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Manon Lescaut

by Puccini


[This synopsis, like my others, is very, very brief. The reason is that I find the normal programme note much too long, and needlessly detailed and complicated. What I want is more of an overview. If I’ve read an overview – a sort of synopsis of a synopsis – I find that, particularly with the help of surtitles, there is then absolutely no need for a blow-by-blow description of the plot.]



Manon Lescaut is the tragic story of a courtesan confronting the conflict between a life of luxury and love.


Act 1 is in Amiens. Manon is being sent to a convent by her father. An older man, Geronte (a tax collector and therefore rich), is planning to abduct her. Her brother, Lescaut, is part of the plot.


Des Grieux is a penniless student and falls in love with her when she arrives in Amiens. He, with the help of his student friend Edmondo, manages himself to abduct her and they escape to Paris.


Act 2 is in Paris. Manon has left des Grieux because he has run out of money and moved in with Geronte. She gets bored and starts seeing des Grieux again. Geronte has her arrested as she is about to leave with des Grieux. (They might have got away if Manon hadn’t been so keen to pack up her jewellery.)


In Act 3 Manon is in prison in Le Havre. After various failed efforts to get her out, she is put on a boat for Louisiana. Des Grieux manages to wangle his way onto the boat.


Act 4 is set in a desert in Louisiana. She is in a state of collapse and dies in des Grieux’s arms.

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