Artistic Director David Bintley often speaks reverently of choreographer Kenneth MacMillan. The novel Manon Lescaut by Abbé Prévost has inspired numerous adaptations. It was the basis for operas by Giacomo Puccini and Jules Massenet, and has also been the subject of paintings and films. The thing that has reached across generations to capture the imaginations of so many artists is the character of the femme fatale, Manon. MacMillan's Manon is considered by many to be the pinnacle of British ballet, and an enormously challenging one that tests the overall caliber of any ballet company. At the heart of the narrative lies the pure love between Manon and Des Grieux. This is a beautiful and magnificent tale, of the love and death of two young people who surrender themselves to their passions, pursue luxury and pleasure, and follow a path to destruction to the very end. The ballet features several duets which incorporate many of the acrobatic lifts that are a characteristic of MacMillian's work. These elements, set against the lovely melodies of Jules Massenet, combine to exert a powerful emotional impact on the viewer.
Manon is a ballet characterized by dramatic expression and a meticulously crafted structure, and one which also highlights the magnetism of the individual dancers. It was a resounding success with audiences at the time of its premiere by the National Theatre of Japan in 2003. The dancers of the company have gained much experience since then, performing in two overseas productions and staging several new ballets. Now, after a nine-year absence, anticipation is building for this revival of Manon.
A brilliant work such as this is a fitting way to wrap up the season, and we hope to see you there.
Manon meets Des Grieux (a young student) and they fall in love and decide to escape to Paris. Monsieur G.M. tells Lescaut that he too is interested in Manon and because of G.M.'s wealth Lescaut promises to find Manon and persuade her to accept him.
With little hope, de Grieux writes to his father, imploring permission to marry Manon. Des Grieux goes to post the letter and in his absence Lescaut arrives with Monsieur G.M. Manon yields to G.M.'s advances.
Manon arrives at the party given by Monsieur G.M. and is clearly torn between the wealth of her companion and her love for Des Grieux, who is there with Lescaut. Des Grieux tries to persuade Manon to leave with him but she tells him that the time is not right and will be only when he takes more of Monsieur G.M.'s money at cards. Des Grieux is caught cheating and he and Manon rush away.
Monsieur G.M. ariives with the police and Manon is arrested as a prostitute. In the ensuing struggle Lescaut is killed.
Manon has been deported to America as a prostitute and Des Grieux has followed her there by pretending to be her husband. The Gaoler now turns his interest towards Manon.
The Gaoler has arrested Manon but 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 have escaped into the swamp of Louisiana. While eluding their pursuers Manon collapses and dies in Des Grieux's arms.