Before Mimi, Tosca and Cio-Cio San there was Manon Lescaut. Greedy for pleasure, the impulsive antiheroine was the first femme fatale in French literature.
Premiered in Turin in 1893, Puccini’s adaptation turned a sentimental narrative into an operatic sensation. Four episodes of ensnarement and escape trace the affair between Manon and Des Grieux from Amiens to Paris, and Le Havre to Louisiana, with a stunning intermezzo for strings. In the cruel and glorious opera that made Puccini’s name, a convent girl becomes a courtesan, then a convict, forever unable to choose between a life of luxury and a life of love.