Libretto by Marco Praga, Domenico Oliva, Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa after the novel L’histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut by the Abbé Prévost
Musical Director of the production: Mikhail Tatarnikov
Stage Director: Jürgen Flimm
Co-Director: Mara Kurotschka
Stage Designer: George Tsypin
Costume Designer: Ursula Kudrna
Lighting Designer: Alexander Kibitkin and Sebastian Alphons
Video Designer: Robert Pflanz
Principal Chorus Master: Vladimir Stolpovskikh
Principal Pianist: Natalia Dudik
Assistant Conductors: Valentin Bogdanov, Igor Tomashevsky
Assistant to Stage Director: Yulia Prokhorova
Assistant to Stage Designer: Polina Lifers
Assistant to Costume Designer: Julia Harttung
Chorus Masters: Alexey Dmitriev, Sergey Tsyplenkov
Consultant in the Italian language: Daria Mitrofanova
Surtitles: Margarita Kunitsyna-Tankevich
Stage Managers: Olga Kokh, Elena Piskunova
Producer: Dmitry Astafyev, Dr. habil.
Production is realised in cooperation with Deutsche Staatsoper (Berlin)
opera in three acts
music by Giacomo Puccini
General partner of the production
Premiere of the production: 22 October 2014
The opera Manon Lescaut is considered to be one of Giacomo Puccini’s finest works.
Originally staged in Turin in 1893, it was the composer’s first undoubted triumph. The libretto is based on the novel L’histoire du Chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut by the Abbé Prévost, one of the first ever psychological novels, which was very popular throughout Europe.
The creators of the Mikhailovsky Theatre production, director Jürgen Flimm and designer George Tsypin, have kept the action in Paris but have changed the period, setting the events in the early twentieth century. In their vivid adaptation, the heroine is a budding movie star and her lover is also an actor, whilst her wealthy admirer is a Hollywood producer.
The set design for the show resembles film noir in style with its characteristic lighting contrasts and dramatic shadows. The striking costumes are very much in keeping with the cinematography of the 1930s and 1940s. The emotional content is unchanged, succinctly described by the director as: “One woman, two men — catastrophic consequences.”
Young Rene des Grieux talks to his friends about love. He has never been in love and they ridicule him. Lescaut and his sister Manon arrive. Des Grieux is enchanted by Manon’s youth and beauty and asks her for a secret meeting.
The rich man Geronte, who also has designs on Manon, bribes Lescaut to arrange for Manon’s abduction. Des Grieux decides to save Manon. He declares his love for her and persuades her to evade her elderly admirer and run off to Paris with him. Lescaut is not disturbed by these events. He assures Geronte that poor des Grieux will never be able to provide for Manon and that she will therefore leave him.
As Lescaut has foretold, Manon has given up Des Grieux and now lives as a rich mistress of Geronte. But Manon is already tired of luxury; her thoughts turn to Des Grieux. Musicians invited by Geronte enter to amuse her. When Manon is left alone, Des Grieux appears. At first the two are full of reproaches but soon they renew their vows of love. Lost in their passion, they do not notice the sudden arrival of Geronte. Manon has made up her mind to flee with des Grieux, but hesitates at the thought of leaving her jewels. She takes her time to snatch them up but now it is too late. Soldiers called by Geronte have arrived and arrest Manon as a thief and courtesan.
Manon is in prison. She is about to be deported across the ocean. Through the cell window Manon speaks to her beloved. The guard appears, escorting a group of imprisoned women. The crowd makes brutal comments during the roll call of the prisoners. Des Grieux implores the captain to let him board the ship.
A vast plain. Des Grieux supports the suffering Manon while they are making their way across the desert. She is exhausted and dying of thirst; she falls. Des Grieux can not help her. Manon is afraid of death. She asks Des Grieux to forgive her before dying in his arms.
Jürgen Flimm, Artistic Director of the Deutsche Staatsoper (Berlin), is currently spending almost every minute of the day in the rehearsal room, where work on Puccini’s opera Manon Lescaut is underway. During a short break, the well-known director described the kinds of transformations which the famous Abbé Prévost story, on which the libretto is based, has undergone.