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