Tenor Brian Jagde (photograph by Simon Pauly, courtesy of San Francisco Opera)
Next month will see the return to the War Memorial Opera House of a San Francisco Opera (SFO) production of Giacomo Puccini’s opera Manon Lescaut, based on the French novel of the same name by Antoine François Prévost (best known as the Abbé Prévost). Jules Massenet had been inspired by Prévost’s novel to create the opera Manon, working with a libretto in French by Henri Meilhac and Philippe Gille, which was given its first performance in 1884. Puccini was determined to take his own approach to Prévost to avoid being confused in any way with Massenet.
The road to uniqueness is often not an easy one. In this case Puccini went through five librettists before arriving at a final text for Manon Lescaut. (There are some speculations that Puccini himself may have been a sixth librettist.) Anyone who has seen both operas can appreciate Puccini’s ambition and achievements. There is no confusing one with the other!
The staging will be a revival of the production conceived by Olivier Tambosi for the last run of performances presented by SFO, which took place in November and December of 2006. The conductor for those performances was Donald Runnicles. This season the podium will see the return of former Music Director Nicola Luisotti, whose interpretations of Puccini were consistently satisfying during his SFO tenure. Similarly, there will be familiar faces in the leading roles. The title character will be sung by Lianna Haroutounian; and the role of the Chevalier des Grieux, who serves as the narrator in Prévost’s text and whose attraction to Manon is ill-fated, will be taken by tenor Brian Jagde. Both of these vocalists will be singing their respective roles for the first time.
This production will be six performances that will take place at 7:30 p.m. on November 8, 13, 16, 20, and 26, and at 2 p.m. on November 24. (On November 26 the role of des Grieux will be sung by Rafael Davila, who will be making his SFO debut.) All performances will take place at the War Memorial Opera House at 301 Van Ness Avenue, on the northwest corner of Grove Street. Single tickets are priced from $26 to $408. There is also a facility fee added to the price of the tickets: $2 for all Balcony sections and $3 for all other tickets. Tickets may be purchased online through an event page on the SFO Web site that provides hyperlinks for each performance. Tickets may also be purchased at the Box Office in the outer lobby of the Opera House. Standing room tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on the day of each performance. They are sold for $10, cash only.