Manon - Royal Ballet - Royal Opera House - Covent Garden

On 28 March 2000 I went to ROH to see the ballet Manon adapted from Jules Massenet’s opera (not to be confused with “Manon Lescaut” by Puccini based on the same story).

‘Manon’ is Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s very sexy ballet of 25 years ago. The Orchestra of the ROH was conducted by Andrea Quinn. Jonathan Cope replaced Irek Mukhamedov (absent due to illness) as Des Grieux. Manon was Viviane Durante. Nigel Burley was Lescaut (a rollicking drunkard who greedily pimps for his sister Manon). The Caoler was Ashley Page. David Drew was Monsieur G.M.

The ballet gave a vivid picture of the two sides of Paris – the rich aristocracy with their carriages, furs and jewellery contrasting with the beggars in the gutter. A vast cast of soloists plus crowd scenes of courtesans`, gentlemen, clients, harlots, skivvies, actresses, beggers, girls and boys, townspeople, rat-catchers, servants, played by Artists of the Royal Ballet and students of the Royal Ballet School.

Act I - Is set in France in the courtyard of an inn near Paris frequented by gentlemen, actresses and the demi-monde. Among them is the impoverished student Des Grieux. Also at the inn is Lescaut as he has come to meet his sister Manon who is on her way to a convent! The role of Manon a real hard steeliness – out for all she can get in the way of the finer things in life. But while she is deeply attracted to ermine and jewels she is also attracted to Des Grieux who she falls in love with when they meet at the inn. However, she also yields to Monsieur G.M.’s lecherous advances.

Act II - At a party she is torn between her love of Monsieur G.M.’s wealth and her love for Des Grieux who tries to persuade her to run away with him. But she tells him he has to first take more of Monsieur G.M.’s money at cards. Des Grieux is caught cheating and he and Manon rush away. At Des Grieux’s lodgings Monsieur G.M. arrives with the police and Manon is arrested as a prostitute. In the ensuing struggle Lescaut is killed. At one stage he had danced a marvellous drunken duet with his mistress played by Christine McDermott.

Act III - Takes place in New Orleans. The Gaoler of the Penal Colony awaits the arrival of the convicts from France. Manon has been deported to America as a prostitute and Des Grieux follows her there pretending to be her husband. The Gaoler becomes interested in Manon and offers her rewards in the hope that she will desert Des Grieux and live with him. Des Grieux breaks in and kills the Gaoler. Manon and Des Grieux escape into the swamps of Louisiana. All her former ambitions of wealth have been renounced for her love for Des Grieux. Whilst eluding their pursuers Manon collapses and dies in Des Grieux’s arms. Ah!!!!!!!!!!!


Verinha Ottoni.


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