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Just now, JohnS said:

Osipova seems too knowing from the outset.  

 

We were posting at exactly the same time JohnS, using exactly the same words but coming to opposite conclusions (I on behalf of someone else). Shows how much room for different views there is! 

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20 minutes ago, penelopesimpson said:

James, absolutely delighted to hear such a positive review which gives me the impetus I needed to book for Osipova’s Swan Lake

 

Don’t think twice, just go! Despite much duff stagecraft in this latest production, Osipova knows what the audience expects from the show and keeps things fizzing, including some surprises (including those which, as revealed at an Insight evening, catch out the stage crew and the follow spot operators).

 

There are other ballerinas in the world today with perhaps a more refined classical technique but not many capable of generating the same level of excitement as well as passion. Sorry, off topic. 

 

ADDED...PS Apologies, thinking back to what James wrote I realise I got confused by the wording of penelopesimpson’s post. This is actually about whether to book in regard to David Hallberg, sorry for getting the wrong end of the stick. Hallberg will be beautiful but my (offtopic) point stands: one should go and see  Osipova dance this, whoever the partner is. Sorry for being muddled. 

 

Edited by Geoff
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6 minutes ago, Geoff said:

 

We were posting at exactly the same time JohnS, using exactly the same words but coming to opposite conclusions (I on behalf of someone else). Shows how much room for different views there is! 

 

I started off (in her previous performance) thinking that Osipova was too knowing at the outset; but as the performance went on I realised that she was still 'on a journey' :D and still producing a dramatically valid interpretation: her Manon thought she could control events (and herself) but was proved fatally wrong. So I had both reactions within the same performance!

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1 hour ago, Sim said:

Any other reports on last night’s Manon please?  

 

I'm saving my breath until the list of dancers one may write about in a positive light gets updated. 

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I think that comment is uncalled for, Coated, but if you don’t want to post that’s fine. 

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10 hours ago, Jamesrhblack said:


what can one write? I’ll be vilified. 

 

 

 

 

 

You can only write what you feel and even if others don't agree most people on here appreciate hearing another point of view, and sometimes it can even lead one to change one's own view (as happened to me once) !

 

The vilification crosses my mind when I post on here not sharing others enthusiasm for Campbell but I enjoy contributing to this site and I can't only post when I feel positive and agree with everyone else.

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For completeness I should have said that there was rapturous applause at the end of last night’s performance and it was great to see Osipova and Hallberg visiting both sides of the stage to acknowledge the audience with the house lights lit.

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I very much enjoyed last night’s performance but (thanks to my cat) it’s the only one I have seen this time.  Last run we saw Muntagirov who was wonderful, with a partner who was OK but not wonderful.

 

My thoughts on the Osipova/Hallberg performance:  I felt a distinct and powerful chemistry and affection between the two of them throughout, right until the very last curtain call in fact.   Osipova danced beautifully (I have never seen her do otherwise).  She isn’t one of those ethereal, magical ballerinas but instead solidly human and able to project something unique each time she performs.  And she was absolutely heartbreaking in the final act.  When Hallberg first appeared I nearly made an audible gasp as his stage presence was so powerful and completely elegant from blond hair to clever feet.  He is stylish enough to be well worth watching, with moments of great beauty of movement, even though he is no longer at the peak of his powers, and I was glad to see this pairing although from others’ reports I do wish I had bought tickets for Hayward/Campbell too.   (While I can imagine Francesca being a wonderful Manon, I’m not a fan of Alexander but will make an attempt to see them together in future in order to possibly be converted!)

 

I’m not a fan of Hirano either to be honest, although he did his usual decent job and the audience loved him.  Claire Calvert danced nicely as Lescaut’s mistress but wasn’t really memorable in the part.  Gary Avis was a suitably brutal gaoler.  What a difficult role that must be for a decent man! But really, everyone was overshadowed by Osipova as I suppose one might expect. She was at her best as ‘playful’ Manon in the second act, and I suspect that is closest to her real-life personality!  But I am haunted by her broken, abused and ultimately destroyed Manon of the final act – such a contrast, so movingly enacted.  It will stay with me for a long time.

