Personalities | Abbé Prévost | Turn of the Century | Opera
Prévost has a place in operatic history quite simply because two major nineteenth-century composers made lasting operas out of his work: Massenet’s Manon and Puccini’s Manon Lescaut both derive from Prévost’s most famous novel, L’histoire du Chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut. Its exploration of the tribulations of a passionate woman made ideal material for operatic exploration. Puccini’s and Massenet’s settings make an interesting contrast, both in the slant of their libretti and in the emphasis of their musical responses. In fact, operatic interest in Prévost’s work had started far earlier. Daniel Auber had composed a Manon Lescaut in 1856 and the English composer Michael Balfe’s opera Maid of Artois (1836), written for Maria Malibran, was based on the same text. More recently, Hans Werner Henze’s Boulevard Solitude of 1952 used Prévost as its source.
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