The fugue is a musical form in which one or more relatively simple imitative parts enter (or begin to repeat) at different times to create a multilayered bloom of sound. It’s easier to hear than to explain—and Puccini provides an excellent example in two selections from Act II, deploying a fugue to indicate swiftly rising tension. Track 34 comes as Geronte stumbles upon the secret meeting between Manon and des Grieux. Listen to the line of orchestral music before Geronte announces himself. (“Affè, madamigella”—So, young lady, now I understand why we’ve been waiting!) at melody simply rings of trouble, here in the person of Geronte.
Track 35 is heard a few minutes later. Geronte has left to call the police. Des Grieux and Manon have been discussing their escape. As Lescaut bursts in to tell them the police are arriving, the selection begins—with the same line of melody that meant trouble at Geronte’s entrance. Now, however, the line enters again and again and again, its melody overlapping, rising, driving forward. We can’t help but hear how much more trouble the lovers are in. at’s the emotional power woven in sound by Puccini’s brief fugue.