Opera in four acts - 1839

Composer Giacomo Puccini · Libretto after Abbé Prévost's novel "Histoire du Chevalier Des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut" by Ruggiero Leoncavallo, Marco Praga, Domenico Oliva, Luigi Illica, Giuseppe Giacosa, Giulio Ricordi and Giuseppe Adami

Saturday, 27. June 2020
12:00 pm – 02:30 pm

Duration est. 2 hours 30 minutes

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Puccini zeichnet Manon als eine scheinbar selbstbewusste Frau, die vom Verlangen nach Luxus getrieben den Reichtum wahren Gefühlen vorzieht. Skizzenhaft wird die schicksalhafte Irrfahrt von Manon erzählt, die in einer Welt lebt, die mehr von Rissen als von Küssen definiert wird. Am Ende gelangen Manon und ihr Geliebter Des Grieux in die Wüste von New Orleans, irren „allein, verloren, verlassen“ ihrem sicheren Tod entgegen, getrieben von Durst und geschwächt durch fürchterliches Fieber. Hier, und nur hier, können sie sich endlich lieben. Bevor jedoch Manons Leben erlischt, beteuert sie ihre ewige Liebe: „Meine Sünden… werden in Vergessenheit geraten, doch meine Liebe wird nicht sterben…“


Act One

Edmondo, a student, is trying to compose a madrigal – the theme of which is love and gallantry. Des Grieux is the only one present not to join in, he is a stranger to love. Even though he is always on the lookout, the right person has not yet come his way. Until this happens, Edmondo and Des Grieux decide that it is better to enjoy life and have fun with friends. Two men, accompanied by a young woman, alight from the stagecoach in order to find somewhere to spend the night. Des Grieux is immediately attracted to the young woman and speaks to her to find out who she is. Her name is Manon Lescaut. In accordance with her father’s wishes, she tells him, she is on her way to a nunnery, her brother, Lescaut is accompanying her there. When her brother tells her to come into their lodgings for the night, she gives in to Des Grieux’ urgent request that she should meet him again. 

Edmondo, who has observed the two of them, is pleased to see Des Grieux finally in love. The elderly gentleman from the coach asks Manon’s brother what he feels about taking Manon to the nunnery and invites them both to have supper with him. Lescaut, who is himself not happy about carrying out his father’s wishes, gladly accepts the invitation but wants first to try his luck at the card table. However, the elderly gentleman, Geronte, has an entirely different plan: he asks the landlord to get him a coach, no matter what the cost, so that he can set off for Paris immediately with a lady; this lady is, of course, Manon. Edmondo, who has eavesdropped on Geronte’s conversation with the landlord, sees a chance for Des Grieux. He should simply flee with Manon in the coach which has been ordered. So when they meet again Des Grieux warns Manon that the debauched old man from the coach is planning to abduct her. He, however, could rescue her by fleeing with her himself immediately. Manon agrees reluctantly. Geronte has to admit that his plan has been foiled. But Lescaut – inebriated from the wine and the card game – promises Geronte that he will soon bring his sister to him. A student cannot, he maintains, keep his luxury-loving sister happy for ever.

Act Two

Lescaut has been proved right. Manon and Lescaut have enjoyed the luxury Geronte has offered them since they have been living in his house in Paris – a plan set up by Lescaut. Yet Manon still yearns to hear news of Des Grieux as she is missing the love and passion of her lover. Lescaut takes a more pragmatic view, telling her that he has recommended that Des Grieux , with whom he is still in touch, should quickly make some money at cards so that he will be able to offer his sister a life of luxury very soon. Until then he is satisfied with the situation. But neither dancing nor music can bring Manon contentment, she is bored. When Geronte asks her to dance she refuses, watched by a horde of gawping onlookers. Alone again, she is surprised by Des Grieux, who reproaches her with having betrayed her love. Manon does not deny this but asks him to forgive her, all her feelings are for him. He cannot resist her, but Geronte’s appearance brings this moment of togetherness to a sudden end. He leaves the lovers alone again as he has important things to attend to. Des Grieux wants to use this chance to flee instantly, but Manon hesitates to give up the wealth. Meanwhile Lescaut has learned that Geronte has just reported Manon to the police, who are already on their way. Manon, who will be deported if found guilty, still cannot bear to leave the riches behind and does not want to flee without taking some of her jewels with her. The guards burst into the room and the jewels are Manon’s undoing, she is arrested. Lescaut just manages to hold Des Grieux back and prevent further violence.

Act Three

Lescaut has bribed the guards to allow Des Grieux to see Manon in prison. She is to be deported by sea to America. He has also hatched a plan for the following morning to free his sister from prison. To this end he will overcome the guards at night with his friends‘ help. Des Grieux discusses the plan with Manon and promises not to leave her to her fate. But Lescaut’s plan is discovered and the alarm is raised. Des Grieux and Lescaut are, however, able to escape. The roll is called of the women who have been sentenced to deportation, in the presence of onlookers, and they are led on to the ship. In order to raise sympathy and arouse the crowd, Lescaut tells the onlookers his sister’s sad story. Des Grieux cannot bear to be separated from Manon and threatens the sergeant. But the guards have the situation under control, Manon must go aboard. The captain, out of sympathy, takes Des Grieux on board for America.

Act Four

Manon and Des Grieux have fled to a deserted plain in America. She is completely exhausted physically and collapses. Des Grieux does not know where to turn, but Manon begs him to at least find somewhere for them to spend the night. Alone in her despair, Manon bemoans the fact that even in America her beauty and Des Grieux’ impulsiveness have resulted in unfortunate complications. Manon does not want to die. She tells Des Grieux one last time of her undying love for him. In despair he wants to die with her. She hopes that in death her sins will be forgotten and the memory of her love will be all that remains.

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Premiere of Giacomo Puccini's "Manon Lescaut" on November 15, 2014 at the Nationaltheater

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