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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.
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.
Manon cannot forget Des Grieux. Des Grieux attempts to flee with her, but before they can escape, Geronte has Manon arrested. They escape, but, on the run again, Manon collapses from exhaustion. She dies in Des Grieux’s arms.
Manon LescautKristine Opolais
Chevalier des GrieuxJonas Kaufmann
Geronte de RevoirMaurizio Muraro
Dancing masterRobert Burt
Naval CaptainJeremy White
Act III SergeantJihoon Kim
ChorusRoyal Opera Chorus
OrchestraOrchestra of the Royal Opera House
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