Wed | Mar 21, 2018

Manon Lescaut at Carib 5 tomorrow

Published:Friday | March 4, 2016 | 12:00 AM
A scene from Puccini’s ‘Manon Lescaut’.

Puccini's Manon Lescaut is Live in HD at Carib 5 tomorrow, starting at 12:55 p.m. Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) was immensely popular in his own lifetime, and his mature works remain staples in the repertory of most of the world's opera companies.

Writing the libretto for Manon Lescaut was a laborious process in which a number of people were involved. These included journalist Domenico Oliva, novelist and playwright Marco Praga, playwright Giuseppe Giacosa and poet Luigi Illica (both of whom would later collaborate with Puccini on La Boheme, Tosca, and Madama Butterfly), fellow composer Ruggero Leoncavallo and Puccini's publisher, Giulio Ricordi.

The story is based on the 1731 novel, L'histoire du Chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut by the Abbe Prevost.

The work that thrust Puccini on to the international stage as Italy's foremost opera composer, Manon Lescaut is built on lessons learnt from Richard Wagner, translated into a thoroughly Italian, full-blooded thrill ride. The title character grows from a bored and pouty youth in Act II's elegant and self-pitying aria In Quelle Trine Morbide into a fully realised adult facing untimely death in Act IV's shatteringly dramatic Sola,

perduta, abbandonata.

The orchestra plays a prominent role in propelling the action the waves of sound during the powerful Act II love duet are among the most blatantly erotic in opera.

Manon Lescaut had been absent from the Met repertoire for 20 years, when a new production starring Dorothy Kirsten and Jussi Bjorling premiered in 1949. Her distinguished career with the company would continue for several decades.


The first three acts of the opera take place in various locations in France around the year 1720. The first was in the town of Amiens, the second in a magnificent palace in Paris, and the third on the waterfront of the port city of Le Havre. The fourth act is set in a desolate location in the New World, an imaginary place described in the libretto as "a vast desert near the outskirts of New Orleans".

Richard Eyre's new production moves the action to the 1940s. Soprano Kristine Opolais and tenor Roberto Alagna join forces in Puccini's obsessive love story. Opolais sings the title role of the country girl who transforms herself into a Parisian temptress, while Alagna is the dashing student who desperately woos her.

Director Richard Eyre places the action in occupied France in a film noir setting.

"Desperate passion" is the phrase that Puccini used to describe the opera that confirmed his position as the pre-eminent Italian opera composer of his day. Met principal conductor Fabio Luisi leads the stirring score.