"Gathering around a score" by Charles Baude (1853–1935) shows Massenet rehearsing Manon
with Sibyl Sanderson in Pierre Loti's drawing room. It was used as the cover of Le Théâtre
in July 1889.
The opera was a mainstay of the Opéra-Comique in Paris, reaching its 1,000th performance there in 1919, its 1,500th in 1931 and 2,000th in 1952.
The first Manon was Marie Heilbron; other noted interpreters include Sibyl Sanderson (Massenet's personal favorite), Fanny Heldy, Lucrezia Bori, Amelita Galli-Curci, Bidu Sayão, Victoria de los Ángeles, Anna Moffo, Beverly Sills, Edita Gruberová, Renée Fleming, Anna Netrebko, and Natalie Dessay. Due to its heavy vocal demands, the role of Manon was described by Sills as "the French Isolde". As famous interpreters of Des Grieux, Kobbé lists Edmond Clément, Enrico Caruso, Beniamino Gigli, Tito Schipa and Ferruccio Tagliavini; Wolff also lists Gaston Micheletti, Adolphe Maréchal, Charles Fontaine and Libero de Luca.
Within a year of its Paris premiere, Manon was given its UK premiere in January 1885, in Liverpool; in the US, the Academy of Music in New York presented the opera later the same year, on 23 December. At the Royal Opera House in London it was first presented 19 May 1891, and in the post-war period the company has given it two productions, in 1947 and 1987. The Metropolitan Opera gave its first staging on 16 January 1895, and Manon has subsequently been performed there on 266 occasions. Anna Netrebko recently starred in a new production directed by Laurent Pelly, a co-production with the Royal Opera House, which was simulcast in HD on 7 April 2012. The San Francisco Opera gave the opera many stagings beginning on 29 September 1924, the most recent being November 1998.
In the 1980s a piano score was discovered where spoken dialogue was set as recitative by Massenet, possibly for the Italian premiere; this version was performed at the Opéra de Saint-Etienne as part of the 2009 Massenet Festival.
Today, Manon is frequently performed. In 2014 Operabase showed 19 countries presenting (or planning to present) a total of 425 performances of 81 productions in 61 cities.
The ballet L'histoire de Manon by Kenneth MacMillan, although using music entirely written by Massenet, does not include any from Manon.