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Manon Lescaut Costume, Puccini’s Act II

Manon Lescaut.

Now, this is a shipwrecked woman in my book, though it is a fictional book, mind you. This is such a dramatic character of a woman that she had several operas convey her story! her character was created by Abbe Prevost(1731) in a novel that was transformed into opera by Auber, Massenet, and Puccini (and in that order chronologically). Puccini was advised to refrain from using an already used, or has-been, story. According to the

    Grove Book of Operas.

 

Puccini confidently believed Manon’s dramatic character enough to move forward with his opera about her- he felt that since she had more than one lover, she deserved more than one opera(Sadie). (Really, you should buy this book and see how decisions about staging, casting, etc, are made…it’s brilliant!)

Act 3 of Puccini's "Manon Lescaut"

Act 3 of Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut”

It’s a wrecking storyline- (though each has it’s own divergence from the original, including my own)- Manon is sent out by her father to join the convent, she is pursued at the local square by 2 men- one poor and one rich. Of course, as fate would have it, she is dreadfully in love with the poor man but ends up marrying the rich man. Each offer her freedom from her current path: one of emotional freedom, the other financial freedom. As the stories differ a bit, there is either kidnapping, coercing, or fleeing involved, but, over the course of the next few acts, Manon tries to undo the choice of the wrong lover (with the help of her brother) and rejoin her true love who re-appears and many lovely arias resound…… sigh….

In each interpretation, she is arrested for either ill-famed relations or theft, and then condemned to join a convoy of criminals that are sent overseas to Louisiana. Again, depending on the interpretation, she either dies before the ship sails off, or she sails overseas and escapes into the desert, where she is left to die of thirst while her true love tries to find water to save her. uuuuuuuuuuugh….you feel me?

yeah. i know. opera. not everyone is into this spirit of passion, desire, vengeance, & relentless heartaches. my dad’s from italy, so i grew up eating this stuff, but, if you are reading, i gather that it’s edifying to you, somehow, too? so what I am about to write, then, shouldn’t be too much of a shock to the reader as my fantastical & phantasmal mind went there…or goes there…hark! who goes there? (sorry, couldn’t help myself)

I’ve appreciated this text and all of it’s interpretations, but…

i imagined the ship sinking before it ever gets to Louisiana.

yes’m, that’s right, but, even more so, i imagined it so strongly that i was convinced that it occurred in the text, and it wasn’t until right before the release of the CD that I realized that I had misread or deluded myself with my own fantastical, enamored illusion! [hence, the song, “drama.”] manon lescaut, this “has-been” who has “been had” both by the system, her confining family, and her love relations, sinks to the bottom of the ocean, and death leads to her final freedom, where she can swim & explore…

I imagine Manon Lescaut, the victim, the lover, the daughter, the child, & the seeker -as a shipwrecked maiden, serving as a siren now, calling us to her story of dramatic appeal…..where perhaps we can each feel what it is to be human alongside her; to long, to wish, to hope, to choose, to love, to fail, to resolve, to violate, to escape….to swim, again


track 4 is “drama”
 on the CD.

Here’s the link to the music video, showing my interpretation of the story.