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THE CAST (in order of vocal appearance)
Guillot de Morfontaine
tenor, CHRISTOPHE MORTAGNE
Brétigny baritone, BRADLEY GARVIN
Poussette soprano, ANNE-CAROLYN BIRD
Javotte soprano, JENNIFER BLACK
Rosette mezzo, GINGER COSTA-JACKSON
Innkeeper bass, PHILIP COKORINOS
Lescaut baritone, PAULO SZOT
First Guard tenor, ALEXANDER LEWIS
Second Guard bass-bar., DAVID CRAWFORD
Manon Lescaut soprano, ANNA NETREBKO
Chevalier des Grieux tenor, PIOTR BECZALA
Maid mezzo, KATHRYN DAY
Count des Grieux bass, DAVID PITTSINGER
Porter bass, TBA
Conducted by FABIO LUISI
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus
Production: Laurent Pelly
Set designer: Chantal Thomas
Costume designer: Laurent Pelly
Lighting designer: Joël Adam
Choreographer: Lionel Hoche
Dramaturge: Agathe Mélinand
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Musical preparation: Dennis Giauque,
Donna Racik, Stephen Eldredge,
Denise Massé, Patrick Furrer
Assistant stage directors: Eric Einhorn,
Gregory Keller, Tomer Zvulun
Prompter: Donna Racik
Stage band conductor: Jeffrey Goldberg
Production a gift of
The Sybil B. Harrington Endowment Fund
Coproduction of the Metropolitan Opera;
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden,
London; Teatro alla Scala, Milan; and
Théâtre du Capitole, Toulouse
||The courtyard of an
inn at Amiens
||Des Grieux and Manon's
apartment in the Rue
| Sc. 1
||The Cours-la-Reine, Paris:
a public holiday
| Sc. 2
||The vestry of the seminary
of St. Sulpice
||The Hôtel de Transylvanie,
Host: Margaret Juntwait
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Mary Jo Heath, Ellen Keel,
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni,
Directed for Live Cinema by Gary Halvorson
HD host: Natalie Dessay
For more information on the broadcasts,
please visit www.operainfo.org.
Send quiz questions to:
Metropolitan Opera Quiz
30 Lincoln Center
New York, NY 10023
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
This performance is also being broadcast live
on Metropolitan Opera Radio on SiriusXM
This performance will be transmitted live,
in high definition and surround sound,
into selected movie theaters, and will be
shared with students in more than 100 U.S.
schools as part of The Met HD Live in
Schools program. For information on tickets, visit
Anna Netrebko as Manon in Laurent
Pelly's production of Massenet's
© Bill Cooper 2012
In the courtyard of an inn at Amiens, a crowd awaits the arrival of the coach. Guillot, an elderly roué, and his wealthy friend Brétigny have ordered dinner for three actresses of easy virtue, Poussette, Javotte and Rosette; as they retire to a room, a young officer, Lescaut, comes to meet his cousin Manon, who is on her way to a convent. The coach soon arrives, and with it Manon, who excitedly tells Lescaut about her first trip away from home. While he looks after her luggage, Guillot notices the pretty girl and flirts with her, but she only laughs at the elderly man's advances. Lescaut returns, and before joining friends at a gaming table he warns Manon about talking to strangers. To herself, she wistfully contrasts her own bland future with the pleasure-filled life of Guillot and his glamorous companions. The Chevalier des Grieux arrives at the inn and, on seeing Manon, falls in love with her. Seizing this opportunity to escape the convent, Manon suggests that they run off to Paris in Guillot's coach. The tipsy old bon vivant, who had intended to abduct Manon himself, stumbles from the inn just in time to hurl curses after the escaping lovers.
ACT II. In their Paris apartment, Manon and des Grieux read a letter he has written to his father, describing his sweetheart and asking permission to marry her. When des Grieux notices a bouquet Brétigny has sent to Manon, she tells him a lie to allay his suspicions. Lescaut and Brétigny arrive, the former to demand that des Grieux marry Manon, the latter to tell the girl that des Grieux is soon to be kidnapped by his irate father. The visitors depart, and des Grieux goes off to send his letter. Left alone, Manon is unable to resist the temptation of luxury offered her by Brétigny and bids a poignant farewell to the life she has shared with des Grieux. The young man returns, relating an idyllic vision of their future life together, but officers suddenly force their way into the room and abduct him.
ACT III. A holiday crowd fills a park at the Cours-la-Reine, where Poussette, Javotte and Rosette have eluded Guillot. Lescaut addresses a pretty passerby as his beloved "Rosalinde," then offers her presents from the vendors' carts. Manon, surrounded by admirers, preens herself and sings a gavotte in praise of youth and pleasure. When des Grieux's father, Count des Grieux, speaks with Brétigny, Manon learns that des Grieux is about to take holy orders at the Church of St. Sulpice. She speaks to the count and is piqued to hear that her former lover is indifferent to her charms. Manon rushes to St. Sulpice.
Des Grieux and Manon at St. Sulpice (Vittorio Grigolo as des Grieux; Netrebko as Manon)
© Bill Cooper 2012
In the sacristy at St. Sulpice, some women describe the eloquence of the new abbé. The count tries to persuade des Grieux to abandon the church and marry a suitable girl. After his father leaves, des Grieux prays for the strength to resist the memory of Manon. But Manon arrives, breaks his resolve with her ardor and persuades him to run away with her.