 

Stix-Brunell was ably replaced by O’Sullivan as one of the courtesans – I hope Beatriz is OK. It was good to see Lukas Bjørneboe Brændsrød making a super job of his minor role and visibly enjoying it, and I am looking forward to seeing him develop.  It was good, also, to be reminded of how very interesting a choreographer McMillan is.  He stamps his complex personality on every work.  As a woman myself, I feel he really understands women and empathises with the plight of a victim.  He is one of the most humane and emotive of choreographers, especially considering he was working quite some time ago in a somewhat different place from today’s world.  And the music is so beautiful – I was reading in the excellent programme notes how Lucas and Gaunt selected a wide range of pieces from Massenet’s output – extending from operatic to symphonic and even religious works – and very successful they were too in melding them together to make an enchanting, satisfying ballet score.  Not quite up there with Tchaikovsky, but such a relief after Lamagna’s ‘sound design’ for Khan’s Giselle which I still can’t erase from memory.

manon small.jpg

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Well I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Manon on Saturday afternoon with Hayward and Campbell.  The time seemed to whizz by! Cesar Corrales was just fabulous he was so strong and his steps so assured I loved him!  Mayara Magri was great as well.  Francesca Hayward played Manon to a "T" and Alex was such a sensitive and caring De Grieux I really liked him, even if Corrales did slightly eclipse him dance wise.  Glorious music under the baton of Koen Kessels.

What a lovely afternoon - not a favourite of mine, Manon, but this cast was just the ticket.  I really enjoyed it and it ended with a tear brought to the eye,  so "job done" as they say.  Lovely to catch up with some fellow balletco-ers as well -  you know who you are!  Some photos from the curtain call:-

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Hayward and Campbell

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Gartside, Magri, Corrales, Hayward, Campbell, Arestis, Whitehead

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Hayward and Campbell

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Magri (and Corrales)

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Hayward and Campbell

Edited by Don Q Fan
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22 hours ago, LinMM said:

Am dying to know how Corrales performs as Lescaut this afternoon 

He as absolutely fabulous I loved him!  Very strong assured performance and the drunken scene was great!  Second only to Carlos Acosta IMHO!

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19 hours ago, Sim said:

 Corrales was amazing as Lescaut...his debut but one of the best I have seen.  Wonderful debut also from Mayara Magri as the Mistress.  More later when I have recovered, but for me, an unforgettable afternoon.  ❤️❤️

It was their debuts!!!! OMG stellar then!

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6 minutes ago, Don Q Fan said:

It was their debuts!!!! OMG stellar then!

They were both outstanding; it really was a most wonderful and moving performance over all, and I entirely agree with the “holistic” comment above. It really did seem that everything was cohering together so that individual excellence combined to an even greater whole.

 

More considered thoughts on the evening show when further ideas have percolated....

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20 minutes ago, Don Q Fan said:

Well I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Manon on Saturday afternoon with Hayward and Campbell.  The time seemed to whizz by! Cesar Corrales was just fabulous he was so strong and his steps so assured I loved him!  Mayara Magri was great as well.  Francesca Hayward played Manon to a "T" and Alex was such a sensitive and caring De Grieux I really liked him, even if Corrales did slightly eclipse him dance wise.  Glorious music under the baton of Koen Kessels.

What a lovely afternoon - not a favourite of mine, Manon, but this cast was just the ticket.  I really enjoyed it and it ended with a tear brought to the eye,  so "job done" as they say.  Lovely to catch up with some fellow balletco-ers as well -  you know who you are!  Some photos from the curtain call:-

 

 

 

Brilliant photos thank you - where were you sitting to take those?

 

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I watched the double Manon showing yesterday ... I had booked the matinee ages ago, and then stayed for the evening on a whim. 
 

I’ll start with the worst ... imagine the killing of the gaoler scene as follows:  David Hallberg as Des Grieux .. oh-shock-horror ... hand-over-mouth ... look-what-I-have-done .... in a ham acting way .... and then next moment all prissy upright dancing.  I nearly guffawed out loud it was so awful.   I noticed he (she?) altered some of the Act one bedroom pdd lifts - I assume he hasn’t the strength.  His lines are beautiful but it seems to me he has lost lots of muscle tone. The lyrical solos were not musical, no soft extending plies and too many rushed adagio movements and noisy landings.
 

