Opera Scotland

Manon Lescaut 1918O'Mara Grand Opera Company

Read more about the opera Manon Lescaut

It may seem surprising that Manon Lescaut was performed in London quite quickly after its Turin premiere, but needed a further twenty years before reaching the provinces. However that London launch was only a limited success, an immediate result being that Covent Garden didn't even take La bohème into its programme until it had proved its worth elsewhere.

Puccini's later operas - La bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly and even The Girl of the Golden West - were all played in Scotland before Manon Lescaut. Since then, the earlier work has always lagged behind in popularity. It was not presented in Manchester until 1916, and this performance in Aberdeen was the Scottish premiere.

However late, by 1918 it was regarded with enthusiasm. The following morning's Aberdeen Daily Journal (Wednesday, 13 November) wrote - 'Notwithstanding its patchy nature, Puccini has set the libretto to noble music. Through it all runs a pleasing stream of melody and sweet concord that falls fragrantly on the ear.....The grand points of Manon Lescaut are exemplified in the ensemble at the close of the third act, the lovely intermezzo which links up the third and fourth acts, and the whole of the last act, in all of which the composer reaches the ideal in grandeur, expression, and poetic feeling and sympathy.'

According to the Aberdeen Evening Express the following evening (Wednesday, 13 November) - the opera received 'an interpretation which, both from the dramatic and the musical point of view, was richly suggestive and in many passages perfectly fascinating........The ensemble at the close of the third act was a triumph of the genius of Puccini, and the last act, in poignant pathos and tragic intensity, could hardly be surpassed.'

While both reviewers were generally enthusiastic about the performers, the Journal gave more detail, especially about soprano and conductor:-

'Miss Jean Gibson, who assumed the name-part, is a gifted young vocalist, with a rich voice, used under careful guidance, and she displays commendable histrionic ability. The intensity of her tragic acting is arrestive and full of conviction. In the last act Miss Gibson strikes the true note of tragedy.'

'Perhaps the real charm of the performance lay in the orchestration, which is full of intricate tracery, mostly of a delicate and refined character, calling for the utmost in interpretation from the players. Under the watchful guidance and direction of Mr J R Forbes the orchestra did excellently, all things considered.'

The abbreviated cast is as listed in both reviews. No copy of the programme appears to have survived.

Performance Cast

Edmondo a student

John Pegg

Chevalier des Grieux

Charles Neville

Lescaut a sergeant in the King's Guards

Flintoff Moore

Geronte di Ravoir Treasurer-General

John C Browner

Manon Lescaut

Jean Gibson

Performance DatesManon Lescaut 1918

Map List

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

12 Nov, 19.30

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