Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 1 February 2015





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Manon electrified at the Royal Ballet

Mounted on the main stage of the Royal Ballet for the Autumn season, Manon was more than a treat for ballet lovers. This breathtaking masterpiece with its mixed highly-charged emotions was brilliantly presented with nothing left for imagination.

Marianela Nunez as Manon and Nehemiah Kish as Das Griues in Act III from the Royal Ballet production choreographed by Kenneth Macmilan.

The production was made possibly by the generous sponsorship from the Royal Opera House Endowment Fund and The Linburry Trust.

This is a stunning ballet choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan on adult themes. The story is about a student, Des Grieux, who is devoted and passionately in love with the beautiful courtesan, Manon Lescaut.

Though she loves him equally, she is morally weak and easily controlled by her brother who promises much wealth in return for her services. She is lost between money and love and cannot make up her mind with the plodding of her brother.

As this sorrowful tragedy unfolds, MacMillan's brilliant choreographic imagination rouses fire with breathtaking ‘pas de deux’ in perfection. Here, Mariennla Nunez is at her brilliance as Manon and no second to her is Nehemiah Kish as Des Grieux. They simply mix to each other in one of the best ‘pas de deux’ I have seen live.


We felt their breath and anguish reach from the stage. Such was the infinite love they shared. Nothing held back as they gave themselves to each other. The tenderness built into their roles by MacMillan was well displayed and executed by the two great dancers long enough to stun the audience.

The glamour of the 18th century and backstreet happenings of prostitution, obsession and tragedy are highlighted with sensual dramatic devastation as only MacMillan can.

The ballet will have more appeal to the younger generation as well as for newcomers.

Haunting music by Massenet enhances the ballet with rich melody and emotion. To know Mannon is to know Massenet goes the saying in music and ballet circles.

A street scene from Manon.

He shot to fame overnight with opera, the story of high emotion and eroticism. It contains sentimental lyricism of the French tradition with dramatic orchestral advancements. He was primarily interested in giving the public what they wanted.

The Manon Lescaust was an enormous success. He used leitmotiv throughout the score and adroitly spins some wonderful melodies. He departs from the original story but achieves greater dramatic unity.


From then on, Massenet's story was one of increasing power and influence. He is a leading opera composer sought after for modern classical singers in concert halls.

A three-act ballet was choreographed by MacMillan with music arrangement by Massenet, produced in May 1974 at Royal Ballet, Covent Garden with Sibley and Dowell along with Rancher, Mason and Drew.

The ballet follows roughly the plot of Abbe Provest's Manon of 1731 choreographed by Aumor Duponchel with its premier on April 30, 1870 at Opera, Paris. The cast included Montessu, Taglioni.


Choreography – Kenneth MacMillan
Conductor – Martin Yates
Music – Jules Massenet
Orchestration – Martin Yates
Designs – Nicholas Georgiadis
Lighting/design – John B Read

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in attendance.


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