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Manon -- 2003


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#1 BilboBaggins

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 08:32 AM

I'll be seeing Manon this Monday (03 Feb) evening and then again on Sat evening (31 May). I'll provide a review after both performances.

Is anyone else planning to be there? Be happy to meet for a drink at the interval ... or coordinate a review ...

If you're seeing it another time, please add to the thread ...

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#2 Giannina

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Posted 02 February 2003 - 06:15 AM

I WAS THERE!!

I went to a double header of Manon: opening day matinee and evening performance, Jan. 30. The matinee starred JaimieTapper (replacing the pregnant Leanne Benjamin; aaaagh!) and David Makhateli (replacing Tewsley). I expected this to be my favorite of the 2 performances and settled in for a good time, which I got. I’d seen Tapper in Onegin 2 years ago and thought she was wonderful. She was lovely as Manon. Makhateli was an unknown to me. A “healthy” man with a somewhat hang-dog expression that made him the focus of the ballet for me; I wept for him rather than Manon. His Act I solo was very good. In Act II he stands around for so long that I worried about him “cooling down”. His ensuing solo was not very good; either my worry was justified or if he was just “off”. In Act III he was back to his old self. Tapper was sound throughout and I loved it. Martin Harvey (drop dead gorgeous) as Lescaut was good. Vanessa Palmer as his mistress was rather lackluster in her portrayal but technically sound. Ashley Page was the most menacing gaoler I’ve seen in any Manon.

Happy with seeing that, I went to the evening performance starring Sylvie Guillem and Laurent Hilaire (replacing injured Cope) expecting them not to match. Guillem is starting to get to me with her hyperextensions and monotone acting technique. Well, shoot yourself in the foot, Giannina; I simply loved it. It wasn’t without fault but it was wonderful. In Act I Guillem came out with a youthful excitement about her surroundings whereas Tapper had a seductive manner which I found surprising. Hilaire is wonderful, of course, and did not produce the sympathetic feeling I got from Makhateli. In Act I’s pdd’s Guillem was so darn happy to be in love with Hilaire; you found yourself smiling with her. Exquisite dancing, and the hyper-extensions were held to a tolerable limit. Act II had problems. Had it been titled “5 Years Later” it would have worked cuz Guillem was now a woman…no longer the excited youth. As a suddenly mature Manon she again danced beautifully, but her monotone acting returned. I don’t think I can describe it….she’s talking and reacting to everyone, and actually stealing scenes. At least she does it well. Hilaire’s solo in this act was great as opposed to Makhateli’s. In this act Tapper seemed to be repulsed by Des Grieux until the card playing scene whereas Guillem was torn between him and Monsieur G.M. (played by Anthony Dowell) as the plot requires, and you could see her attention shift from one to the other. Brian Maloney as Lescaut was almost as handsome as Harvey and equally talented, but his characterization was infinitely better. He was much funnier in the drunk scenes, his facial expressions constantly changing from one glazed look to another. Marianela Nunez was a better foil for him than Palmer was for Harvey. Act III is not my favorite and there’s little anyone can do to salvage it.

#3 anoushka

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Posted 21 February 2003 - 02:44 AM

Apologies for the delay in posting, time has flown by and I've now seen 2 Manons and not posted about either!

First on the 8th, with the Tapper, Makhateli, Harvey, Drew, Palmer, Page cast.
Jamie Tapper was good to watch, and she was quite heartbreaking at the end, though I really wanted her to be meaner and vain in Act 2!
I wasn't sure about David Makhateli, I agree with Giannina that his Act 2 dancing was in great contrast to Acts 1 and 3- I wonder why? Maybe he doesn't like that Act much? Though I thought his surruptitious cheating at cards was good.
Martin Harvey was excellent as Lescaut, really bouncy and bright. It was also awful when they killed him, I really wasn't expecting it! It was such a relief to see him up on his feet at the end!

Anyway, then I went to see the performance on the 19th with the Bussell, Bolle, Cervera, Saunders, Morera, Tuckett cast.

It was amazing how different it was. I am sure that Roberto Bolle danced a different set of steps, I kept holding my breath as he held balances and extended his legs beautifully! Darcey danced beautifully too, but I kept my eyes on Roberto more!
And Ricardo Cervera is stiff competition for Lescaut with Martin Harvey-he was brilliant. I thought he worked especially well with Laura Morera as his Mistress. Their pas de deux when he is drunk was really entertaining. However his death came as even more of as shock, and really was quite gruesome.
Both Christopher Saunders tonight, and David Drew on the 8th were good as Monsieur G.M, suitably cold and domineering.
And both Will Tuckett and Ashley Page were good as the Gaoler,they were even meaner, and you really felt for poor Manon!

Anyway, that all for now, did anyone else go?