Natalia Osipova was authentic to her interpretation throughout and it was convincing.  It may not be true to MacMillan’s original.  She is allowed liberties, which may be a good thing?   We don’t want to see copycat ‘acting’.  But oh for a stronger and more convincing partner for her. Bring back Matthew Golding, Vladimir Shklyarov.... Someone is going to have to tell her that David is undermining her impact. 

 

Back to the matinee. It proved to be the dream cast for me.  All four main dancers were special.  Frankie captivates throughout. Such an exceptional portrayal.  She has strong technique (not at the Nuñez level - who does!)  but boy can she send over a convincing character journey.  
 

The revelation for me was Alexander Campbell - where has he been hiding that super liquid adagio technique?  Soundless soft landings, multiple slow turns with control and ease, fully using all the music, high extensions, long lines (yes really ... has to be seen to be believed).  Wonderful musicality added to his cute young lover portrayal. Totally convinced by their partnership.  So emotional, sigh.

 

As an aside, I thought Nuñez danced a wonderful Manon last weekend too - Bolle really transports her to a better level, although his Des Grieux is beautiful but unemotional. He does try and his beauty carries us along.

 

Almost forgot to write about Cesar Corrales who was utterly brilliant ... superb comedic timing in the drunken solo and pdd and fully immersed in his cunning plans.  If I hadn’t been to the matinee I would have been thrilled with Ryo Hirano’s Lescaut.  I love his range of emotions - both comedic, conniving and scheming.  However, Cesar is technically amazing as well as grabbing one’s attention with his character that he far outshone Ryo and  Marci Sambe in this role.  
 

I loved all the Lescaut mistresses I’ve seen.  Mayara Magri at yesterday’s matinee had the edge, her accomplished technique allows her to enjoy the role and play with her interactions with the other characters.  Impressive debut.  Claire Calvert  (last night) has good comedic timing and expressions and Yuhui Choe (at Nuñez/Bolle performance) was coquettish and had gorgeous sensuous soft arms.  Bravo all.

 

Are we not blessed with the best ever character artists?   They are all brilliant.  I preferred Thomas Whitehead’s M.GM (with Frankie) and can’t chose between Bennett Gartside and Gary Avis as they gaoler.  They are so hardworking too, appearing in almost every performance as there are so many roles (the old gentleman, brothel clients) for them, Christopher Saunders, Philip Mosley and others (Enrico Montes I noticed).

 

i will never forget this special matinee performance of Manon.  Wonderful.  .    

Edited by FionaE
Typos
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10 minutes ago, MJW said:

 

Brilliant photos thank you - where were you sitting to take those?

 

Thank you - Front row Balcony (using x50 optical zoom lens!)

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Great review, Maryroses.  I also have problems with Hirano and since his below par Mayerling, have stayed clear. And then up he pops in a character role and I think wow.  Then the saga starts again.  I think I have decided that for me, despite his strong technique and undoubted stage presence he isn’t a leading man.

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13 minutes ago, FionaE said:

I watched the double Manon showing yesterday ... I had booked the matinee ages ago, and then stayed for the evening on a whim. 
 

I’ll start with the worst ... imagine the killing of the gaoler scene as follows:  David Hallberg as Des Grieux .. oh-shock-horror ... hand-over-mouth ... look-what-I-have-done .... in a ham acting way .... and then next moment all prissy upright dancing.  I nearly guffawed out loud it was so awful.   I noticed he (she?) altered some of the Act one bedroom pdd lifts - I assume he hasn’t the strength?  His lines are beautiful but has he lost lots of muscle tone?  The lyrical solos were not musical, no soft extending plies and too many rushed adagio movements and noisy landings.
 

Natalia Osipova was authentic to her interpretation throughout and it was convincing.  It may not be true to MacMillan’s original.  She is allowed liberties, which may be a good thing?   We don’t want to see copycat ‘acting’.  But oh for a stronger and more convincing partner for her. Bring back Matthew Golding, Vladimir Shklyarov.... Someone is going to have to tell her that David is undermining her impact. 

 

Back to the matinee. It proved to be the dream cast for me.  All four main dancers were special.  Frankie captivates throughout. Such an exceptional portrayal.  She has strong technique (not at the Nuñez level - who does?)  but boy can she send over a convincing character journey.  
 

