Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of Manon. It was last on stage 14 January—4 February 2014 as part of the Winter 2013/14 season.
Manon and the young student Des Grieux fall passionately in love. But Manon longs for riches, excitement and luxury. When the nobleman De Brétigny offers to make her his mistress, she finds it hard to resist.
Manon tells the story of an impulsive young woman who is drawn into a world of male desire. She recklessly chooses luxury over love and, in doing so, pays the ultimate price. Jules Massenet based his 1884 opera on Abbé Prévost’s controversial novel L’Histoire du Chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut. Laurent Pelly’s charming production sets the action in the Paris of Massenet’s day. The staging evokes the colour and elegance – as well as the darker social undercurrents – of the Belle Époque.
Manon is one of the great female roles of opera: she is both innocent ingénue and teasing seductress. Her music is richly varied, ranging from the sweetly hesitant ‘Je suis encore tout étourdie’ to the flamboyant Gavotte, ‘Obeissons quand leur voix appelle’, and the heartbreaking duet with Des Grieux 'Tu pleures!' The role of Des Grieux, whose music includes the great aria ‘Ah! Fuyez, douce image!’, is a popular one with many tenors. Vittorio Grigolo made his Covent Garden debut to great acclaim in 2010 as the passionate and betrayed lover.
News and features
13 May 2015
Composers have been inspired by everything about the French capital – from its seediness to its troubled political history – but most of all by its air of romance.
16 June 2014
The man who created Manon Lescaut was, like his heroine, full of contradictions.
15 January 2014
A selection of audience tweets from the opening night of Massenet's classic.
13 January 2014
The soprano discusses the appealing - and deeply flawed - heroine of Massenet’s opera.
9 January 2014
Mozart's famous anti-hero isn't opera's only irresistible charmer.
9 January 2014
A quick guide to Massenet's classic opera.
Manon ([manɔ̃]) is an opéra comique in five acts by Jules Massenet to a French libretto by Henri Meilhac and Philippe Gille, based on the 1731 novel L’histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut by the Abbé Prévost. It was first performed at the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 19 January 1884. Prior to Massenet's work, Halévy (Manon Lescaut, ballet, 1830) and Auber (Manon Lescaut, opéra comique, 1856) had used the subject for musical stage works. Massenet also wrote a one-act sequel to Manon, Le portrait de Manon (1894), involving the Chevalier des Grieux as an older man.The composer worked at the score of Manon at his country home outside Paris and also at a house at The Hague once occupied by Prévost himself. Manon is Massenet's most popular and enduring opera and, having "quickly conquered the world's stages", it has maintained an important place in the repertory since its creation. It is the quintessential example of the charm and vitality of the music and culture of the Parisian Belle Époque.