ACT IV. The Hôtel de Transylvanie, a notorious gambling house, is crowded with merrymakers, including Lescaut, Guillot and the three actresses. When des Grieux arrives with Manon, she suggests that he recoup their sagging fortunes at the faro table. As the young man plays cards with Guillot, Manon and the actresses sing in praise of living for the moment. Guillot, losing every hand, accuses des Grieux of cheating and goes off to summon the police; the authorities soon arrive and with them Count des Grieux, who rebukes his son but promises him that his arrest will be only temporary. Manon swoons as he is taken away.
ACT V. Manon is to be deported to Louisiana on charges of immorality. On the road to Le Havre, des Grieux and Lescaut bribe the guards to release her. Manon, in the last stages of consumption, falls exhausted in her lover's arms. The despairing des Grieux comforts her as, recalling their lost happiness, she dies.
Manon and des Grieux at the Hôtel de Transylvanie
© Bill Cooper 2012
In 1842, Julien-Émile-Frédéric Massenet was born in Montaud, France, son of a foundry engineer and a piano teacher. Entering the Paris Conservatory at age nine, the boy went on to study under Ambroise Thomas and in 1878 became a professor there himself, his pupils including Gustave Charpentier. Meanwhile, he gained the Prix de Rome at twenty-one, marrying one of Liszt's pupils during his Italian sojourn.
Massenet wrote twenty-six operas, several not produced until after his death (1912) and several more never performed or published. His fifth stage work, Manon (1884), was his most successful; it was followed a decade later by a sequel, Le Portrait de Manon. In between, he wrote Le Cid, Werther and Thaïs, which, alongside Hérodiade, Le Jongleur de Nôtre Dame and Don Quichotte, have upheld his reputation — in France, at least. Manon was based by librettists Henri Meilhac (of Carmen fame) and Philippe Gille on a popular romance by the Abbé Prévost (1697–1763).
Manon's premiere took place at Paris's Opéra Comique on January 19, 1884, with Flemish soprano Marie Heilbronn in the title role. Manon arrived in New York in the person of American soprano Minnie Hauk, who sang the opera at the Academy of Music in 1885. Californian Sibyl Sanderson was the star of the Met's first Manon, in 1895, alongside Jean de Reszke (des Grieux) and Pol Plançon (Comte des Grieux). Sanderson, who also created the title roles in Massenet's Esclarmonde (1889) and Thaïs (1894), was one of several sopranos for whom Massenet created alterations in the Manon score; another was French soprano Marie Roze, the first Manon to sing the brilliant Act III gavotte, written for the opera's London premiere, at the Drury Lane Theatre, in 1885.
The Metropolitan Opera's new production of Manon, directed by Laurent Pelly, had its first performance at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 2010, with Antonio Pappano pacing Anna Netrebko and Vittorio Grigolo as Manon and des Grieux. On March 26, 2012, Netrebko headed the cast in the Met premiere of the Pelly staging, with Piotr Beczala as des Grieux and Fabio Luisi conducting.
WHAT TO READ AND HEAR
Demar Irvine's Massenet: A Chronicle of His Life and Times (Hal Leonard), though not a particularly stylish biography, is a thorough, sober study of the composer — and one of the few currently available in English. Abbé Prévost's novel, Manon Lescaut, is available in paperback from Penguin.
Anna Netrebko is a delightfully sexy heroine in the DVD of Vincent Paterson's Hollywood-themed Manon, recorded in perfomance at Berlin's Staatsoper in 2007, conducted by Daniel Barenboim (DG). Rolando Villazón, Netrebko's ardent des Grieux, is equally persuasive wooing Natalie Dessay's quicksilver Manon in David McVicar's politically-tinged production of the opera, recorded at Barcelona's Liceu in 2007, paced by Victor Pablo Pérez (Virgin Classics DVD). Renée Fleming's ebullient, full-toned Manon was recorded live at Paris's Opéra Bastille in 2001, her heroine the centerpiece of a lavish production by Gilbert Deflo (Arthaus DVD; also Sony CD).
Another admirable Manon of fairly recent vintage (1999) is available from EMI, starring Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu, a potent Manon, though admittedly more convincing post-fall than in the ingénue airs of Act I. Antonio Pappano offers keen leadership of an excellent ensemble, which includes José van Dam's masterful Comte des Grieux.
Beverly Sills's 1970 recording (now available from DG) captures much of the delicious flavor of her New York City Opera performances of Massenet's heroine. Nicolai Gedda (des Grieux) and Gérard Souzay (Lescaut) also thrive under the alert, elegant conducting of Julius Rudel. Victoria de los Angeles's bewitching command of French style made Manon one of her most successful characterizations; Testament has remastered her 1955 recording, with the inimitable Pierre Monteux leading the forces of the Opéra-Comique. Another Comique performance, recorded in 1928–29, fields Germaine Féraldy, a nonpareil Manon, and Russian tenor Joseph Rogatchewsky, an ideally youthful des Grieux, and a cast of Comique regulars under the stylish direction of Elie Cohen (Naxos), a Massenet master.