Monday 19 October - Manon
Natalie Dessay – Manon
Rolando Villazon – Le Chevalier Des Grieux
Samuel Ramey – Le Comte Des Grieux
Manuel Lanza – Lescaut
Francisco Vas – Guillot de Morfontaine
Didier Henry – De Brétigny
Cristina Obregón – Pousette
Marisa Martins – Javotte
Anna Tobella – Rosette
Conductor – Victor Pablo Pèrez
Director – David McVicar
Gran Teatre del Liceu Orchestra and Chorus
2007 2hrs 25’
Manon is Massenet’s most successful opera. In contrast to his previous operas it is written in a lighter style, which includes spoken dialogue.
It was first performed in 1884 at the Opéra-Comique in Paris where it remained continuously in the repertoire until the 1950s.
Some of the opera was composed in the rooms of Abbé Prévost, the author of the novel upon which the opera is based.
Puccini’s Manon Lescaut was written nine years later, and has been speculated that part of his desire to write an opera on the same source was the success of Massenet’s opera.
This David McVicar production filmed in Barcelona is the same one that New Zealand Opera presented here a few years ago.
Act One – It is 1720. Outside an inn at Amiens the crowd is waiting for the coach to arrive. Among the crowd are De Brétigny, the rich banker de Morfontaine and
Lescaut, who is waiting for his cousin due to arrive on the coach. Manon arrives and after greeting her Lescaut leaves her to gamble and drink. Guillot see her and arranges to abduct her. Lescaut reappears and ends Guillot away. Des Grieux, a young student appears having missed his coach. He too spies Manon and she him. They immediately fall in love. After some hesitation she agrees to his proposal that they run away together and the steal Guillot’s coach.
Act Two – Manon and Des Grieux are now living together but in poverty. Lescaut arrives with De Brétigny, disguised as a guardsman. While Des Grieux tries to allay Lescaut’s concerns about he and Manon living together by assuring her cousin that he intends to marry her De Brétigny is tempting Manon to leave Des Grieux for a life of luxury. She gives in. When Des Grieux goes out to post a letter to his father she sings fondly of their humble dwelling. On his return he tells her of his daydream of them living in paradise. He is interrupted by a knock at the door. Manon knows it is De Brétigny and Lescaut who have returned to abduct Des Grieux and she does nothing to stop it.
Act Three – On the Cours-de-la-Reine by the Seine Manon is enjoying the attention of the crowd with De Brétigny. Des Grieux’s father appears and tells De Brétigny that his son is about to take Holy Orders and that he will be preaching that evening at St-Suplice. Distracted by thoughts of Des Grieux Manon takes no interest in the expensive divertissement that De Brétigny has arranged for her.
The scene shifts to St-Suplice where Des Grieux has just finished preaching. He is congratulated by his father. After his father leaves he reveals that he is still haunted by Manon and goes in to the church to pray. Manon enters and his resolve goes and they run away again.
Act Four – In an illegal gambling den Des Grieux and Manon find Lescaut and Guillot. Manon is once again attracted by the wealth on display and she and Lescaut encourage Des Grieux to gamble. When he beats Guillot they argue and Guillot leaves to fetch the police. Lescaut escapes but Des Grieux and Manon are arrested for cheating.
Act Five – Manon is about to be deported to America. She has been convicted of being a prostitute. On the road to Le Havre Des Grieux, who has been freed and Lescaut bribe the guards to leave Des Grieux and Manon together. Des Griuex tries to convince her to run away but she is too weak and dies in his arms.