Opera: Manon

Orig. lang.French

Manon (1884) is Massenet's most popular and famous work and a veritable paradigm of French opera. Based on L'histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut by the Abbé Prévost (Amsterdam, 1731), it follows the original more closely than most other operas on the same topic. It tells the tale of two adolescents -- an attractive young girl on her way to a convent and a provincial nobleman who has fallen madly in love with her -- who elope to Paris. There life's harsh realities uncover their true characters. Manon is ambitious and yearns for comfort and luxury to the point of betraying her lover and prostituting herself. The weak, ingenuous Des Grieux, on the other hand, falls into a milieu of gambling and violence. In the novel Manon is deported to Louisiana and dies there in the arms of her repentant lover; in the opera this episode is reduced to Des Grieux's bid to free her on the quayside at Le Havre, where she expires from exhaustion.
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