#4 wjglavis

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Posted 21 February 2003 - 03:28 AM

I was also there on the 19th (for my first Manon of the run) and would have to agree with Anoushka that it was quite a performance. Darcey was absolutely brilliant and I think she's found the ideal partner for this ballet in Roberto Bolle. (Don't think he was doing different steps, though....just dancing them well!) Was also much impressed by Laura Morera and Ricardo Cervera. And Vanessa Palmer was amusing as a courtesan.

May have more to say when I've seen a few more performances.

- Wendy

#5 anoushka

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Posted 21 February 2003 - 06:33 AM

Yes Wendy, I know Roberto didn't ACTUALLY dance different things, but it did come across so differently, I was so much more aware of the beauty of the choreography. Glad you enjoyed it, when are you going again?

#6 wjglavis

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Posted 21 February 2003 - 10:41 AM

Anoushka - at the moment I've got tickets for two Sylvie Manons and Darcey and Roberto's last Manon. (If my lottery ticket comes through there may be more....)

Re Roberto and the 'new' steps.....apologies for misunderstanding you. But it's often the sign of a really good performance, don't you think, when you feel as though parts are completely new to you. (Though of course it could be a bad sign too!! - but not in this Manon.)

- Wendy

#7 archaeo

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Posted 26 February 2003 - 05:40 AM

I was at the performance of "Manon" on February 19th, with Darcey Bussel as Manon. I thought she was wonderful. I was not especially familiar with the story of teh ballet, and did not have a programme until after the first intermission, but found the acting so good, that the plot was easy to follow.

My daughter saw Sylvie Guillem dance "Manon" some years ago, and enjoyed it, but preferred Darcey Bussel's interpretation more.

We had also been on the backstage tour of the Opera House the day before, and saw the dancers - including Ms Bussell - rehearsing. That was the best part of the tour.

#8 wjglavis

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Posted 26 February 2003 - 07:30 AM

Glad to hear you enjoyed the performance, archaeo. I'm really looking forward to seeing Sylvie's interpretation....but can't wait to see Darcey and Roberto again.

It must have been really exciting to catch a glimpse of Darcey rehearsing. What was she working on? (Was it a solo rehearsal of the new Sleeping Beauty, for instance??)

- Wendy

#9 sylvia

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Posted 07 March 2003 - 06:38 AM

Sorry I haven’t posted anything about Manon at all, especially since I haven’t missed a performance and really loved the run. Jonathan Cope has been injured and I was so gutted because I have never seen him with Sylvie Guillem in Manon before, and all I have been hearing for weeks from everyone was “Wait until you see Sylvie and Jonathan…” and how this really is their ballet.

I think the best cast for me was the last one – Sylvie with Massimo Murru. Sylvie’s style of acting is utterly natural and so believable. You don’t feel like she is dancing, like she going from one step to another – rather she makes every movement an inevitable expression of her, of Manon’s emotions. And having seen her dance this 4 times in this run, she really does make each performance a different one, little gestures, who she talks to in the crowd, the way she tries to entice Des Grieux in Act II in the bedroom, and it is wonderful to observe all this. When Des Griex is packing for example, her Manon doesn’t just hang about in the corner of the room but is very playful, flittering about, grabbing the clothes from the suitcase and flinging them over the screen. Her Manon is so compelling you can’t pull you eyes away from her because you’re afraid to miss some little detail, and with each performance this got to the extent that I wasn’t watching the dancing at the centre at all. Murru has the same understated style of acting, it’s finally clicked why he is one of Sylvie’s few chosen partners. He surprised me – I wasn’t a fan of his Romeo or Armand at all, and was very apprehensive about his Des Grieux. He doesn’t have the most beautiful line, not the prettiest arabesques, but I think he made more out of the choreography than the others. His character was such a sensitive portrayl I think he’s turned out to be my favourite one. In their first of 2 performances on Saturday night, their bedroom pdd in Act I was so beautiful, so ecstatic. They weren’t just unbelievable smooth and effortless - they seemed to stretch beyond anything I thought possible. Again, it wasn’t just step, step, step, moving from one position to anothre - Sylvie I think melts into Murru’s arms. It was really the most perfect pdd I have ever seen and I don’t think I have ever become so emotional before! At the end of this Saturday performance the audience went wild! You don’t often get ovations like this at the Opera House, but the applause went on and on, feet stamping and everything! I loved Sylvie with Laurent Hilaire very much as well, but it took me a little while to warm up to them both and I was still bruised with disappointment over Jonathan Cope’s absence.

