Massenet's opera centres on its charming but contrary heroine, the vivacious young Manon who longs for luxury and excitement. We first encounter her en route to a convent, where her family are sending her to be educated. Along the way, she falls in love with the young student Des Grieux, and, impetuously, runs off with him. She soon leaves him, however, to become the mistress of a rich nobleman. Thus begins her descent into criminality and depravity, all too soon dragging the besotted Des Grieux with her, until she is imprisoned. Despite its tragic story, the opera is full of French charm and vitality – typified by the ambiguous Manon herself. Her plight is touching because of the subtle play of innocence and calculation in her character. The score contains many sparkling arias and ensembles, moving rapidly from moods of exuberance to tenderness, with perfect dramatic timing. Recorded live at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin, April/May 2007.