Opera Scotland

Manon Lescaut

Music
Giacomo Puccini (born Lucca, 22 December 1858; died Brussels, 29 November 1924)

Text
Marco Praga, Domenico Oliva, Luigi Illica, Giuseppe Giacosa, amended by Giulio Ricordi & the composer.

Source
Novel L’Histoire du Chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut (1731) by Abbé Prévost (1696-1763).

Premieres
First performance: Turin (Teatro Regio), 1 February 1893.
First UK performance: London (Covent Garden), 14 May 1894.
First performance in Scotland: Aberdeen (His Majesty's Theatre), 12 November 1918.
Scottish Opera premiere: Edinburgh (King’s Theatre), 22 August 1982.

Background
Puccini’s third opera shows the composer’s greatly increasing maturity not just as a talented composer, but particularly as a dramatist. His first two operas, Le villi and Edgar, were severely handicapped by the inadequacy of the plot provided for him. In spite of this, he developed the confidence to badger his librettists for his next work into producing what he wanted, and he jettisoned then if they were unwilling or unable to oblige. His later operas all gain greatly from that experience. The subject of Manon Lescaut was a popular one, and he went to great lengths to select incidents which would minimise comparisons, especially with the successful Massenet version of 1884. The opening meeting and the extended death scenes are similar, but in between, Puccini chooses different events to illustrate the girl’s downfall.

Main Characters
Edmondo, a student (tenor)
Chevalier des Grieux (tenor)
Lescaut, Sergeant of the King’s Guards (baritone)
Geronte di Ravoir, Treasurer General (bass)
Manon Lescaut (soprano)
A Musician (mezzo-soprano)
A Naval Captain (baritone)

Plot Summary
As with Massenet’s version, the opera starts with Manon being met off the coach at Amiens by her cousin. She is travelling to join a convent, but when she meets Des Grieux she takes the opportunity to escape from this fate, and the couple elope to Paris. The next act shows Manon, having abandoned Des Grieux, living in luxury with Geronte, but already bored and easily persuaded to return to the younger lover. Geronte then has her arrested, and she is next seen at the dockside at Le Havre, awaiting transportation to Louisiana. Des Grieux persuades the captain to let him sail with her, and he is still with her when she expires in the desert.

The Cast

Chevalier des Grieux
 
Dancing-Master
 
Edmondo
 a student
Geronte di Ravoir
 Treasurer-General
Innkeeper
 
Lamp-lighter
 
Lescaut
 a sergeant in the King's Guards
Manon Lescaut
 
Musician
 
Naval Captain
 
Sergeant
 of Archers
Wig-maker
 

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