Review: Royal Ballet in Manon at Royal Opera House

Performance: 13th October 2008
- Saturday 18 October 2008

Manon – a ballet of temptations peril. The Royal Ballet, the true heirs to this work, put out an interesting cast on Monday 13th, with new partnerships luckily gelling as the all important boudoir scenes filled the stage with passion and a rare innocent quality.

Mara Galeazzi, who replaced Leanne Benjamin, and partner *Edward Watson (*Des Grieux) had a timid beginning which did not fully show the young couples love or desire to run away together. This all changed with the lovers private coupling; clutching, grasping hands explored each body yet the overall quality remained light, innocent and graceful. Watson brought most of the elegance, proving himself as a true prince of love as his yearning desires eluded from every arm and eye line.

Although the young couples love is betrayed by Manon’s greed and a shockingly smutty lift of her skirt, Galeazzi still appeared a pawn in Lescaut’s game throughout. And who better to manipulate that pawn than Thiago Soares and William Tuckett who acted as shackles to Manon’s heart as the gold was paid and the limbs plied.

The evenings main highlight came with Manon’s dance of the night. Passed between the male Parisian elite, Galeazzi allowed Manon to blossom into a courtesan with love flung far from her mind. Sophisticated smut was the order of the evening as the courtesan’s hitched skirts to reveal slender legs and presented bottoms for spanking. This act could easily have been the inspiration for Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge!, although Macmillan’s contemporary foresight could see the two works stand side by side. Soares’ acting ability and body control brought humor to the party in the drunken dance with his mistress (McMeekan). The smooth glances and well timed turned were straight out of a Bond movie, leaving his lady a little shaken and the audience stirred.

The third act, Manon’s banishment to a foreign land, demanded a contemporary technique from the branded women. In sharp contrast to the courtesan scene in act II, the fallen women seemed to borrow from Graham technique and prisoner of war desperation. The final duet, Manon’s swansong, nailed the passion between the lead characters on the head. The cradling arms of Watson lifted Galeazzi as if she truly were a rag doll – the duet was tenderness personified.

The evenings casting and choreographic revival brought a contemporary feel to the Royal Opera House with repertoire from the 1970’s – proving that the past masterpieces are well worth viewing by present day audience.

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