Manon Lescaut, Opera by G. Puccini

Manon Lescaut, Opera by G. Puccini

Given its chequered start in life, it is perhaps a little surprising that Manon Lescaut was the opera which gave Giacomo Puccini his first true triumph. Puccini’s publisher attempted to dissuade him from pursuing the project given that the French composer, Jules Massenet, had already enjoyed success with his opera, Manon, based on the same subject matter. Puccini carried on regardless, engaging five different authors to compose the libretto. Despite this seemingly chaotic approach, the process resulted in the emergence of two of his most important collaborators, Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica, who went on to write, with Puccini, three of the most famous operas in the repertoire: La Bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly.

The beautiful Manon Lescaut forsakes a life of luxury as mistress to the elderly and wealthy Geronte de Ravoir to pursue true love, a decision which has terrible consequences both for her and the man whose heart she has stolen, the dashing but impecunious Chevalier des Grieux. The scorned Geronte de Ravoir, by claiming that Manon has stolen from him, condemns her to be deported on a prison ship. An attempted escape results in failure and the forlorn des Grieux is granted passage to accompany Manon on a journey which ends in tragedy.

Puccini was a composer who invested great care in his libretti with the result that the musical interpretation of every word in his operas is packed with emotion. Manon Lescaut is the work in his repertoire which gives audiences a taste of the great things that were to come.

The Vienna State Opera is the stage for Manon Lescaut, an opera that has delighted audiences ever since it was first performed at the Teatro Regio in Turin on 1 February 1893.

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