Manon Lescaut synopsis
Music by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by Luigi Illica after Prévost’s novel
First performed: 1893
The action takes place in France and America during the second half of the eighteenth century
(n/a) A square in Amiens Outside an inn, Edmondo entertains his fellow students with a mock ‘madrigal’. The Chevalier des Grieux appears and the conversation turns to love and women. The coach from Arras arrives bearing Manon, her brother Lescaut and their travelling companion Geronte. Manon immediately captivates Des Grieux and, when Lescaut and Geronte go into the inn, he engages her in conversation. He discovers that she is bound for a convent and the life of a nun. Before joining her brother, Manon arranges to meet Des Grieux. The elderly Geronte also has designs on Manon. He asks the innkeeper for a coach with which he might spirit her away. But Edmondo overhears Geronte’s scheming and warns Des Grieux. The lovers elope. Geronte is furious, but Lescaut assures him that his sister will soon need a rich protector.
(n/a) A room in Geronte’s house Manon is now Geronte’s mistress. Despite her elegant surroundings, she confesses to her brother that she yearns for the modest life she once shared with Des Grieux. After a group of musicians perform a madrigal Geronte had written in Manon’s honour, Lescaut leaves to fetch Des Grieux. During Manon’s dancing lesson, Geronte arrives with friends who shower her with compliments. The visitors depart and Manon is left alone. Des Grieux enters and the lovers are reunited. Geronte unexpectedly returns. Manon taunts him before he leaves, outraged, and threatening revenge. Manon and Des Grieux decide to flee; but Des Grieux is dismayed by Manon’s thoughts at abandoning so much wealth and comfort. Lescaut bursts in and warns them that Geronte has ordered Manon’s arrest as a thief and a prostitute. Manon’s determination to gather up her jewels delays their escape. Manon is arrested.
(n/a) Le Havre, a square near the harbour Manon has been imprisoned and awaits deportation to America. Lescaut plans to secure her escape by bribing a guard. Des Grieux is allowed to talk to Manon. A shot is heard: the escape plan has failed. The roll-call of the deportees begins and one by one the prostitutes, including Manon, are led to the ship. Des Grieux begs the ship’s captain to allow him aboard and follow his love.
(n/a) A desert Manon and Des Grieux are exhausted. She sends Des Grieux to look for shelter and water. Alone, Manon expresses her fear of dying in such desolate surroundings. Des Grieux returns to find her delirious. Assuring him of her love, Manon dies.
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