Puccini’s first triumph returns to Covent Garden for the first time in 30 years in a new staging by Jonathan Kent.
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.