L'histoire de Manon
Scene one The courtyard of an inn near Paris.
At curtain-rise Lescaut, a young adventurer, contemplates the world which he must plunder in order to live. He has come to the inn to meet his sister Manon, who is on her way to a convent. In the crowded innyard we see a procuress, Madame, with her stable of actresses and courtesans, including Lescaut’s mistress; the Chevalier Des Grieux, a well-born young student; andMonsieur Guillot de Morfontaine, a rich man of the world.A coach arrives bringing Manon, whose youthful beauty has already attracted a fellow-passenger, an old gentleman. Lescaut is aware of Manon’s value, and leads the old man into the inn to discuss the availability of Manon, while realising that Guillot de Morfontaine is also interested in her. But Des Grieux has fallen in love with Manon, and she agrees to elope with him.As they leave by coach, Lescaut returns with the old man, but Guillot de Morfontaine has made a much higher bid for Manon, and Lescaut agrees to go in search of her and induce her to accept Guillot de Morfontaine as protector.
Scene two Des Grieux’s lodgings in Paris.
Des Grieux is writing to his father, but Manon’s passion drives all other thoughts from his head.When he finally leaves to despatch his letter, Lescaut enters with Guillot de Morfontaine who brings jewels and opulent clothes for Manon. Thrilled by the vistas of wealth she can see, Manon responds to Guillot de Morfontaine and stifles her regret at leaving her first love in the consoling touch of furs and jewels. Lescaut await des Grieux’s return and tells him that there will be huge financial rewards if Manon stays with Guillot de Morfontaine.
Scene one A private house in Paris.
Madame is giving a party, pairing off the courtesans she provides with various gentlemen. Lescaut, already drunk, arrives with the grieving Des Grieux, and they see the arrival of the magnificently dressed Manon on the arm of Guillot de Morfontaine. Lescaut dances drunkenly with his mistress, and the disconsolate Des Grieux watches Manon, who is admired by every man present.When the guest leave to take supper in another room, Des Grieux reminds Manon of his love. She is unmoved, then declares that she will go away with him if he wins a great deal of money from Guillot de Morfontaine at cards, and she gives Des Grieux the extra cards which will enable him to win by cheating. Des Grieux is so successful that Guillot de Morfontaine’s suspicions are aroused and a brawl ensues. Manon and Des Grieux escape, while Guillot de Morfontaine accuses Lescaut of complicity.
Scene two Des Grieux’s lodgings.
Manon and Des Grieux prepare to leave Paris, but quarrel over Manon’s jewels, then show their love for one another again. Guillot de Morfontaine arrives with guards and the hand-cuffed Lescaut. Manon is arrested as a prostitute, and in the confusion Lescaut is killed.
Scene one The port at New Orleans.
A crowd at the dock-side watches the arrival of a penal ship bringing criminals to the French colony of Louisiana. Among a group of prostitutes deported from France is Manon. Des Grieux has accompanied her, claiming to be her husband. Even now Manon’s beauty attracts an admirer: the gaoler of the penal settlement.
Scene two The gaoler’s apartment.
Manon is brought in and the gaoler makes love to her, giving her jewels as a recompense.Des Grieux enters and kills the gaoler,and then flees with Manon.
Scene three The Louisiana swamps.
Manon and Des Grieux are fleeing from justice.Manon is feverish and in her delirium figures from her past appear and disappear amid the mists of the swamp. She declares her love for Des Grieux, then dies in his arms.