Other than Giuseppe Verdi, probably the greatest Italian opera composer is Giacomo Puccini.
Several of Puccini’s works — including “La Boheme,” “Turandot,” “Tosca” and “Madama Butterfly” — are among the most popular and important operas ever composed, with songs that are known by people who have never set foot in an opera house.
Before he wrote those classics, Puccini wrote an opera titled “Manon Lescault.” Though not as well-known as some of his others, it was Puccini’s first big success, and made the 19th-century opera world take notice.
“Manon Lescault” begins the winter season at the The Sarasota Opera. It opens Saturday and continues through March 23. The company’s other winter operas — “Carmen,” which opens Feb. 17, “Norma” (March 3) and “Tiefland” (March 10) — will run in rotation through late March.
“Manon Lescault” is one of at least three operas based on an 18th-century French novel. The story is a romantic tragedy about a young nobleman who defies his father by running away with the beautiful Manon. He gives up his inheritance in order to live with her, but she has luxurious tastes and leaves him when the money runs out. They reunite, but it does not end well.
Details: Through March 28 (in rotation), Sarasota Opera House, 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. 7:30 p.m. Feb. 10, 18 and 26, March 8, 14, 17 and 25; 1:30 p.m. Feb. 15, March 3, 22 and 28. $19-$135. 941-328-1300, sarasotaopera.org.