As FauxPas mentioned, any cast that followed Vishneva/Gomes would have a tough act to follow, and so it was tonight.
Semionova & Stearns put on a fine performance, but for me, they simply did not reach the dancing or emotional heights that last night's performance achieved.
In the first act, I found myself wishing that there was a stronger, taller dancer that could partner Semionova in this ballet. Stearns handled the partnering quite admirably, but I felt that both had to hold back a bit in order to focus on the tricky partnering maneuvers. Though nothing looked difficult or labored, it did not have that same effortless quality that both Kent/Bolle and Vishneva/Gomes achieved. Even though Stearns is quite a good partner, Semionova is simply too tall to throw herself at him with wild abandon. (She did seem to appreciate his efforts though--she gave him her entire bouquet during the bows, which was a very sweet gesture!)
That being said, maybe wild abandon is not her style. Even dancing by herself--in the Act II solo, for example--she did not take the movements to the extreme and vamp it up to the same delicious degree that Vishneva did. She is undeniably pretty and her long lines are lovely, but she doesn't DEMAND that you pay attention to her with her characterization the way Vishneva seems to do.
That being said, I did like both her and Stearns' characterizations of the roles.
On Monday, I found the qualities that make Bolle/Kent endearing as Romeo & Juliet make them rather unsympathetic in "Manon." They seem sweet, youthful, innocent, but not too bright--which is perfectly fine for the lovestruck teens--but didn't work for Manon and Des Grieux. To me, Kent's Manon seemed like she went from "oh look, he's so cute, let me to dance with him!" to "oh look, this old guy has lots of money!" without a single thought, while Bolle's Des Grieux was like, "she's so pretty, I'm just going to follow her around." Because they both seemed kind of clueless, I couldn't really feel sorry for them in Act III.
Vishneva's Manon was a slave to her desires. She craves love, she craves luxury. She's aware that she treats Des Grieux badly, that what she's doing is wrong, but she simply can't stop herself. Similarly, Gomes' Des Grieux knew very well that Manon mistreated him, that she's headed down a dangerous path, but she's just so damn irresistible that he also can't help himself either; he's drawn to her like a moth to a flame. And they both suffer terribly for their actions in Act III--their final p.d.d. is a sucker punch. And I found this arc of downward spiral, terrible suffering, and redemption through death to be very satisfying.
Today, Semionova's Manon was somewhere in the middle. She's not a silly teenager; she is calm and calculating. She regrets leaving Des Grieux, but she also knows what she wants--the finer things in life. Stearns' Des Grieux was also between the two extremes, both blindly devoted to her in a youthful, puppy-dog kind of way, but also willing to chastise her for her cupidity. Their suffering did not deliver a knockout, but it was dignified and sincere.
As for Reyes--I saw her in Act I and III in the dress rehearsal on Monday. I think it's somewhat unfair to comment on rehearsals, but I didn't think she would be completely miscast in the role. I will note that her petite size makes her look VERY child-like, which made the jailer rape scene especially disturbing to me, and made her appropriately weak/vulnerable looking for the rest of Act III.
One other note on the Lescauts and mistresses--James Whiteside was believable as Semionova's older brother, but Simkin was not really believable as Kent's brother, and Cornejo as Vishneva's brother was a stretch. Also, at the end of Act I, Simkin tackling Bolle to the ground, and Cornejo doing the same to Gomes, was simply hilarious and not realistic to me. Whiteside and Stearns seemed better matched.
Abrera/Simkin were surprisingly good in the drunken pas de deux in Act II--their size difference when she's on pointe was really funny. Cornejo/Copeland were also stellar. However, tonight, Part/Whiteside struggled a bit in that Whiteside had to seriously partner her, and it wasn't clear if they were having problems with the choreography or if they were being intentionally funny.
Anyway, can't wait to see Vishneva & Gomes again on Saturday!!