When to see it
- Manon Lescaut
Monday 12 December 2016, 7.30pm • Main Stage
- Conducted by Antonio Pappano
These events are part of the Autumn 2016 season.
When Manon meets the young student Des Grieux they fall in love. They elope – but when the elderly Geronte offers Manon a life of wealth and luxury, her head is turned.
Read more… (Contains spoilers)
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 both public and critics. Puccini’s sumptuous, richly-coloured score is characterized by youthful vitality and filled with glorious melodies, from Des Grieux and Manon’s passionate duet ‘Vedete? io son fedele’ to the overwhelming desolation of Manon’s final aria ‘Sola, perduta, abbandonata’.
Jonathan Kent – director of The Royal Opera’s Tosca – created this production of Manon Lescaut in 2014, The Royal Opera’s first production of the opera in 30 years. Kent finds contemporary resonance in the story of a woman tempted and misguided into acting against her best interests, and who finally receives retribution far more severe than her actions could ever deserve. Designs by Paul Brown create a harsh environment riven through with societal hypocrisy, in which Manon is trapped by those who will exploit her – and from which the only escape can be death.
News and features
6 December 2016
After erratic progress, Puccini’s third opera led the way for the subsequent triumphs of La bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly.
25 November 2016
Puccini’s opera offers a rare and nuanced glimpse into exploitation and the complexities of one woman’s indecision between servitude and freedom.
23 November 2016
Sondra Radvanovsky and Aleksandrs Antonenko star in the first revival of Jonathan Kent’s thought-provoking Royal Opera production.
17 November 2016
Even without vocals, Puccini's music still packs a remarkably powerful punch.
22 October 2016
A quick guide to Puccini's first triumph.
13 October 2016
Puccini's passionate aria rapturously describes love at first sight.
Manon Lescaut is an opera in four acts by Giacomo Puccini, composed between 1890 and 1893. The story is based on the 1731 novel L’histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut by the Abbé Prévost and should not be confused with Manon, an 1884 opera by Jules Massenet based on the same novel. 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 Bohème, 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).