At its heart is a love story of sorts: the country girl Manon arrives in Paris on her way to a convent, but falls in love and elopes with the penniless poet Des Grieux. However, the prospect of a life of luxury as the mistress of the rich, reptilian Monsieur GM proves too attractive to pass on. Manon leaves her lover and sets off for the demi-monde of Paris.
Lauren Cuthbertson as Manon, Bennet Gartside as Monsieur GM and artists of the Royal Ballet in Manon © ROH 2019. Photo: Alice Pennefather
Manon is shallow and grasping, but her punishment for attempting to swindle her rich protector is out of all proportion and you can't help but feel for her: she's deported to Lousiana, followed by her faithful lover Des Grieux. There she finally meets her death of fever in a truly harrowing final scene set in the Louisiana swamps. If you're not in tears by the end of this ballet, the dancers are not doing their job…
Mercifully, there's no danger of that. Over an extended run, The Royal Ballet offers a variety of casts, all of which will bring something of themselves to the roles, without taking anything away. There are too many to mention here, but we would like to highlight Natalia Osipova, a very effective Manon, partnered by the dashing Reece Clarke. Although each one of them has danced the lead roles before, this will be the fist time they do so together in what's becoming an established Royal Ballet partnership.
Also very exciting is Royal Ballet rising star Fumi Kaneko, who debuts as Manon, partnered by Vadim Muntagirov, a beautiful Des Grieux. Well worth viewing, too, are Marianela Nuñez, a seasoned Manon, partnered by the guesting Italian superstar Robert Bolle, and Lauren Cuthbertson and Matthew Ball (pictured top).
Among the important supporting roles, Ryoichi Hirano and Alexander Campbell, both very expressive dance actors, will dance the difficult role of Manon's dissolute brother, the drunkard Lescaut; Mayara Magri and Iztiar Mendizabal will dance Lescaut's mistress.
Mayara Magri as Lescaut's mistress, Thomas Whitehead as Monsieur GM and artists of The Royal Ballet in Manon © ROH 2019. Photo: Alice Pennefather
Part of the appeal of this ballet, over and above MacMillan's eloquent, ultimately devastating story-telling, are Nicholas Georgiadis' sets and costumes: sparsely furnished muted tones for Des Grieux's poor lodgings; sumptuous, warm colours for the rich world of Monsieur GM; dark with overhanging Spanish moss for the Louisiana swamp. This run of Manon marks Georgiadis's centenary.
The score for the ballet is a collage taken from Jules Massenet's canon assembled by Leighton Lucas and Hilsa Gaunt. It will, of course, be played live by the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House.
Age Guidance: 14+
|What||The Royal Ballet, Manon, Royal Opera House|
|Where||Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
17 Jan 24 – 08 Mar 24, 19:30, Sat 3 & 17 Feb and 2 Mar at 13:00 & 19:00 Dur.: 2 hours and 45 mins inc two intervals
|Website||Click here to book|