The revelation for me was Alexander Campbell - where has he been hiding that super liquid adagio technique?  Soundless soft landings, multiple slow turns with control and ease, fully using all the music, high extensions, long lines (yes really ... has to be seen to be believed).  Wonderful musicality added to his cute young lover portrayal. Totally convinced by their partnership.  So emotional, sigh.

 

As an aside, I thought Nuñez danced a wonderful Manon last weekend too - Bolle really transports her to a better level, although his Des Grieux is beautiful but unemotional. He does try and his beauty carries us along.

 

Almost forgot to write about Cesar Corrales who was utterly brilliant ... superb comedic timing in the drunken solo and pdd and fully immersed in his cunning plans.  If I hadn’t been to the matinee I would have been thrilled with Ryo Hirano’s Lescaut.  I love his range of emotions - both comedic, conniving and scheming.  However, Cesar is technically amazing as well as grabbing one’s attention with his character that he far outshone Ryo and  Marci Sambe in this role.  
 

I loved all the Lescaut mistresses I’ve seen.  Mayara Magri at yesterday’s matinee had the edge, her accomplished technique allows her to enjoy the role and play with her interactions with the other characters.  Impressive debut.  Claire Calvert  (last night) has good comedic timing and expressions and Yuhui Choe (at Nuñez/Bolle performance) was coquettish and had gorgeous sensuous soft arms.  Bravo all.

 

Are we not blessed with the best ever character artists?   They are all brilliant.  I preferred Thomas Whitehead’s M.GM (with Frankie) and can’t chose between Bennett Gartside and Gary Avis as they gaoler.  They are so hardworking too, appearing in almost every performance as there are so many roles (the old gentleman, brothel clients) for them, Christopher Saunders, Philip Mosley and others (Erico Montes I noticed).

 

i will never forget this special matinee performance of Manon.  Wonderful.  .    

Take your point, Fiona, but the only thing Matthew Golding ever convinced me of was that I wished I had booked for someone else.  Like DH, for me his style is not RB

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Thanks for all these fab reviews especially as can’t now get to the sat mat dream cast Manon on the 29th 😢 

I agree maryrosesatonapin  that Osipova usually brings that human...even earthiness and always a uniqueness to roles ....however I have seen her both magical and ethereal.....in Giselle.

Thanks again Don Q for fab pics 
Next time I go to ballet ( will be Sleeping Beauty now) I will be going for the first time with a smart phone...have new Apple iPhone ...but am pretty sure any pics I manage will not be any where near as good as yours!! Always look forward to them and your reviews, 

 

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I also saw the Campbell/Hayward matinee performance yesterday and was completely captivated by it.  Francesca always manages to move me no matter what I see her in and her dancing is just so beautiful to watch.  She has a lovely connection with Campbell and, although I felt his dancing lacked a little power at times, it was always eloquent and elegant and overall his performance was one of the best, most deeply felt Des Grieux I have seen so far.   Corrales was a complete revelation as I hadn't seen him dance before.  What a talent!  His drunken pas de deux was genuinely funny, danced with flair and impeccable timing with Mayara Magri.  As with all the best performances I am still thinking about it this morning!

 

I didn't see the Osipova/Hallberg performance but I echo the comments of the poster above regarding Macmillan's powerful portrayal of Manon's plight and the more general situation of women at that time, as well as the cleverly selected music for the score.  I find the use of the light and airy music (from earlier in the ballet?) as Manon lies broken on the floor of the gaoler's office particularly haunting.  Given Francesca's fragility of appearance anyway, and her vivid characterisation throughout yesterday, it particularly moved me as underscoring  Manon's  journey.

 

Although I didn't see Osipova/Hallberg last night  I am enjoying reading the comments on their performance and all the other performances I haven't seen, it is what makes the forum such interesting reading.   I find it really fascinating to read so many different perspectives on one performance - and vive la difference!  It just goes to prove how great an art form ballet is.  

 

 

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Just to point out that (according to the Cambridge Dictionary) 'vilification' means 'the act of saying or writing unpleasant things about someone or something, in order to cause other people to have a bad opinion of them'. The only posts I have ever seen on this forum that come close to 'vilification' have been reported and deleted and the poster banned.

