Classic opera “Manon Lescaut” to close out Regina Opera’s 46th season

Wrapping up its 46th season, Regina Opera Company is going out with one of its most ambitious productions yet, Giacomo Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut,” an opera based on an 18th century novel by Abbe Prevost that was composed in the late 1800s.

The story centers on a woman, Manon, who chooses greed over true love.

“It’s a five-act play. It’s an interesting story as it’s about a very flawed heroine,” said Stage Director Linda Lehr. “She’s kind of like a socialite of her time. Passions make her make bad choices for herself. Even though she dies at the end, she’s redeemed. She ends up dying in the desert of thirst and her last words are loving ones to her love. She left some of her selfishness behind. It’s bittersweet.”

Though the story is timeless, it’s the music that separates this opera from others. “We are presenting it with a 35-piece orchestra,” said Regina Opera Company President Francine Garber-Cohen.

“What everyone would say right away [is that the best part] is the music,” added Lehr. “It’s so beautiful. The text might not speak to you but the music pulls you in.”

The addition of a orchestra is expected to excite audiences. “There’s something about a live orchestra that gives the show such a visceral feel,” she went on.

“We rehearse with a piano accompaniment, but no matter how fabulous they are, it’s never the same as performing with a full orchestra,” said Garber-Cohen. “It increases the beauty of the opera. It’s more interesting for singers and, because we have a 35-piece orchestra, more singers are willing to sing with us. And they are very talented.”

“We have a marvelous cast in our leads. We got very lucky,” Lehr agreed, adding, “The supporting cast plays a large role.”

The story has central themes that both Lehr and Garber-Cohen want audiences to take away with them. “There’s the idea that there’s more to life than material wealth or comfort,” Lehr said. “It’s beautiful in Act Two, when she admits that she is missing her love. Although she was attached to her treasures, she still feels emptiness inside.”

“It’s different from more popular operas,” Garber-Cohen said. “The main thing for us is we want people to experience it as if they’ve never heard it before, the beauty of it. The music, the voices and the orchestra are inspiring.”

Accord to Garber-Cohen, you don’t need to love the opera to enjoy the show. “Even one of our maintenance men who works at OLPH sat at a rehearsal and listened. He was amazed and said the music was so moving. You don’t have to be a diehard opera fan,” she said. “This was his first ever but he was moved by the power of their voices. We want people to see the opera even if they’ve never seen one.”

With presenting an ambitious opera come several challenges. “It’s a grand opera and a big scale. It’s probably the largest in terms of chorus and casting. The locations are the largest ones we would do,” Lehr said.

“We did this opera around 1987. It happens to be a difficult opera to sing. Many singers are singing at the same time and it’s just rhythmically difficult,” added Garber-Cohen. “Most companies don’t attempt the opera. But the music is beautiful.”

“Manon Lescaut” will debut on Saturday, May 14 at 3 p.m. at the OLPH Auditorium, 5902 Sixth Avenue. Performances will also be held on May 15, May 21 and May 22, all at 3 p.m. General admission is $26 for adults and $5 for teens. For tickets, visit

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