Jonas Kaufmann as Des Grieux sings 'Donna non vidi mai' from Act I of Jonathan Kent's production of Giacomo Puccini's Manon Lescaut, The Royal Opera, 2014. Find out more at
Puccini’s publisher tried to prevent him from adapting Abbé Prévost’s L’Histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut – Massenet had already created a highly successful opera based on the novel. But Puccini was not to be dissuaded, claiming ‘a woman like Manon can have more than one lover’. Despite a troubled gestation (five librettists were engaged in the project), the premiere of Manon Lescaut in 1893 was Puccini’s first major triumph – a hit with critics and the public alike.
Puccini’s sumptuous, richly-coloured score is characterized by youthful vitality and filled with glorious melodies. Des Grieux expresses his passion for Manon in the Act I aria ‘Vedete? io son fedele’, lively dances evoke Manon’s luxurious life in Paris in Act II, while in the impassioned finale to Act III, ‘Pazza son!’, Des Grieux begs to be allowed to join the imprisoned Manon on her voyage to America. The opera culminates in Manon’s heartbreaking Act IV aria ‘Sola, perduta, abbandonata’, as she contemplates her impending death. Jonathan Kent's controversial new production for The Royal Opera, with a star-studded cast including Jonas Kaufmann as Des Grieux and Kristine Opolais as Manon, was The Royal Opera's first production in more than thirty years.
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