 

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1 hour ago, penelopesimpson said:

Take your point, Fiona, but the only thing Matthew Golding ever convinced me of was that I wished I had booked for someone else.  Like DH, for me his style is not RB


personally MG didn’t work for me either, but at least he can do the lifts.  He looks great in videos elsewhere. Don’t know why ROH seemed to stifle him.  I’d like to see him do Onegin with Osipova. I can’t see that Vadim is up to doing that role yet.  Happy to be proved wrong.

 

(sorry - going off topic) 

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I think you will be FionaE! 😊

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53 minutes ago, bridiem said:

Just to point out that (according to the Cambridge Dictionary) 'vilification' means 'the act of saying or writing unpleasant things about someone or something, in order to cause other people to have a bad opinion of them'. The only posts I have ever seen on this forum that come close to 'vilification' have been reported and deleted and the poster banned.

 

Well said, Bridiem. This website is generally not a culprit but so much of language has been distorted these days.  If you say you don't like something or someone, you become a hater.  If you make a criticism, it is bullying.  If a negative comment about a person who is not white Caucasian is made, you are a racist.  It is so tiresome and, like the little boy who cried wolf, means that people who are genuinely being any of the latter, slip under the radar.

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27 minutes ago, FionaE said:


personally MG didn’t work for me either, but at least he can do the lifts.  He looks great in videos elsewhere. Don’t know why ROH seemed to stifle him.  I’d like to see him do Onegin with Osipova. I can’t see that Vadim is up to doing that role yet.  Happy to be proved wrong.

 

(sorry - going off topic) 

Yes, can't fault his technicality.  I'm not sure about RB stifling him.  I think it was more that he was a mature dancer who had always performed in a certain way and that was his style.

 

Interested in what you say about Onegin.  I have never seen this ballet so have that treat to come and would welcome advice on casts.  Generally, it is Francesca and Ball's style that floats my boat and, of course, Osipova is always wonderful.

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20 hours ago, bridiem said:

I was in tears too. Such consummate storytelling from Hayward and Campbell - every action, every feeling, every thought as clear as daylight and combined with beautiful, rigorous technical prowess and intense musicality. AND two dancing as one; they are so beautifully matched physically and have absolute confidence in each other so they can take risks, physically and emotionally. Utter brilliance. And Corrales was a wonderful Lescaut - a real scoundrel, but with the charm to get his way (until he gets out of his depth). Hayward's Manon was heartbreaking; the jewels and money were just a temporary attraction that would lead her and Des Grieux to a better life - in themselves they were no competition for him, this loving and sincere man and the only person not treating her as a commodity. They were a means to an end. I've never before noticed a Manon recoil in such fear from the ratcatcher (who was beside Monsieur G. M. at the time - i.e. a terrible warning to her of the danger of what she was doing, but a warning she ignored until it was too late. And Campbell showed me for the first time the moment that Des Grieux assents to 'help' Lescaut at the end of Act I - normally all I ever see is Lescaut twisting his arm and Des Grieux struggling bitterly. I always assumed the assent came between the acts, but this time Campbell nodded desperately and therefore took the story forward as it should. So many superb moments from both of them, and as a couple. Magnificent.

 

Absolutely agree - I loved Alexander Campbell as Des Grieux - and I loved his partnership with Francesca Hayward.  Thought Corrales was terrific too - charismatic and technically great!  Haven't enjoyed seeing Manon so much since Durante and Mukhamedov back in the very far-off day!

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I wish I could rave as much about the Saturday matinée on 19 October of “Manon” as I did about ENB’s performances of the ballet last season but, with a few honourable exceptions, it felt decidedly flat which was very disappointing, especially as my ticket in the Stalls was almost double the price of my Stalls seat at the Coliseum!  There was an immediacy to the ENB performances which seemed to be lacking in this one by the Royal Ballet, as it did at the dress rehearsal last week, not least because of the pedestrian and passionless reading of the score by conductor Koen Kessels whose erratic tempi hampered all the pas de deux for Manon and Des Grieux.  All the way through, I kept thinking how privileged ENB is to have Gavin Sutherland as its Musical Director, who understands how MacMillan expected his choreography to flow with the music and who is instinctively sympathetic to how the dancers respond.  This might have been why there rarely appeared to be any spontaneity in the performance with almost everyone looking as if they had done it all before instead of making me believe events were happening for the very first time. 

