Reviewer Ian Robert Hills WFM 97.2
The English National Ballet ‘Manon’ danced its way to Manchester Opera House on UK tour
Sixty world-class dancers performed alongside a full orchestra in one of the most acclaimed story ballets, created in Britain by Kenneth MacMillan with music by Jules Massenet.
The story of Manon is as romantic and intense as Romeo and Juliet. Manon is a young woman living in 18th-century France who has been promised as a mistress to an older gentleman. When she falls in love with a penniless student, she is faced with a stark choice. Cue a tale of love, decadence, and greed.
[Picture: Joseph Caley and Alina Cojocaru in Manon – by Laurent-Liotardo]
This is a truly spectacular ballet, full of fire and passion. The final duet between the two lovers is one of the most heart-breaking things you’ll see on stage this year.
In the opening scene in Paris, set in the courtyard of an inn, we are immediately drawn to the differences in the classes. The locals are dishevelled and dirty, dressed in rags, and this is in stark contrast to the gentry and aristocrats who are getting drunk on champagne and living in grand style, wearing rich, expensive, heavy, embroidered outfits. This portrayal made me think no wonder the French had a revolution and guillotined their monarchy and aristocracy.
At one point a wagon full of prostitutes is dragged across the stage – a fate awaiting Manon. We move next to Madame’s gaming and whore house where Manon persuades her young lover to cheat Monsieur GM at cards to run away with his money.
Manon ends up being deported as a prostitute to the French colonies and she is followed by her lover. They escape into the swamps, where she dies in her lover’s arms, with only the use of dry ice to create the illusion of a swamp.
The dancing was not only exciting but beautiful to watch. The two lovers, Manon (Alina Cojocaru) and Des Grieux (Joseph Caley), were perfectly matched. English National Ballet dancers are some of the finest in the world and a joy to watch.
This is only the second time in 30 years that ‘Manon’ has been performed in Manchester.
The combination of beautiful sets, costumes, lighting, the orchestra and sixty dancers offered a once in a lifetime experience for the audience.
English National Ballet, ‘Manon’, is now on UK tour. For more information about this production go to: ballet.org.uk/production/manon
For information about performances at Manchester Opera House and to book tickets go to: atgtickets.com