With Darcey and Roberto Bolle, I think their first performance was by far the best out of the three they did. They are such gorgeous dancers (physically and dance-wise!) with big joyous smiles you cannot help but fall in love with them and believe that they are completely in love with each other. The romanticism of it all wore off for me though in their subsequent performances but it could have been because I’d seen too many Manons in too short a time by that point! I think I prefer both Bussell and Bolle in more classical roles though like Sleeping Beauty (more on that later!). It’s rather fun to compare the almost-forgotten kiss at the end of the bedroom pdd as well – Darcey purses her lips expecting a kiss, and looks hurt when Roberto walks past before he remembers and plants on her a big one. Sylvie grabs her Des Grieux by the coat-tails and drags him back to her. I’ve forgotten what Jaimie Tapper does but David Makhateli does that little gesture for “I forgot” before loping back. Jaimie made an impressive debut and it will be interesting to see how she develops it in the May run. Unsure about David Makhateli, though he’s certainly a beautiful dancer. Given that they had only a few weeks to rehearse I tried not to expect too much. He must have impressed the company though as according to Dance Europe he is returning to dance with Miyako Yoshida in Romeo and Juliet, and joining the Royal Ballet from next season.

I kept changing my mind about which Lescaut I thought was best as they were all so good! Martin Harvey and Vanessa Palmer as Lescaut’s Mistress stretched out the laughter to the max in their drunken pdd – it was by far the funniest. I think Monica Mason said at the Insight Day that different Lescauts would have different personalities, some would be sunny to begin with, others would be cruel, and it depended on the personality of the dancer. Ricardo Cervera suprisingly went for the latter and I felt was the nastiest (though the most charasmatic!) of the lot. Brian Maloney I think went for a more subtle interpretation – he didn’t overplay it, the drunken scenes especially, and consequently I thought his were the best. He reminds me of Guillem in this respect – he didn’t overact and was very natural. It’s a great break for him since he’s still a first artist. The dancing of all three was brilliant without question. Out of the Mistresses, I liked Vanessa Palmer the best (the others were principal Marianela Nunez with Maloney, and Laura Morera with both Cervera and Maloney). You could just tell she had been dancing this role for years! I was thinking a lot about what Monica Mason and other dancers had said about each dancer, down to the corps creating a character for themselves, that each one has a story to tell. Half-way through the run, I was so tired of the party scene I stopped watching the dancing and started watching the dancers in the background and it really is fascinating to watch because it’s mostly improvised and different from night to night. Apart from some bits in the party I love the MacMillan choreography so much, particularly Des Grieux’s sad and longing solo and I adore the Massanet music throughout. I also wanted to mention Tim Matiakis as the Beggar Chief, also a first artist, and someone who really impressed me when watching a RB class a few months ago – I hope he gets more opportunities because I thought his dancing was fantastic. Iohna Loots too is such a charmer in her trouser suit and hat with big feather plume. My friend reminded me that Alina danced this role in the last run two seasons ago, so it’s amazing that she is to dance Manon in May! I can’t wait to see her with Johan Kobborg and Tamara Rojo with Carlos Acosta should be wonderful too.

I’m quite glad we’re moving on to something else though! On the day of the last Manon there was also a general rehearsal for the new Makarova production of Sleeping Beauty, with Bussell and Bolle dancing. I won’t spoil the rest of the cast for those who are going to first night but it is a top-class cast, the best you can possibly get, and I wonder if its maybe just a one-off for that night. The production is too beautiful to describe – the lights change to a warm pink in the rose adage. The front of the stage is painted with flowers that blend into the rest of the stage. The number of props onstage is quite minimal, so the dancing space is huge. There is a platform at the back of the stage that is used in various ways. The colours change to autumnal browns in Act II. Multiple screens are used and raised to depict Prince Desire (no longer Florimund)’s journey to the castle. And the moment when Aurora awakens…well the sets and lights really do speak of a new beginning! The sets and costumes are SO detailed and stunning, and sparkly, and I think the Lilac Fairy is in danger of outshining Aurora! The fairy-tale characters in Act III too, I thought I’d get bored at this point but the dances are so funny, the costuming perfect and again I can’t think of better casted dancers. I didn’t see the Kirov SB when it toured here a couple years ago but my friend says they are very similar to that production. And in my eyes the company look great, very well rehearsed! Sorry, I’m trying to describe it without giving too much away! I promise to post something after the first night on Saturday.

#10 BilboBaggins

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Posted 07 March 2003 - 11:30 AM

Sylvia (or anyone else who chooses to reply):

Very naive question -- how do you get to attend so many performances of a single work? I couldn't afford to go more than twice? What am I missing?

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#11 sylvia

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Posted 07 March 2003 - 06:04 PM

I have to admit I don't spend much on anything else! I'm happy to stand in the 4 pound seats for most performances and the expensive orchestra stalls for the more special ones.

#12 anoushka

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Posted 09 March 2003 - 02:08 AM

Hi Bilbo, it's the same for me. I will spend quite a lot for one performance, and then just go in the cheap ones for all the others.
I tend to think about it quite carefully on my booking form, to try and get decent seats for a particular performance, and then often I'll add other performances by just calling up-especially if there has been a cast change, and I suddenly need to go!


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