Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of Manon Lescaut. It was last on stage 17 June—7 July 2014 as part of the Summer 2013/14 season.
Manon is on her way to a convent when she meets the young student Des Grieux. The pair fall in love and escape to Paris, but when the elderly Geronte offers Manon a life of wealth and luxury, her head is turned.
Puccini’s publisher tried to prevent him from adapting Abbé Prévost’s L’Histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut – Massenet had already created a highly successful opera based on the novel. But Puccini was not to be dissuaded, claiming ‘a woman like Manon can have more than one lover’. Despite a troubled gestation (five librettists were engaged in the project), the premiere of Manon Lescaut in 1893 was Puccini’s first major triumph – a hit with critics and the public alike.
Jonathan Kent – director of The Royal Opera’s much-loved staging of Tosca – brings a new production of Manon Lescaut to Covent Garden. Puccini’s sumptuous, richly-coloured score is characterized by youthful vitality and filled with glorious melodies. Des Grieux expresses his passion for Manon in the Act I aria ‘Vedete? io son fedele’, lively dances evoke Manon’s luxurious life in Paris in Act II, while in the impassioned finale to Act III, ‘Pazza son!’, Des Grieux begs to be allowed to join the imprisoned Manon on her voyage to America. The opera culminates in Manon’s heartbreaking Act IV aria ‘Sola, perduta, abbandonata’, as she contemplates her impending death.
News and features
9 March 2015
Nominees include Jonas Kaufmann, Christopher Wheeldon, and The Royal Opera's offsite programme in collaboration with Shakespeare's Globe and the Roundhouse.
8 July 2014
Screenings to take place from 21 July to 13 August in selected movie theatres.
1 July 2014
Why Jonathan Kent and Paul Brown’s production focuses on the ugly side of Puccini’s opera.
24 June 2014
What did you think of our live relay of Jonathan Kent’s new production of Puccini’s tragedy, starring Kristīne Opolais and Jonas Kaufmann?
24 June 2014
Another chance to see the backstage films screened as part of our live cinema relay.
23 June 2014
Should we pity Puccini’s heroine’s untimely demise?
Manon Lescaut is an opera in four acts by Giacomo Puccini. The story is based on the 1731 novel L’histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut by the Abbé Prévost.The libretto is in Italian, and was cobbled together by five librettists whom Puccini employed: Ruggero Leoncavallo, Marco Praga, Giuseppe Giacosa, Domenico Oliva and Luigi Illica. The publisher, Giulio Ricordi, and the composer himself also contributed to the libretto. So confused was the authorship of the libretto that no one was credited on the title page of the original score. However, it was Illica and Giacosa who completed the libretto and went on to contribute the libretti to Puccini's next three – and most successful – works, La Boheme, Tosca and Madama Butterfly.Puccini took some musical elements in Manon Lescaut from earlier works he had written. For example, the madrigal Sulla vetta tu del monte from Act II echoes the Agnus Dei from his 1880 Messa a quattro voci. Other elements of Manon Lescaut come from his compositions for strings: the quartet Crisantemi (January 1890), three Menuets (probably 1884) and a Scherzo (1883?). The love theme comes from the aria Mentia l'avviso (1883).