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Manon is one of Kenneth MacMillan's most powerful full length ballets, dealing with the clashes between abject poverty and ostentatious riches, love and greed in 18th-century Paris. It's based on the novel Manon Lescaut by Abbé Prévost, and tells the story of an innocent but shallow country girl, who comes to Paris on her way to a convent, and there finds love with the penniless poet Des Grieux.
Easily corrupted by the riches on offer, Manon abandons Des Grieux for a life as a courtesan, thereby unleashing a catastrophic chain of events that ends with her deportation, further degradation and eventual death in the swamps of Lousiana.
It's fertile MacMillan territory and the choreographer brings it vividly to life, with passionate, deeply sexual pas de deux between the lovers, as well as ensemble pieces that portray the hustle and bustle of the streets of Paris, with its beggars, pickpockets and prostitutes, the sumptuous interior of the high-class brothel, and the suffocating swamps of Louisiana, fringed by Spanish moss and swathed in dense mist.
English National Ballet dances the MacMillan choreography; but its own production is rather more sparing than that of The Royal Ballet, which is more familiar to London audiences.
When it was last seen in London, ENB's Manon was given a a four-star review byCulture Whisper, praising Alina Cojocaru's nuanced interpretation of the difficult title role, alongside Joseph Caley's loving and unfailingly loyal Des Grieux.
This recording, made at the Manchester Opera House in 2018, boasts the same superb cast. Massenet's transporting score is played live by English National Ballet Philharmonic.
If you can ignore the truly awful women's costumes of Act II (what were they thinking?), everything else – dancing, sets, costumes – is superb, and well worth a couple of hours of your time, while you look forward to Monday 17 May, when we're promised that live performance will return to London's theatres.
|What||English National Ballet, Manon on demand|
|Where||Online | MAP|
01 Mar 21 – 01 Mar 22, Available for 72 hour rental from 1 March. Dur.: 2 hours approx