REVIEW: Manon Royal Ballet Royal Opera House Covent Garden

PUBLISHED: 11:57 11 December 2008 | UPDATED: 15:41 07 September 2010

BY EDWARD THORPE Four star rating One of the pleasures of watching a Kenneth MacMillan full-length ballet is to see how different dancers interpret the leading roles. This is why, as with great drama, one goes to see Ro

Manon

Royal Ballet

Royal Opera House

Covent Garden

Four star rating

One of the pleasures of watching a Kenneth MacMillan full-length ballet is to see how different dancers interpret the leading roles. This is why, as with great drama, one goes to see Romeo and Juliet, Anastasia, Mayerling etc again and again.

Two young principals, Roberta Marquez and Ivan Putrov, recently made their debuts in MacMillan's Manon. This story, extracted from the long, complicated novel by the Abbe Prevost, concerns Manon, a young woman torn between her genuine love for the impoverished Des Grieux and the luxury offered by the rich roue Monsieur G.M.

Life in 18th century Paris veered between the extremes of the rich and powerful, dabbling in the lives of the demimonde, and the wretched destitution of the poor in which thievery and prostitution were their main escape routes.

From her first entrance Manon displays an awareness of the power that her youth and beauty gives her over men. That attraction is exploited by her venal, pimping brother, Lescaut, who does not hesitate to sell her, for his own gain, to Monsieur G.M. Des Grieux, ostensibly destined for an ecclesiastical vocation, is also ensnared by his love for Manon, an obsession that leads them both to the final tragedy in the swamps of Louisiana where Parisian prostitutes were deported.

Marquez plays Manon as a natural coquette; there is a child-like delight in her ability to fascinate men and she retains this coquettishness even in the grand brothel scene of the 2nd act. Not for her the calculated sophistication of the grande horizontale, she remains vulnerable to her own wayward emotions.

Des Grieux, too, is easily swayed, ready to abandon his moral calling in order to regain possession of Manon. Both Marquez and Putrov are slightly built which reinforces the impression of two innocents abroad, out of their depth in a world of decadence and corruption. They dance beautifully together: she is light, fast, with a quicksilver brilliance; he, for all his boyish appearance, partners with strength and assurance, managing the high lifts without a tremor, dancing his solos with a poetic fluidity.

MacMillan also provides the large supporting cast with great histrionic opportunities: Brian Maloney is a suitably vicious Lescaut, his 2nd act drunk scenes cleverly brought off; Gary Avis is a louche, cruel Monsieur G.M.; Helen Crawford is attractive as the abused mistress of Lescaut; Genesia Rosato is an elegant Madame, as desirable as any of her cocottes; Thomas Whitehead a lustful, brutal Gaoler.

With this cast MacMillan's Manon retains its ability to absorb one into an era that casts reflections upon our own times. The Royal Opera House played Massenet's melodic music with suitable panache under the direction of Martin Yates.


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