ⓘ Manon Lescaut (Puccini)


ⓘ Manon Lescaut (Puccini)

Manon Lescaut is an Italian-language opera in four acts composed by Giacomo Puccini between 1889 and 1892 to a libretto by Luigi Illica, Marco Praga and Domenico Oliva, based on the 1731 novel Histoire du Chevalier des Grieux, et de Manon Lescaut by the Abbe Prevost. The opera was first performed in 1893 in Turin, at the Teatro Regio.


1. Composition history

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 Puccinis 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 2 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 lavviso 1883.


2. Performance history

Puccinis publisher, Ricordi, had been against any project based on Prevosts story because Jules Massenet had already made it into a successful opera, Manon, in 1884. While Puccini and Ricordi may not have known it, the French composer Daniel Auber had also already written an opera on the same subject with the title Manon Lescaut, in 1856.

Despite all the warnings, Puccini proceeded. "Manon is a heroine I believe in and therefore she cannot fail to win the hearts of the public. Why shouldnt there be two operas about Manon? A woman like Manon can have more than one lover." He added, "Massenet feels it as a Frenchman, with powder and minuets. I shall feel it as an Italian, with a desperate passion."

The first performance of Manon Lescaut took place in the Teatro Regio in Turin on 1 February 1893; it was Puccinis third opera and his first great success. The opera was first performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York on 18 January 1907 in the presence of the composer with Lina Cavalieri in the title role, Enrico Caruso as des Grieux, Antonio Scotti as Lescaut, and Arturo Vigna conducting.


3.1. Synopsis Act 1

Amiens: A large public square near the Paris Gate

Off the square is an Avenue on one side and an Inn on the other, with a balcony. It is evening, townspeople, soldiers and a crowd of male students and girls stroll through the avenue and square while others gather in groups. Some are seated at the tables outside the Inn, drinking and gambling.

Edmondo sings a song of youthful pleasure. Des Grieux enters, and they greet him, but he is melancholic and does not join the others, singing cynically of love. They joke with him and provoke him to feign flirtation with the girls ;.

A postillion horn is heard and the carriage from Arras pulls up at the Inn, as the crowd peers in to see who the passengers are Chorus: Giunge il cocchio dArras! – Here comes the Arras coach! Lescaut Manons brother, then an elderly treasurer-general, Geronte di Ravoir, descend from the coach, Geronte helping Manon, then the remainder of the passengers. The crowd comments Edmondo and the students admire Manon Chi non darebbe a quella donnina bella? – Who would not give to that beautiful young woman?. Des Grieux is also smitten. The other passengers enter the Inn, while Lescaut signals Manon to wait for him. She sits, as des Grieux, who has been fixated on her, approaches her and declares his feelings for her des Grieux, Manon,: Cortese damigella – Gentle lady, only to learn she is destined for a convent at the will of her father. He offers to help her, and when Lescaut calls her he begs her to meet him later; she reluctantly agrees. After Manon leaves, des Grieux sings of his feelings for her des Grieux: Donna non vidi mai – Never before have I beheld a woman such as this. The students and girls, who have been observing the couple, comment mockingly on his good fortune Edmondo, students: La tua ventura ci rassicura – Your good fortune encourages us.

Lescaut and Geronte descend and converse in the square about Manons fate, observed by Edmondo. Geronte, who also is captivated by Manon, says she would be wasted in a convent. On hearing his fellow travellers opinion, Lescaut begins to reconsider his task of escorting his sister to the convent. The students invite Lescaut to join in their card game. Geronte observes that Lescaut is preoccupied with the game and discloses his plan to abduct Manon and take her to Paris to the Innkeeper, offering him money for assistance and his silence. Edmondo overhears the plan and informs des Grieux. He offers to help des Grieux, arranging for the card players to keep Lescaut occupied.

Manon slips out of the inn to meet des Grieux as promised Manon: Vedete? Io son fedele alla parola mia – You see? I am faithful to my word. He declares his love for her and advises her of the plot to abduct her, while Edmondo arranges for the carriage Geronte has hired to take the couple to Paris. They leave together just as Geronte arrives, ready to execute his plans Geronte: Di sedur la sorellina e il momento! – The moment to seduce the little sister has arrived. Geronte is taunted by Edmondo. Realising he has been tricked, Geronte urges Lescaut to follow the departed pair. The more pragmatic Lescaut advises him that the pair will soon run out of money, and then Manon will be his.


3.2. Synopsis Act 2

A room in Gerontes house in Paris

Puccini omits the part of the novel in which Manon and des Grieux live together for a few months, and Manon leaves des Grieux when his money has run out.

Manon is now Gerontes mistress. Manon and her hairdresser are in the room when Lescaut enters Manon, Lescaut: Dispettosetto questo riccio!; Lescaut: Sei splendida e lucente!. She tells him that Geronte is too old and wicked; he bores her. Manon is sad, and her thoughts turn to des Grieux Manon: In quelle trine morbide; Lescaut, Manon: Poiche tu vuoi saper.

Musicians hired by Geronte enter to amuse her Madrigal: Sulla vetta tu del monte; Manon, Lescaut: Paga costor. Geronte brings a dancing master; they dance a minuet, then she sings a gavotte ;. After dancing, Geronte and the musicians leave the house.

Dismayed that his sister is unhappy living with Geronte, Lescaut goes to find des Grieux. Des Grieux appears in Gerontes house. As des Grieux and Manon renew their vows of love, Geronte returns unexpectedly. He salutes the couple, reminding Manon of his many favors to her, including some precious jewels. She replies that she cannot love him.

