Lush , lavish and opulent this is a story of youthful , fragile innocence corrupted , a journey from glittering luxury to the depths of poverty and despair. A wonderful revival of the major full length Macmillan work, the Australian Ballet were in fine form and performed magnificently .The performance was richly detailed and the ensemble was impressive full of lowlife vigour and technically wonderful.
Macmillan’s very athletic and demanding choreography is extraordinary and speaks volumes without saying a single word . There are several astonishing , ravishing pas de deux spaced throughout the ballet for Manon herself including a joyous, lyrical move falling in love with Des Grieux in Act 1, the delicious , exuberant bed room scene one that follows, also with Des Grieux with headlong rushes and jumps into his arms contrasted with smaller more intimate gestures of affection, (closely followed by an amazing, lust and corruption pas de trois between Manon , Lescaut and Monsieur G.M. while Des Grieux is momentarily away); there’s the horrific explicit rape scene with the jailer in Act 3 and the final, exhausting pas de deux.
As well, there is the magnificent extraordinary set piece in Act 2 Scene 1 at Madame X’s where Manon is passed around by the men like a jewel , just another possession to be owned, with Monsieur G.M. saying ‘she’s mine’ and poor Des Greiux shocked and broken hearted at her deception. You could, at times, pick phrases of movement from Macmillan’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ .In the powerful opening scene of Act 3, with the arrival of the poor convict girls off the ship , in their patterns and lines of movement , there were hints of ‘Giselle’ and ‘Swan Lake ‘.
The sets, costumes, and lighting were, as always, impressive and the orchestra under the energetic enthusiastic conducting of Niclolette Fraillon played the reworked lyrical Massesnet score superbly.
Leanne Stojmenov in the eponymous role of Manon was excellent. We see her arrival in Paris all fresh and innocent , and then her pimping and corruption by Lescaut and Monsieur G.M. We see her beautiful radiance and elegance at Madame’s ball and then her tattered, exhausted despair at the end. We get the feeling that although yes she does love Des Grieux she is still out for all she can get , which is why she agrees to seeing Monsieur G.M.
Daniel Gaudiello as our lovestruck hero des Grieux was superb , a terrific ‘danseur noble’ and passionate actor , showing off his clean ,elegant technique and ‘line’ , and wonderful jumps and turns. In his enthralling introductory falling in love with Manon solo in Act 1 you could practically hear him speak . Bravo.
Chengwu Guo as Manon’s brother Lescsaut had great fun and danced terrifically in the very demanding role (for example the ‘drunk’ solo and pas de deux in Act 2 ) . in some ways it is as if he is narrating the show , as he begins it so dramatically hidden under that large hat and is in Manon’s thoughts at the end. As his sultry mistress Ako Kondo had great fun as did Olga Tamara as Madame X . Matthew Donnelly as vile Monsieur G.M. was cold, aloof and threatening yet lusted after Manon .
A terrific production which showcases the glorious dancing of this excellent company . Running time 2 hrs and 45 minutes including two intervals
The Australian Ballet’s MANON runs at the Joan Sutherland auditorium Sydney Opera House until April 23.
For more about The Australian Ballet in MANON, visit http://www.australianballet.com.au