Premiered at the Opéra Comique in Paris on January 19, 1884.
Composed by Jules Massenet
Two wealthy Parisians, Guillot and De Brétigny, are at an inn near Paris. A charming girl, Manon, arrives on her way to enter a convent. She is escorted by her cousin Lescaut.
Manon is quite the center of attention and Guillot begins to flirt with her. Even so, Manon catches the eye of a young student, Des Grieux, with whom she falls in love. The young couple runs away to Paris partly for love and partly to escape Manon’s having to enter the convent.
Manon and the student Des Grieux live together in Paris. But Manon soon begins to feel the heavy weight of poverty. Des Grieux departs to mail a letter to his father asking permission to marry Manon. De Brétigny arrives just in time to woo her away with the promise of riches and a life of luxury. She also learns that Des Grieux's father is on his way to take his son home. Manon decides to leave her love to join De Brétigny.
In a park gathering at which Des Grieux's father is present, Manon overhears him say that Des Grieux is preparing to receive orders to enter the Church. Torn between wealth and love, Manon leaves in secret to find Des Grieux. When she meets him, she pleads with him to run away with her. At first, he rebuffs her, but in the end, he surrenders to his love.
Manon and Des Grieux enjoy their life together again, but the girl misses the luxury to which she has become accustomed. Manon persuades Des Grieux to try gambling to mend their financial situation. When Des Grieux wins, Guillot accuses him of cheating. Manon and Des Grieux are arrested.
Des Grieux is set free after his father intervenes, but Manon is to be deported. Des Grieux makes a failed attempt to free her from prison, which he follows up with a bribe to the jailer. During his last meeting with Manon, the girl, exhausted from hardship and deprivation, dies in Des Grieux arms.