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MANON LESCAUT

by Giacomo Puccini
(1858-1924)

Libretto by Domenico Oliva, Giulio Ricordi, Luigi Illica, and Marco Praga

Based on the novel by the Abbé Prevost

May 14, 15, 21, and 22, 2016, at 3 PM
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Free Sneak-Peek Performance with piano: May 10, 2016 at 7:30 PM

Orchestra conducted by Gregory Ortega
Staged by Linda Lehr
Performed in Italian with English supertitles


The Cast

Manon Lescaut: Sabrina Palladino (May 14 & 22), Zhanna Alkhazova (May 15 & 21)
Renato Des Grieux: Percy Martinez (May 14 & 22), Benjamin Sloman (May 15 & 21)
Lescaut: Nathan Matticks (May 14 & 22), Andrew Cummings (May 15 & 21)
Geronte di Ravoir/Captain: John Schenkel (May 14 & 22), Isaac Grier (May 15 & 21)
Edmondo/Lamplighter: David Bailey (May 14 & 22), Aaron Halevy (May 15 & 21)
Madrigal Singer: Noelle Currie (May 14 & 22), Mary LaRoche (May 15 & 21)
Dancing Master: Reuven Aristigueta
Innkeeper/Sergeant: Charles Gray
Hairdresser: Wayne Olsen


The Story

Manon Lescaut is set in 18th Century France.

Act I. A square in Amiens.

Edmondo, a student, is carousing with a crowd of other students, soldiers, and young women. They tease the young chevalier Renato des Grieux about the failure of his love life. In response, he jauntily asks the women if his great love is among them ("Tra voi, belle, brune e bionde"). Edmondo and the crowd then toast the pleasures of the evening.

A coach arrives with the lovely Manon Lescaut, her brother, and Geronte, an elderly official. Des Grieux, fascinated by Manon’s beauty, asks her name. She tells him that she is to go into a convent the next day, pursuant to her father’s wishes. He ardently convinces her to meet him after dark. After her brother calls her away. Des Grieux rapturously recalls her name and ponders his new love (“Donna non vidi mai”). Edmondo and the students congratulate him.

Geronte and Lescaut, meanwhile, discuss Manon’s future. Lescaut is not happy that his sister is to become a nun. Edmondo, who has been continuing his revelling, now begins to eavesdrop on their conversation. Learning that Geronte is wealthy, Lescaut begins to bemoan his sister’s fate, emphasizing that she is only 18 and has her whole life ahead of her. Geronte invites Lescaut to dinner, then abruptly leaves to give the innkeeper an order. The students invite Lescaut to gamble with them. Edmondo overhears Geronte bribe the innkeeper to have a carriage ready behind the inn in an hour. The innkeeper brings Geronte into the inn to show him the back exit.

Edmondo warns Des Grieux of Geronte’s plot and offers to help thwart it. Manon appears, and Des Grieux notes how sad she is. She tells him that she was once a happy girl who loved to dance. Des Grieux declares his love for her, and she declares hers for him. Des Grieux warns her that Geronte is planning to carry her off and urges her to fly with him instead. She agrees, and with Edmondo’s help they slip into the inn in order to get away in Geronte’s carriage.

Geronte returns, and is about to order the innkeeper to get a message to Manon, when Edmondo tells him that she has already left with a student. Geronte shouts to Lescaut that Manon has been abducted. As it is too late to follow them, Lescaut advises calm. He surmises that Manon must be in Paris and that the student’s money will soon run out. He believes that Manon would exchange poverty for Geronte’s “fatherly affection” — and his wealth, in which Lescaut intends to share. He brings Geronte into the inn for dinner as Edmondo and the students laugh at them.

Act II. Manon’s boudoir in Geronte’s house.

Manon is giving orders to her hairdresser. Her brother enters, compliments her on her beauty, and congratulates himself on having saved her from Des Grieux’s student poverty. Manon regrets having left Des Grieux without a farewell, and having given up ardent passion for cold elegance. Lescaut tells her that he has befriended Des Grieux, who constantly asks for news of Manon and, at Lescaut’s urging, has taken up gambling to improve his fortune. Manon believes she is unworthy of his struggle, yet admires her own beauty in the mirror.

A group of madrigal singers enters to entertain Manon with one of Geronte’s compositions, which bores her. Lescaut departs, secretly intending to visit Des Grieux. Geronte now arrives with a dancing-master and various hangers-on. They shower compliments on Manon as she dances a minuet. She flirts with Geronte, who leaves to order a sedan-chair so they can go out together. As Manon is getting her cloak, Des Grieux bursts in, and Manon rushes into his arms. He pushes her away, and she begs his forgiveness, which, after a struggle, he passionately grants.

Geronte interrupts their lovemaking. He accuses Manon of ingratitude and goes off threatening that they will see each other again. Manon revels in their new freedom. Des Grieux urges that they must leave, but Manon is sorry to leave so much luxury behind. He reproaches her for her love of riches, but she humbly begs his pardon and swears to be true to him. Now Lescaut breathlessly enters to announce that Geronte has denounced Manon as a prostitute and has sent for the guard to arrest her and have her exiled. He urges them to flee, but Manon is wasting time gathering up her jewelry. Finally, they begin to leave, but it is too late: the guard enter the room and seize Manon, who drops all the jewels before the laughing Geronte. Des Grieux tries to kill Geronte, but Lescaut stops him, pointing out that if Des Grieux is arrested, he will not be able to save Manon. Des Grieux cries out in despair.

Act III. Le Havre, near the port.

 Des Grieux and Lescaut are waiting for an opportunity to speak with Manon, who is being detained at a barracks before being exiled to America. Lescaut has bribed a guard to set her free at dawn. Des Grieux and Manon are briefly reunited through the barred window. A lamplighter arrives to put out the street lamps; it is dawn and time for the escape. Manon is afraid, but Des Grieux assures her that her brother’s plan will work.

Suddenly a shot rings out. Lescaut runs in and urges Des Grieux to get away, as the escape attempt has failed. Des Grieux refuses to leave Manon, though she urges him to save himself. Lescaut drags him away. Meanwhile, the captain of the exile ship orders a roll call of the prostitutes, naming Manon among them. The crowd jeers the women as they pass. Lescaut distracts the crowd, enabling Des Grieux to surreptitiously approach Manon. She tearfully urges him to forget her. A sergeant orders the women to form a line. He roughly takes hold of Manon, but Des Grieux grabs her back, threatening anyone who comes near. Suddenly he begins to weep. He lets Manon go, and she joins the prostitutes who are boarding the ship. Des Grieux begs the captain to let him go aboard as a cabin boy. The captain agrees. Manon and Des Grieux joyfully embrace.

Act IV. A vast plain outside New Orleans.

Des Grieux and Manon trudge through the barren landscape, exhausted. Manon collapses. Des Grieux manages to rouse her. Fevered and thirsty, she urges him to explore the area for shelter. When he leaves, she is overwhelmed with despair, blaming herself for their predicament (“Sola, perduta, abbandonata”). Des Grieux returns, having found nothing to help them. Manon tells him that she is dying, and that she loves him greatly. She asks him to kiss her one last time. Des Grieux tells her he will be lost without her, and wants to follow her into death. Assuring him that her love will never die, she passes away, and the grieving Des Grieux falls upon her body.

© 2016 Linda Cantoni