 

Of the smaller roles, Paul Kay was an amiable and sprightly Beggar Chief and Bennet Gartside made a thoroughly nasty Gaoler, if lacking the authority the character demands.  Teo Dubreuil stood out among the gentlemen in Act I for his engaging personality and beautifully clean dancing, repeated in Act II as one of the pas de trois of gentleman, although the three of them were not always in unison.  I found the courtesans and harlots a bit too genteel, even in their battles with each other, and lacking in individual personalities.  I also realised that I prefer Mia Stensgaard’s minimalist sets for ENB (if not her costumes!) which bring the dancing and acting into sharp focus, as I found details got lost against the background of Georgiadis’s almost overwhelming designs. 

 

As Monsieur GM, Thomas Whitehead was a disappointment, being neither aristocratic nor dangerous enough.  Indeed, he seemed to have little sexual interest in Manon, especially in the Act II pas de trois which lacked eroticism, despite the best efforts of Lescaut and Manon to display her wares.  Whitehead seemed more intent on the mechanics of the choreography rather than using every opportunity of touching Manon’s leg or foot to indicate his increasing arousal which MacMillan’s well-known foot fetish surely demands. 

 

Mayara Magri was a breath of fresh air as Lescaut’s Mistress, bringing a vivacity and intelligence to the role which was evident in the moment after he brutally forces her to look at the tumbril of prostitutes about to be deported and she realises this could be her fate – a wonderful moment of soul-searching stillness.  Her use of épaulement in her solos was lovely and indeed my only wish would be for slightly better definition of some of the intricate footwork in them.  A very accomplished debut performance!

 

Magri was a perfect foil to the Lescaut of Cesar Corrales, also making his début in the role.  From his wonderful, brooding presence at the start of the ballet, his Lescaut was a blend of elegance and bravura, perfectly displayed in his Act I solo with his beautiful footwork and perfectly executed turns with panther-soft landings.  A charming, manipulative, chancer who also showed his volatility when his mistress was distracted by a man other than the one he had chosen for her and later when forcing money on Des Grieux, I loved the way he rushed to ingratiate himself with GM as soon as he alighted from the carriage and almost seemed to be orchestrating all of the happenings before and after Manon’s arrival.  There was genuine affection between him and Manon but it did not prevent him from getting his way and sending her off with GM.  In Act II, his drunken solo and pas de deux were the best and most genuinely funny I have seen on the opera house stage since Stephen Jefferies in the role, coached of course by MacMillan himself, in the early 1980s. Both were masterclasses in comic timing, aided and abetted by a wonderful chemistry and rapport with Magri, which belied the fiendish difficulties of the choreography.  With his wonderful talent of completely inhabiting a character, his Lescaut did not sober up too quickly and it was only in a wonderful moment when he cut through the sword-fight of Des Grieux and GM with a mixture of terror and anger in his eyes that he appeared to be fully sober again.  Showing his bravura until the end, there was a feeling of defiance about him as GM brought him, battered and bruised, to the lodgings of Des Grieux until the shocking moment, reflected on his face, as he is shot and killed.

 

Alexander Campbell looks like the youthful and amiable, other-worldly Des Grieux of Abbé Prévost, if not possessed of the long, lean lines of Anthony Dowell on whom the choreography was created.  However, I felt he relied too much on his appearance and did not imbue the actual choreography with enough personality or emotion.  In the solos, he was definitely hampered by the tempi which were often too slow and would have challenged even a dancer with a longer arabesque line to fill out the musical phrases.  The pas de deux also suffered from tempi that were too slow and did not move forward, making it almost impossible, despite his secure partnering, for Campbell to bring any sense of reckless abandon and ecstasy to the first two, and very little risk-taking or sense of urgency to the final one.  Even the moment which usually takes my breath away – Manon’s final, off-balance arabesque  - did nothing for me at this performance because of the lack of urgency in the music which meant that Kessels was not with Campbell as he caught Manon by the wrist to prevent her falling.

