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Metropolitan Opera's Metro'Manon Lescaut' explores struggle between material and carnal

KEN HOWARD/METROPOLITAN OPERAKristine Opolais plays the title character and Roberto Alagna is des Grieux in Puccini's "Manon Lescaut," which will be broadcast live in high definition on Saturday.
KEN HOWARD/METROPOLITAN OPERAKristine Opolais plays the title character and Roberto Alagna is des Grieux in Puccini's "Manon Lescaut," which will be broadcast live in high definition on Saturday.

Just days ago the jaw-dropping news from the Metropolitan Opera was that celebrated tenor Jonas Kaufmann had been forced to withdraw from the upcoming production of Puccini's "Manon Lescaut" and had been replaced by Roberto Alagna, a situation that allowed the newcomer just over two weeks to prepare for opening night.

The subsequent news is that, working 12-hour days, Alagna accomplished the task, and the results will be broadcast to the Douglass Theatre on Saturday. British director Sir Richard Eyre has re-located this tale of urgent, uncontrolled passion from 18th century France to the period of German occupation, a decision that has not met with universal admiration. Musically, however, the production has received excellent reviews.

The Puccini opera, not the first to be based on the novel by Abbe Prevost, tells the tragic tale of the nubile Manon Lescaut and her struggle between her desire for creature comforts and her desire for virile male companionship.

When we first meet Manon, played by soprano Kristine Opolais, her brother is in the process of delivering her to a convent. They never make it. First the elderly (but wealthy) admirer Geronte plans to abduct the beauty and carry her to Paris, but the young chevalier des Grieux, smitten to the core, acts first.

In spite of the passionate relationship between the pair, Manon ends up ensconced in an elegant apartment with Geronte. What will happen? Manon is faced with painful choices, but ultimately, the lovers end up in Louisiana, where this story of the struggle between the material and the carnal will have its end. Bring tissues.

"Manon Lescaut" was first performed at the Met in 1907, with the celebrated Enrico Caruso in the role of des Grieux.

Up next in the 2015-16 HD series is another Puccini opera. While not all opera fans know "Manon Lescaut," coming in April is "Madame Butterfly," a crowd pleaser of the first magnitude.

"Manon Lescaut"

When: 12:55 p.m. March 5

Where: Douglass Theatre, 355 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., and the Galleria Mall Stadium Cinemas 15, 2980 Watson Blvd., Warner Robins

Cost: $24 adults, $20 seniors and students

Information: www.metopera.org/hdlive; 478-742-2000

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