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Manon in Paris


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#1 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 23 June 2003 - 06:55 AM

The Paris Opera Ballet is finishing a run of "L'histoire de Manon" at the Opera Garnier. Company dancing overall was excellent and the POB really warms for MacMillan's ballet. It was especially good to see Aurélie Dupont back, finally returning after a long period of injury. Even if her Manon didn’t carry me totally away, it was a well-danced, finely detailed and sensitive reading of MacMillan’s heroine.
Jean-Guillaume Bart’s Des Grieux was an attractive, good-hearted, and touching character. Kader Belarbi’s portrayal of Lescaut is however in a class of its own. Stéphanie Romberg was a fine Mistress, but Jean-Marie Didière as a menacing M. de G.M. is a must.

The least said about Diana Vishneva’s appearance as Manon the better – except that I fail to see why a company like the POB needs to invite someone who has absolutely nothing to say about the role. Her partner Manuel Legris (a fabulous Des Grieux as we remember him from earlier seasons) danced mostly on his own and (not in his best form) was unable to save the day. With a less than ideal Lescaut (Yann Saïz), it was a disappointing evening.

#2 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 23 June 2003 - 08:29 AM

I hope people are still able to view films of Vishneva years from now, because if they try and piece together who she was as a dancer from written commentary, they'll be banging their heads against the table in confusion.

It will never cease to interest me how polarizing Vishneva seems to be. Her Aurora did little for me, but both her Giselle and Juliet were exemplary to me; what's sloppiness to one looks like energetic sweep to another. We've had this discussion before, but I wonder if she just looks more American in style?

#3 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 23 June 2003 - 08:44 AM

Empty technical brilliance, mistaking mannerisms for acting, a total lack of spontaneity, a tendency to cheapen the character, and one huge ego trip of a performance, curtain calls included… if that’s your American Manon, you are welcome to her, Leigh, but I doubt it really is :o.

It may well have been that you saw exemplary performances. I saw some pretty good ones myself of her years ago, at the very beginning, but nothing recent was in this league and surely not this Manon. To make no mistake: she danced it well enough, even if alone, but dramatically it was a complete non event. And so a lot about the performance has been said.... :D

#4 su-lian

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Posted 23 June 2003 - 09:15 AM

One can excuse Manuel Legris for not being at his best, because he has been sick for a few days, and this surely affected his performances with Diana Vishneva.
I have also seen this cast, but am about to see Manon with Sylvie Guillem and Laurent Hilaire, so I shall psot more about it when I've seen them.
Aurélie Dupont, from what I've heard, was very touching and everybody was glad to see her again. Clairemarie Osta also danced the role and apparently was very good too. But it is true that here also, people are very much divided upon Diana Vishneva's performance.

#5 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 23 June 2003 - 09:54 AM

Originally posted by su-lian
One can excuse Manuel Legris for not being at his best, because he has been sick for a few days, and this surely affected his performances with Diana Vishneva.  


That's the old Nureyev spirit for you: dance, even when you are sick or feeling unwell. :)

Why don't you post your impressions now, su-lian, regardless of whether you'll be seeing Guillem-Hilaire or not?

#6 su-lian

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Posted 23 June 2003 - 01:48 PM

OK, I'll try, but since there's a lot of controversy and I don't quite remmeber the ballet so well, I thought it might have been better to see it another time before.
So, on saturday evening, it was Diana Vishneva, Manuel Legris, Yann Saiz, Stéphanie Romberg, Jean-marie Didière and Viviane Descoutures in the main parts.
It is very true that Diana Vishneva is very good technically, beautiful arabesques, very nice arms...However, interpretation wise there are a few points about which I am a bit skeptical. For example, when she tries on the coat sent by Mr de GM at the end of act I, I found that it just looked like she was putting on her rain coat on a rainy day. Well, not really, but it seemed just normal. I would have seen her more hesitating at first, or otherwise, completely the opposite, very eager to see what it looks like, because, after all she is not used to so much wealth (or display of it). I think both ways could work, but it looked like neither of them. Otherwise, I couldn't see that well, so I can't really say if she had the right expression on her face etc. But overall, I think she was quite good, not extraordinarily fantastic, but not dramatically horrible either.
I must admit that I didn't pay that much attention to Manuel Legris :) :eek: , but I think that considering he was unwell, he did well.
There was one problem at the end of the last pas de deux of act I, I don't know what happened exactly, but when he makes her slide then turn and then slides next to her, suddenly, when she was sliding, she turned badly in the wrong direction, rolled on herself a few times, he had to let go of her arms and finally had to jump over her and lie down next to her, but they weren't close to one another, so he had to catch her legs and pull them towards himself! It was nearly funny! I really thought she would get hurt. I think the problem was that her back was too much "cambré" (sorry!) and her legs weren't even on the ground, so that's what made her turn in the wrong direction at the wrong moment.
About Yann Saiz, I admired him for the risks he took during his variation in act II, but it's true that he probably wasn't too much "in" the role. Another incident happened, when he got shot, the blood wouldn't come out, so he started hitting his stomach to make it come out, but it still wouldn't, so he tried a few times and kept looking to see if it that bloody thing (sorry, not funny!) was coming out or not, and this too was quite funny although it was meant to be quite a dramatic moment. After a while, I though he would stop, because it seemed ridiculous if he got shot and the blood only came out 5 minutes later, and I think to the people who don't know the ballet, it wouldn't have made any difference, they wouldn't have noticed in any case, and they don't necessarily expect to see blood. Well anyway, it finally came out just as the curtain started to close.
I thought Stéphanie Romberg was also very good technically, and her interpretation was OK, maybe just a little bit too "shy".
Jean-Marie Didière was very good as M de GM, as he always is in these sort of characters. He is indeed a very good mime (and was also very remarkable as the Rajah in La Bayadère, and as Don Quichotte).