 

Manon was the lovely Francesca Hayward whose waif-like physique and expressive eyes were used to perfection.  Hers was a Manon already perfectly aware of her allure who has her eyes opened by her brother as to how she can use it to obtain the luxury she so obviously desires.  However, I would have liked her footwork to be more expressive at certain points, most noticeably the signature step (a series of walks en pointe and relevés travelling forwards) danced to her theme music (“Twilight”) which occurs each time Manon first appears in each Act.  Likewise, her legs and feet could have been more expressive in the beautiful aerial walks in the first pas de deux with Des Grieux, and there could have been more voluptuousness in the little ronds de jambe and dégagés in the sensuous Act II solo.  Her dance with the seven gentleman after that solo was hampered by a plodding tempo which meant the lifts were difficult for the men to sustain and must have made her ‘dives’ particularly challenging but she floated serenely through it with a beguiling sensuality.  Her descent into the broken Manon of the last scene was very touching and, if I was not as emotionally engaged by her Manon as I was by her Juliet last season,  I would say this is because of the unhelpful tempi for the pas de deux and perhaps not as strong a chemistry with her Des Grieux as she had with her Romeo. 

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Regarding the music, it seemed to me that there have been a few extra ‘pieces of music’ unrelated to the MANON score spliced in inbetween scenes. One was before the bedroom pdd in Act 1 and one before the gaoler’s pdd in Act 3.  They seemed to be there to allow the scene changes to happen but were not really needed.  Anyone have any info on this?

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50 minutes ago, FionaE said:

Regarding the music, it seemed to me that there have been a few extra ‘pieces of music’ unrelated to the MANON score spliced in inbetween scenes. One was before the bedroom pdd in Act 1 and one before the gaoler’s pdd in Act 3.  They seemed to be there to allow the scene changes to happen but were not really needed.  Anyone have any info on this?

When the score was re-orchestrated, a piece was inserted before the gaoler's pas de deux to cover the scene change.  I am not convinced by it or by its necessity!  The interlude before the bedroom pas de deux in Act I has always been there , or at least as long as I have been watching the ballet which is since the late 1970s!

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1 hour ago, Irmgard said:

I wish I could rave as much about the Saturday matinée on 19 October of “Manon” as I did about ENB’s performances of the ballet last season but, with a few honourable exceptions, it felt decidedly flat which was very disappointing, especially as my ticket in the Stalls was almost double the price of my Stalls seat at the Coliseum!  There was an immediacy to the ENB performances which seemed to be lacking in this one by the Royal Ballet, as it did at the dress rehearsal last week, not least because of the pedestrian and passionless reading of the score by conductor Koen Kessels whose erratic tempi hampered all the pas de deux for Manon and Des Grieux.  All the way through, I kept thinking how privileged ENB is to have Gavin Sutherland as its Musical Director, who understands how MacMillan expected his choreography to flow with the music and who is instinctively sympathetic to how the dancers respond.  This might have been why there rarely appeared to be any spontaneity in the performance with almost everyone looking as if they had done it all before instead of making me believe events were happening for the very first time. 

 

Of the smaller roles, Paul Kay was an amiable and sprightly Beggar Chief and Bennet Gartside made a thoroughly nasty Gaoler, if lacking the authority the character demands.  Teo Dubreuil stood out among the gentlemen in Act I for his engaging personality and beautifully clean dancing, repeated in Act II as one of the pas de trois of gentleman, although the three of them were not always in unison.  I found the courtesans and harlots a bit too genteel, even in their battles with each other, and lacking in individual personalities.  I also realised that I prefer Mia Stensgaard’s minimalist sets for ENB (if not her costumes!) which bring the dancing and acting into sharp focus, as I found details got lost against the background of Georgiadis’s almost overwhelming designs. 

 

As Monsieur GM, Thomas Whitehead was a disappointment, being neither aristocratic nor dangerous enough.  Indeed, he seemed to have little sexual interest in Manon, especially in the Act II pas de trois which lacked eroticism, despite the best efforts of Lescaut and Manon to display her wares.  Whitehead seemed more intent on the mechanics of the choreography rather than using every opportunity of touching Manon’s leg or foot to indicate his increasing arousal which MacMillan’s well-known foot fetish surely demands. 

