Manon Lescaut, a beautiful young girl from the provinces, is being taken to a convent by her brother Lescaut. Des Grieux, a student, falls in love with her at first sight. Geronte, a rich old man, is also attracted by Manon and plans to abduct her. Des Grieux is warned of Geronte’s plot by his friend Edmondo. Des +Grieux confesses to Manon that he is in love with her and the young couple run off together. Lescaut assures Geronte that Manon will soon tire of a life of poverty with Des Grieux: it will not be long before she turns to Geronte and his wealth.
Lescaut’s plan has been successful: Manon has left Des Grieux in favour of a life of luxury with Geronte. She admits to her brother that in spite of her newfound wealth, she misses Des Grieux. Geronte shows off Manon to some of his friends. Left alone, Manon is startled when Des Grieux suddenly appears. He reproaches her
bitterly for having deserted him. She begs his forgiveness and he falls under her spell again. The two lovers are reunited passionately when Geronte suddenly returns. Manon laughs at him and he leaves, threatening revenge. Des Grieux urges Manon to escape immediately, but she is reluctant to abandon the luxuries of her new life. Lescaut suddenly appears and informs them that Geronte intends to have Manon imprisoned. Manon frantically attempts to gather up jewelry, money and clothes, but she takes too long: Geronte
returns and has her arrested.
Des Grieux and Lescaut are planning to rescue Manon, but their plan fails. Manon’s humiliation and disgrace are made public: she is to be deported. Des Grieux remains obsessed by her and begs to be allowed to go with her.
Manon is dying in the desert. She begs Des Grieux to try and find some water. Left alone, she reviews her life, acknowledging the mistakes she has made. When Des Grieux returns, she finally tells him that she loves him before dying in his arms.