#7 su-lian

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Posted 23 June 2003 - 11:01 PM

Just a little detail, but I didn't quite like the way DianaVishneva ran on stage. The first time, she was doing very big steps and dragging her feet behind her, and then it was totally the opposite, she was doing vey little steps and lifting her feet very high behind her. But that may be in the choreography, I can't remember, so I'll see tomorrow. Anyway, I didn't like it too much.

#8 cygneblanc

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Posted 24 June 2003 - 01:53 PM

I saw Sylvie Guillem as Manon tonight and she was absolutely wonderful (OK I'm a little partial, since she's one of my favorite dancer) She even got a standing ovation, which is very rare at the POB. More we were getting into the baller better she was ! I will write more later, since I'm very tired now. I also saw Claire-Marie Osta the last week and she didn't disapointed me. She was dancing with Nicolas Leriche, and I think she was better than him, she was just mesmerizing ! I didn't' saw Aurélie Dupont but heard she was also very good !

#9 Naoko S

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Posted 25 June 2003 - 01:33 PM

Cygneblanc, was her Chevalier Laurent Hilaire as scheduled? I hope it was - I'm coming to Paris this Friday to see him.

Very much appreciate all your contributions so far - but more thoughts/views wouldn't hurt, please keep them coming! I'm particularly interested to hear from those who saw Dupont or Osta.

#10 cygneblanc

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Posted 26 June 2003 - 12:41 PM

Naoko,
yes, it was Laurent Hilaire who danced with Sylvie Guillem. I liked him very much although technically speaking he was very inferior to her, and I have been thinking that has an impact on the unity of the pair, although artisticaly speaking they're a good match, and anyway, Laurent Hilaire's visions of des Grieux is staying extraordinary. But you'll be able to see that by yourself ! We have a really nice weather in Paris right now, and thus there are the sales so I hope I will enjoy your time in Paris. I:D
I'm sorry, but I don't really have a lot of time right now to write a lot but will try to write a more detailed review the next week

#11 Naoko S

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Posted 29 June 2003 - 02:56 PM

Just back from a short trip to Paris - I'm still enraptured with the excitement of Friday evening! Yes, it was Hilaire and Guillem who finished up the Manon run in a great spirit - all I want to do right now is to thank them; it's one of those evenings which will stay with you for a long time - they did give their all, literally, to the performance.

I must confess I've never been convinced by this work of ballet, Manon, and have actually been an unashamed Manon-hater for quite some time. Having been introduced to this ballet just 6-7 years ago, by its authentic inheritor Royal Ballet, at first I loathed everything about the ballet; the choreography, the story and the music - but most of all its idea and attitude what irritated me - to me they were so anti-ballet. I even suspected that McMillan aimed to degrade the form of art only to make it look like more "modern" and "approachable" by introducing sex and violence, two of the subjects I personally never wanted to see in ballets. As an old fashioned, overly classically orientated ballet fan, I've not yet been converted but on Friday I was so moved by the performance it led me to tears at the very end.

I saw Laurent Hilaire as Des Grieux in several occasions in the past, both at Garnier and Covent Garden. His partner was always Sylvie Guillem, and with her in this ballet I couldn't think of any dancer who could escape from a risk of sinking behind her shadow - Hilaire was no exception, I thought. In February this year when he guested with RB together with Guillem the pair was so self-complacent among RB troops (meaning that there's a slight uneasiness felt by Hilaire perhaps for being in "away" camp) and perfect as an item. They showed us a mature reading and instead of young, reckless lovers whose bond primarily were in the flesh, there were tender feelings between them to care for each other - almost like a brother & sister. So it was a great surprise (and a nice one) to see Hilaire, in autumn of his career, looked younger & passionate than ever before, truly in love with this femme fatale, who eventually destoyed his life. In the first solo scene after an encounter with Manon he attracted our eyes with refined and elegant movements - the way he courted Manon was so fresh and sincere, giving us great expections for things to come. As the evening proceeded the tensions on stage got higher, and most memorable moment came in a sequence in the bedroom scene in Act II where the pair was about to leave the town. In contrast with an innocent looking and rather care-free Manon, De Grieux's struggles inside him was gradully apparent. He knows there's no way out for them and yet he can't stop wanting her - his yearning to make her of his own was so painful to watch as Hilaire's portrayal was so genuine.

Watching Hilaire made me think, for the first time, this could mean to be a tale on Des Grieux, not Manon. We're supposed to see things from Des Grieux's point of views? Previously it never occurred to my mind, but now I want to know more about the ballet.... (I never read the original book and absolutely ignorant on the subject matter so am grateful to enlightenments by readers.) It's always only great dancers who can give us more than a good time - they not only give us a pleasure to see ballets, but they demand us to think and explore more and more about this form of art. That's what happend to me in Paris, to which I am so grateful to Hilaire.

On other main roles: I saw Wilfried Romoli in the role of Lescaut for the first time and am afraid to say he was not too convincing. Curiously, a dark & evil mind, the character he gave to the role of the gang boss in Mandarin Merveilleux, which made him stand out in the piece, would have been very useful but was not there; too much stress on clowning, and it didn't work for me. His mistress was M. A. Gillot - as always her dancing was a delight to watch, and she appeared to acquire more of a touch for the character over the years; a few years ago I found her too majestic and not suited for the role.

#12 cygneblanc

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 12:57 AM

Thank you for your review Naoko !


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