Puccini’s Manon Lescaut
When he set out to write a new opera based on the same irresistible heroine that inspired Massenet’s popular Manon, the young Puccini was undaunted by the risk of provoking comparisons. As he explained: “Why shouldn’t there be two operas about Manon? A woman like Manon can have more than one lover.” And in his take on the alluring young country girl who becomes the toast of Paris before suffering a swift fall and ignominious end, Puccini came through with a masterpiece equal to Massenet’s, trading the French composer’s urbane elegance for overwhelming emotionality.
Kristine Opolais stars in the title role of Puccini’s passionate early masterpiece, alongside Roberto Alagna as des Grieux and Massimo Cavalletti as Lescaut. Fabio Luisi conducts.
Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde
Inspired by Wagner’s own tortured affair with the wife of his patron, this searing masterwork is based on Arthurian legend and tells of an illicit romance between a Breton nobleman and the Irish princess betrothed to his uncle and king. The composer’s larger-than-life sensibilities are on full display throughout the score: Along with intoxicating orchestral music that surges in tandem with the couple’s burgeoning passion and a chord left symbolically unresolved until the last moments of the opera, the opera also features one of the repertory’s most soaring and ecstatic final climaxes, as Isolde surrenders to a love so powerful that she transcends life itself.