo realises what he's up to and warns his friend. Des Grieux and Manon meet again. He confesses his love. When she hears about the planned abduction, Manon eventually agrees to run away with Des Grieux. Edmondo, who fixed everything, informs Geronte that he's too late. Lescaut assures outraged Geronte that Manon couldn't bear living with a penniless student for very long. Act 2 A nightclub. Lescaut's prediction was correct: Manon left Des Grieux for Geronte, who introduced her to the »Art of the Salon«. Although spoiled by clothes and admiration, her new lover's kisses taste pricy and cold. She tells her brother about her boredom and longing for Des Grieux. Lescaut knows he's turned to gambling, to try and win Manon back with money. He decides to bring Des Grieux to Manon. After Manon has danced for Geronte and the guests, Des Grieux appears and reproaches her. Manon begs for forgiveness. They soon surrender to their mutual passion. Geronte surprises them and is mocked by Manon. Des Grieux wants to leave immediately, but Manon can't bear to leave wealth behind and starts packing. Geronte, meanwhile, has reported Manon. Lescaut storms in to warn them. but they don't get away in time, and Manon is arrested. Act 3 A prison. Manon and other women are being prepared for deportation. Des Grieux, with Lescaut's help, attempts to free her, in vain. The lovers are in despair. A roll call begins for the imprisoned women, under running commentary from the crowd. Des Grieux doesn't want to be parted from her. He begs the captain to let him go with her. His wish is granted. Act 4 A desert. On the run again, Manon and Des Grieux are stranded in the middle of nowhere. While Des Grieux goes on a futile search for water, Manon, completely exhausted, relives her past. She dies in his arms.

Manon Lescaut wants to leave her miserable life behind but her attempt to escape, after dramatic twists and turns, ends nowhere: only the penniless student Des Grieux, whose love she betrayed, stands by her – until the bitter end …

Director Àlex Ollé transposes the events in an 18th century novel firmly into the present day, with the central figures‘ emotions to the fore in a visually powerful production with ends in the abstract. This is in keeping with Puccini's intentions, who sought to portray passion in its most violent, ultimately destructive form. His third opera’s powerful music cemented Puccini’s worldwide renown, establishing him as the last representative of a school of Italian composers who put singing first. It still grabs us today – who couldn’t be moved by the shattering climax of act 4?