 

Mayara Magri was a breath of fresh air as Lescaut’s Mistress, bringing a vivacity and intelligence to the role which was evident in the moment after he brutally forces her to look at the tumbril of prostitutes about to be deported and she realises this could be her fate – a wonderful moment of soul-searching stillness.  Her use of épaulement in her solos was lovely and indeed my only wish would be for slightly better definition of some of the intricate footwork in them.  A very accomplished debut performance!

 

Magri was a perfect foil to the Lescaut of Cesar Corrales, also making his début in the role.  From his wonderful, brooding presence at the start of the ballet, his Lescaut was a blend of elegance and bravura, perfectly displayed in his Act I solo with his beautiful footwork and perfectly executed turns with panther-soft landings.  A charming, manipulative, chancer who also showed his volatility when his mistress was distracted by a man other than the one he had chosen for her and later when forcing money on Des Grieux, I loved the way he rushed to ingratiate himself with GM as soon as he alighted from the carriage and almost seemed to be orchestrating all of the happenings before and after Manon’s arrival.  There was genuine affection between him and Manon but it did not prevent him from getting his way and sending her off with GM.  In Act II, his drunken solo and pas de deux were the best and most genuinely funny I have seen on the opera house stage since Stephen Jefferies in the role, coached of course by MacMillan himself, in the early 1980s. Both were masterclasses in comic timing, aided and abetted by a wonderful chemistry and rapport with Magri, which belied the fiendish difficulties of the choreography.  With his wonderful talent of completely inhabiting a character, his Lescaut did not sober up too quickly and it was only in a wonderful moment when he cut through the sword-fight of Des Grieux and GM with a mixture of terror and anger in his eyes that he appeared to be fully sober again.  Showing his bravura until the end, there was a feeling of defiance about him as GM brought him, battered and bruised, to the lodgings of Des Grieux until the shocking moment, reflected on his face, as he is shot and killed.

 

Alexander Campbell looks like the youthful and amiable, other-worldly Des Grieux of Abbé Prévost, if not possessed of the long, lean lines of Anthony Dowell on whom the choreography was created.  However, I felt he relied too much on his appearance and did not imbue the actual choreography with enough personality or emotion.  In the solos, he was definitely hampered by the tempi which were often too slow and would have challenged even a dancer with a longer arabesque line to fill out the musical phrases.  The pas de deux also suffered from tempi that were too slow and did not move forward, making it almost impossible, despite his secure partnering, for Campbell to bring any sense of reckless abandon and ecstasy to the first two, and very little risk-taking or sense of urgency to the final one.  Even the moment which usually takes my breath away – Manon’s final, off-balance arabesque  - did nothing for me at this performance because of the lack of urgency in the music which meant that Kessels was not with Campbell as he caught Manon by the wrist to prevent her falling.

 

Manon was the lovely Francesca Hayward whose waif-like physique and expressive eyes were used to perfection.  Hers was a Manon already perfectly aware of her allure who has her eyes opened by her brother as to how she can use it to obtain the luxury she so obviously desires.  However, I would have liked her footwork to be more expressive at certain points, most noticeably the signature step (a series of walks en pointe and relevés travelling forwards) danced to her theme music (“Twilight”) which occurs each time Manon first appears in each Act.  Likewise, her legs and feet could have been more expressive in the beautiful aerial walks in the first pas de deux with Des Grieux, and there could have been more voluptuousness in the little ronds de jambe and dégagés in the sensuous Act II solo.  Her dance with the seven gentleman after that solo was hampered by a plodding tempo which meant the lifts were difficult for the men to sustain and must have made her ‘dives’ particularly challenging but she floated serenely through it with a beguiling sensuality.  Her descent into the broken Manon of the last scene was very touching and, if I was not as emotionally engaged by her Manon as I was by her Juliet last season,  I would say this is because of the unhelpful tempi for the pas de deux and perhaps not as strong a chemistry with her Des Grieux as she had with her Romeo. 

 

Very interested to read your detailed thoughts Irmgard, thank you for taking the time to post them.

 

It had slipped my mind when I posted that even I, someone with a tin ear, found the tempi yesterday insufferably slow. I agree with your thoughts about the ENB orchestra and Gavin Sutherland. I had a similar revelation in Stuttgart recently where the Staatsorchestra made the Mayerling score sound immeasurably better than it ever does in London. 

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