“Preachers, you who want to restore me to virtue, tell me that virtue is absolutely necessary, but do not hide from me that it is also harsh and painful.”
A.-F. Prévost, L’histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut (1732) (first part)

When Abbé Antoine-François Prévost wrote L’histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut in 1731, he little imagined it would provide inspiration for operatic composers. Yet for Auber, Massenet, Puccini and others it did. Jules Massenet's score portrays the French Regency period which saw the twilight of an old world unable to move forward and the apparent birth of a new world offering plentiful promises of freedom. Manon is a complex character, torn between the two. She avoids being sent to a convent and embarks on a life of lasciviousness and wrongdoing. Her personal leap into the void is her passionate but self-destructive love affair with Des Grieux, a brief but delightful parenthesis which comes to a tragic end.

Stage director Olivier Py, in his much-lauded production for the Grand Théâtre de Genève, eludes the historical trap of 18th-century libertinage to create associations with memorable but vulgar scenes in sordid, commonplace brothels. One of his images is unforgettable: that of Des Grieux finding Manon in a state of prostration but adorning herself with jewels which can do nothing to restore happiness or meaning to her life.

The opera Massenet drew from Prévost's novel was premiered at the Opéra-Comique in 1884. Touched by the entrancingly spontaneous music, the audience were able to overlook the protagonists' amoral and tortuous existence. Manon, who yearns above all for luxury and comfort, lapses into betrayal and prostitution and is sentenced to be deported to Louisiana. Her death in the arms of the powerless and remorseful Des Grieux carries a sobering message. From a misogynistic viewpoint, Manon's strength and ability to embody wrongdoing and moral ruin have made her a literary myth on a par with the likes of Cleopatra, Eve, Salome, Carmen or Lulu.

The leading couple are played by Javier Camarena, as the ingenuous Des Grieux, and Nadine Sierra, as the sparkling Manon. With Marc Minkowski on the podium, they make up a brilliant trio which revives this paradigm of French opera based on a provocative tale of loose morals about two adolescents with a thirst for life who face a dilemma and ultimately a tragic end.  

With the suport of:

Opéra comique in five acts
Libretto by Henri Meilhac and Philippe Gille
World premiere: 19/1/1884 at the Opéra-Comique (Salle Favart) in Paris 
Barcelona premiere: 29/12/1894 at the Gran Teatre del Liceu 
Last Liceu performance: 9/7/2007 
Total number of Liceu performances: 145 

  • Approximate running time 2h 40m

Artistic profile

Stage director
Olivier Py
Choreography for this version
Daniel Izzo
Set design
Pierre André Weitz
Costume design
Pierre André Weitz
Bertrand Killy
Grand Théâtre de Genève and Opéra-Comique (Paris)


MANON LESCAUTNadine Sierra20th,22th,24th,27th,30th April and 3th May
Amina Edris21th,23th,26th,29th April and 2th May
POUSSETTEInés Ballesteros
JAVOTTEAnna Tobella
ROSETTEAnaïs Masllorens
CHEVALIER DES GRIEUXJavier Camarena20th,24th,27th,30th April and 3th May
Pene Pati21th,22th,23th,26th,29th April and 2th May
LESCAUTAlexandre Duhamel20th,22th,24th,27th,30th April and 3th May
Jarrett Ott21th,23th,26th,29th April and 2th May
COMTE DES GRIEUXLaurent Naouri20th,22th,24th,27th,30th April and 3th May
Jean-Vincent Blot21th,23th,26th,29th April and 2th May
Chorus of the Gran Teatre del Liceu (Pablo Assante, director)
Symphony Orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu
Marc Minkowski

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