A tale of love, despair, poverty, riches and eventually death, we follow Manon, a young woman whose life as a nun has been predetermined by her family. However, for Manon, this is not a viable option. Taking her life into her own hands, she rises to the top of French society – but what goes up must eventually come down. In the last moment of this wonderful work by Massenet, Manon appears a shell of her former self. After her lover bribes one of her captors who is escorting her for deportation to release her, she falls at his feet, exhausted – a broken woman.
This moment is one of opera’s most upsetting deaths. Manon, played here by Natalie Dessay, finds her only solace in her last moments in the arms of her lover. Lamenting her past actions, and her destruction of their love through her own greed, she sings to him with her last breath -a most heartbreaking expression of her love, her regret and her imminent death.
This is one of our favourite opera moments. What’s one of yours?