Manon Lescaut: A Beginner’s Guide

Manon Lescaut

If you were lucky enough to have tickets to April’s Turandot at the Ordway, or see La Boheme at Opera Under the Stars in June, or even Madame Butterfly two years ago, you already have an understanding of the experience Minnesota Opera produces with Giacomo Puccini’s music. His work has everything Italian Opera should be: desperately passionate lovers, a romantic spirit coupled with intense realism, some comic relief to break the tension, and music that swells the heart of every person who hears it.

Manon Lescaut is no exception. The opera opens with a drinking song – Parisian youth singing about the pleasures of being young. We’re off to a good start.

But who is Manon? Just your typical heroine: young, beautiful and full of joie de vivre. She’s off to a convent but first meets a poor young man — she falls instantly in love, of course — and a rich old man who can buy her anything she wants. Both try to convince Manon to come with them.

Who does she choose? What does she choose? Why is the life of a beautiful girl in Paris so tremendously difficult?

Is it love? Is it jewelry? Is it the church?

The church didn’t have a chance. It’s jewelry for a while, but then she decides love is her true passion. Manon leaves her rich benefactor for her young lover but without wealth or power the pair are banished to the wastelands of New Orleans.

Manon dies in the arms of her true love, happy at least. And our story is over. There’s not a dry eye in the house. It’s not happily ever after and yet you’re overjoyed that she made the right choice, even if it took a few mistakes along the way.

The opera is in Italian — but the English translations are projected above the stage. And the emotions cross time, space, and language barriers without worry.

Toast to the opening of another fantastic Opera Season afterwards at ZsaZsa Magnifique! Tickets are available now.


Taste Test: Manon

Appearance: Sumptuous period costumes; Courtesans, soldiers, & drinking.

Aroma: Belle Époque; French Couture; Diamonds

Mouth: Passionate & dark, yet conflicted

Talking Points: Kelly Kaduce stars as Manon, and you’ve recently seen her in other Puccini classics at Minnesota Opera – Turandot and Madame Butterfly.

For those who like: Being carried away by music & love stories; Rose & Jack in Titanic; La Bohème

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