Bowing low, he leaves them. Manon rejoices in their freedom Manon: Ah! Ah! Liberi!;. Lescaut urges them to leave the house at once, but Manon hesitates at the thought of leaving her jewels and pretty frocks. Again, Lescaut enters in breathless haste, making signs that they must depart immediately. Manon snatches up her jewels, and they go to the door. It has been locked by Gerontes order. Soldiers appear to arrest Manon who, in trying to escape, drops the jewels at Gerontes feet. She is dragged away and des Grieux is not permitted to follow her.

Intermezzo: The journey to Le Havre.

His various efforts to have Manon released and even to free her by force having failed, des Grieux follows her to Le Havre.


3.3. Synopsis Act 3

A square near the harbor in Le Havre

At dawn Manon is with the other imprisoned courtesans. Lescaut has bribed a guard to let des Grieux speak with Manon. Talking to her through the bars, he learns that she is to be deported to Louisiana. A lamplighter passes, singing a song as he extinguishes the lights ;.

They attempt a rescue, but in vain. The guard appears, escorting a group of women, who are going on the same ship as Manon. She walks among them, pale and sad. The crowd makes brutal comments during the roll call of the courtesans, but Lescaut inspires pity for Manon.

Des Grieux, in despair at the idea of being separated from Manon forever, goes to her side. He tries to seize her but is pushed away by the sergeant. However, the captain of the ship sees his intense grief des Grieux: Pazzo son! and allows him to board the ship.


3.4. Synopsis Act 4

A vast plain near the outskirts of the New Orleans territory

Having fled the jealous intrigues of New Orleans, the lovers make their way across a desert to seek refuge in a British settlement. Wandering in the desert, the ailing Manon is exhausted. She falls and cannot go any farther des Grieux, Manon: Tutta su me ti posa; des Grieux: Vedi, son io che piango; Manon, des Grieux: Sei tu che piangi.

Des Grieux is alarmed by Manons appearance and goes to look for water. While he is gone, Manon recalls her past and muses about her fatal beauty and her fate.

Des Grieux returns, having been unable to find water. Manon bids him a heart-rending farewell, however not before complaining about how her life has not been fair and that she is no longer beautiful. Before dying in his arms Manon asks des Grieux to tell her how beautiful she used to be, and how he must forgive her wrongdoings and faults before she dies, not listening to him repeat how much he loves her and will miss her. Overcome by grief at the death of his vain and selfish lover, des Grieux collapses across her body.


4. Instrumentation

The opera is scored for piccolo doubling 3rd flute, two flutes, two oboes, cor anglais, two clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, bass tuba, timpani, triangle, drum, tam-tam, bass drum, cymbals, glockenspiel, celesta, harp, and strings, together with offstage flute, offstage cornet, offstage bell, offstage drum, and offstage sleigh bells.


5. Bibliography

  • Weaver, William 1992. Manon Lescaut: Puccinis first triumph CD Booklet. Decca. 440 200-2.
  • "Manon Lescaut". Libretti dOpera Italiani. 2016. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  • Weaver, William; Puccini, Simonetta 2000. The Puccini Companion: Essays on Puccinis Life and Music. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-32052-9.
  • Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times Essential Library of Opera, Times Books Henry Holt and Company, 2004.
  • Giacomo Puccini, Manon Lescaut. Full score. Milan: Ricordi, 1958.
  • Julian Budden, Manon Lescaut, Grove Music Online, 2005.
  • Manon Lescaut is a short novel by Prevost Manon Lescaut may also refer to: Manon Lescaut Puccini an 1893 opera by Giacomo Puccini Manon Lescaut Auber
  • Manon Lescaut is an opera or opera comique in 3 acts by Daniel Auber to a libretto by Eugene Scribe, and, like Puccini s Manon Lescaut and Massenet s Manon
  • Manon Lescaut L Histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut is a novel by French author Antoine François Prevost. Published in 1731, it is
  • Puccini but Ricordi said that he would stay with him and continued his allowance until his next opera. On commencing his next opera, Manon Lescaut
  • Gille, based on the 1731 novel L histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut by the Abbe Prevost. It was first performed at the Opera - Comique in
  • Manon Lescaut L ora, o Tirsi, e vaga e bella from Manon Lescaut Ah Manon mi tradisce from Manon Lescaut No No Pazzo son from Manon Lescaut Sola
  • Il trovatore Verdi Liza, The Queen of Spades Tchaikovsky Manon Manon Lescaut Puccini Margherita, Mefistofele Boito Maria Amelia, Simon Boccanegra
  • Cavalleria rusticana Turiddu Puccini Manon Lescaut Des Grieux Puccini Tosca Cavaradossi Puccini Turandot - Calaf Puccini Madama Butterfly Pinkerton
  • from the act 1 of Giacomo Puccini s opera, Manon Lescaut The aria is sung by Des Grieux to a beautiful young lady, Manon Lescaut who is destined for a
  • some of its themes in other works, such as the Agnus Dei in his opera Manon Lescaut and the Kyrie in Edgar. At the end of World War II, Fr. Dante Del Fiorentino
  • Tchaikovsky s Eugene Onegin and the title heroines in Verdi s Aida, Puccini s Manon Lescaut and Puccini s Tosca. She was a frequent partner of Placido Domingo during
  • in the original 1896 production of Giacomo Puccini s La boheme and the title role in Puccini s Manon Lescaut in its 1893 world premiere. Ferrani sang a
  • Prevost s Manon Lescaut The piece is a reworking of the Manon Lescaut story, already adapted operatically by Auber, Massenet and Puccini and here relocated