Manon Lescaut is an opera or opéra comique in 3 acts by Daniel-François-Esprit Auber to a libretto by Eugène Scribe, and, like Puccini's Manon Lescaut and Massenet's Manon, is based on the Abbé Prévost's story Manon Lescaut. Auber's version is the least-performed of the three.
The opera's première took place on 23 February 1856, at the Opéra-Comique, Paris. It was the first work to be staged there that did not have a happy ending. It was staged in Liege in 1875, and revived at the Opéra-Comique in 1882. However, it subsequently disappeared from the repertory.
In North America, the opera was performed once around 1977 in New York City by a small opera company, and another live performance occurred in 2006, given by the Lyric Opera of Los Angeles at the Los Angeles Theatre.
The opera was staged at the Wexford Festival in October/November, 2002.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere Cast, 23 February 1856
(Conductor: - )
|Manon Lescaut||coloratura soprano||Marie Cabel|
|Des Grieux||tenor||Henri Puget|
|Le Marquis d'Hérigny||baritone||Jean-Baptiste Faure|
|Lescaut, Manon's cousin||tenor||Beckers|
|Marguerite, Manon's friend||soprano||Léocadie Lemercier|
|Gervais, her fiancé||tenor||Jourdan|
|Madame Bancelin cabaret hostess||mezzo-soprano||Mme Félix|
|Monsieur Durozeau commissaire||baritone||Lemaire|
|Monsieur Renaud Inspector||baritone||Nathan|
|Zaby, a young slave||soprano||Mlle Bélia|
|Court nobles, Bourgeois of the Boulevard du
Temple, Soldiers, Male and female workers;
Inhabitants of New Orleans, negroes, Colonial soldiers
The story only loosely resembles the original novel by Prévost (where, for instance, Lescaut is Manon's brother, not her cousin). There is one character - the Marquis d'Herigny - who represents the several wealthy suitors that Manon became involved with in the novel. Some other characters are absent entirely, and others are completely new to this telling of the story.
The role of Manon Lescaut has possibilities for several high F's, almost never-ending florid passages, and several major arias. The role of the Marquis d'Herigny, written for the famous baritone, Jean-Baptiste Faure, features three full airs or couplets before he dies at the end of Act II. Des Grieux has two major arias in Massenet's opera, four in Puccini's - but none in Auber's, although he does take part in one of the work's best numbers, the death of Manon at the very end of the opera.
One number in the score retained its popularity after the rest of the opera was all but forgotten. This was Manon's solo, "C'est l'histoire amoureuse", also known as "L'éclat de rire" or the Laughing Song. It is not a free-standing aria (in fact, it forms part of the Act 1 finale), but since its creation it has been a popular showcase for the technique of coloratura sopranos such as Adelina Patti (who sang it during the lesson scene in The Barber of Seville), Amelita Galli-Curci, Joan Sutherland and Edita Gruberová.
There was previously only one known copy of the piano/vocal score, able to be checked out from a library. It is now also available through Lyric Opera of Los Angeles. Additionally, the only known copy of the conductor's score was only available on microfilm at the New York Public Library. There were no individual parts for the orchestral players available in the U.S. Parts have been created through a meticulous cut & paste operation performed over the course of many weeks on the public-domain conductor's score.