Manon Lescaut (Auber)

Manon Lescaut (Auber)

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.


Performance history

The opera was premièred on 23 February 1856 by the Opéra-Comique at the second Salle Favart in Paris. It was the first work to be staged by that company that did not have a happy ending.[1] It was staged in Liege in 1875, and revived at the Opéra-Comique in 1882.[2] 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.

In 1990, it was staged at the Opéra Comique de Paris with the Picardy Sinfonietta in Amiens conducted by Patrick Fournillier. Next year the live recording of the opera was released by the French label Le Chant du Monde. Another stage performance took place 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
A Sergeant bass Duvernoy
Two bourgeois
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.

Musicological notes

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.


  • Manon Lescaut - Mady Mesplé, Jean-Claude Orliac, Peter-Christoph Runge, Yves Bisson - Choeurs et orchestre lyrique de Radio France, Jean-Pierre Marty (conductor) - EMI (recorded in October 1974).
  • Manon Lescaut - Elizabeth Vidal, Alain Gabriel, Rene Massis - Les Choeurs Du Theatre Francais De La Musique, the Orchestre Regional De Picardie Le Sinfonietta, Patrick Fournillier (conductor) - Le Chant du Monde (recorded live in 1990, released in 1991).


  1. ^ J-L Tamvaco: "Auber, a Paris celebrity" in the Wexford Festival Opera programme book, 2002.
  2. ^ Loewenberg, p. ?

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