Saturday, March 29, 2008

Puccini's Manon Lescaut



Puccini's Manon Lescaut is what I played almost continually while writing Trianon; the score, tinged with 18th century melodies, explores youthful joie de vivre as well as the depths of tragedy and abandonment. It is based on what was considered a rather racy novel for its time, banned when first published in 1731, about an innocent young girl who sacrifices both innocence and love for wealth and comfort, only to lose everything.

Some people try to depict Manon as an early feminist, living life on her own terms. She did anything but live independently; she was subject to the whims and pleasures of the men in her life, just like other courtesans. And yet one cannot help feeling sorry for her and mourning the beautiful love she threw away for material gain. But since her romance had begun with cohabitation, one could not really expect it to endure, since living on pure pleasure with no commitment can be tiresome when clothes become threadbare and food runs in short supply. Written with Puccini's usual insight into human passions and their consequences, Manon Lescaut shows how easy it is to fall and how difficult it is to extricate oneself from certain bad choices. For those who find the story distasteful, in spite of the moral, the music is sublime and worth the listen. Share

4 comments:

Alan said...

Reminds me a little of Flaubert's Madame Bovary, which I read in high school -- a tragedy, really.

elena maria vidal said...

Very tragic! Some of those classic novels about adultery are scary!

properlyscared said...

One of my book clubs just read Madame Bovary. We found Emma to be overly infected with a romantic idea of actual life--her expectations led to continuous dissatisfaction with her life that sent her off looking for "love in all the wrong places."

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, in Emma's case, I don't understand why she did not just focus on raising her little daughter.