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Manon: June 11-16, 2007


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I saw Ferri and Corella today too.

Corella moved me to tears in the second act. (Well, starting in the second act...) The way he was looking at Manon from across the room, watching her with Monsieur G.M., it was heartbreaking. I couldn't take my eyes off him. And then later, the way he was protecting Manon from the jailor, he was so tender towards her and so fierce in his passion. He danced as if his love for Manon was going to tear him apart. By the end, in the swamp, I was weeping. Yes, Ferri's characterization was brilliant as well, but it was Corella who had me searching through my bag for a tissue.

As far as dancing, Ferri was incredible. As per the discussion above, I was torn at any given moment between using my opera glasses to look at her beautiful facial expressions vs. using my eyes to appreciate her fluid, strong dancing. I can't believe I'm never going to see her perform again...

The last time she came out for the curtain call, she bowed quickly and immediately turned around and went back again. I think she wanted to save herself for the audience on the 23rd. But this audience gladly would have kept on clapping and shouting if she had stayed.

I have to say, on the heels of Sleeping Beauty, I am incredibly grateful for the choreography of MacMillan and the staging of Monica Parker.

Oh, and Stiefel and Abrera were excellent! I laughed out loud during their drunken pas de deux. They were perfect.

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I wholeheartedly agree! As someone who has been away from ballet for a while outside of watching the occasional performance, the stars seemed to have aligned this week to remind me what makes ballet the exquisite art form it can be.

My Manon week began with the dress rehearsal Monday. Last year, the performance of Manon that I saw didn't really capture my attention and I wasn't really sure that I liked Manon as much as the other story ballets. But Monday, Ethan Stiefel's comedic turn as Lescaut began to change that. And yesterday, after reading here that Ferri (one of my all-time favorites) was unexpectedly slotted to play Manon today with Corella as Des Grieux, Stiefel as Lescaut, Abrera as Lescaut's mistress, I knew I couldn't pass up the chance to see this performance. So, I purchased a ticket, hopped on the train and wow, was it worth it.

Ferri was absolutely ethereal, passionate, and truly living the character of Manon. Many ballerinas "act" the part of Manon, but watching Ferri you almost forget that it is Alessandra Ferri and not Manon in front of you. Every gesture, every look, every expression feels true to the character; not just choreographed or overlaid. And the passion and emotion left me with chills. Her experience with this role shows through as she dances as Manon.

Stiefel was even better today than in the rehearsal where presumably he was saving a bit for his performance later that evening. His comedic turn and skills drew your eye to him on the sidelines, even as others were dancing center stage. But the genius of the comedy was his ability to be perfectly off-center and "drunk" while not losing his technique or balance. At times, you could see him almost lose control (or balance) but he would pull it back at the last minute.

But the true surprise for me was Angel Corella and the way Ferri and Corella truly embodied the young lovers. Ferri is known for her ability to abandon herself to the passion, drama, and character, but today Corella did the same. You really saw Corella fall in love, felt his despair and longing when he thought he lost Manon or when she was not responding to him, saw his nobility while protecting his love, and ultimately felt his despair when she dies. I have never seen Corella like this. They both just threw themselves into the characters and their movements reflected the raw intensity of their emotions. It was clear that both were embracing the fact that this was one of Ferri's last ABT performances and holding nothing back and more importantly, leaving nothing in the practice studio.

As a side note, seating makes a huge difference (at least to me). For the rehearsal I was seated in the last row of the orchestra & today in the 2nd row, center. And today, the nuances of everyone's performance were so much more easily seen and appreciated. The last row gives you a great sense of the entire scene & company and the big movements that "act"/express an emotion or plot line. But up close, the lift of an eyebrow or downturn or flutter of an eye or a look between partners added subtlety. And because so many of the main characters today (particularly Ferri) seemed to "be" their characters, as opposed to acting their characters, I hate to think of the nuances missed from the inability to see the many smaller gestures.

All in all, today's performance blew me away. After experiencing the entire roller coaster of emotions along the with dancers, I left feeling both exhausted from the emotional journey, yet at peace and content with the beauty (and comedy) of this ballet. Thank you Ferri, Corella, and Stiefel for reigniting my passion for ballet. I too hope Ferri changes her mind and keeps performing. This trio was spectacular.

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Vishneva watch: She's just added answers to some questions on her website (nothing re health or performances), surely a positive sign. Here is one of her most recent responses (see through the English to the wisdom):

Klara: Hello Diana, you are such a lovely dancer!!!!! Can you tell me, who are your ballet idols?

Diana: †Do not create to itself an idol (sacred book).

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I was a bit surprised that there were not more people at Monday's performance of Manon. Initially, I was disappointed to see that Stiefel was replacing Cornejo as Lescaut, but Stiefel did not disappoint. His jumps were wonderful, and while many people have commented on other threads that they don't like his acting, I had no complaints. I thought his performance was completely believable and his drunken scene was hilarious, without being forced. I don't think I've ever heard so much laughter during that scene.

I'm sad that these are Ferri's last performances. While I think Ferri and Bolle danced beautifully together, I doubt anyone will be able to replace Ferri and Bocca. There was such abandon in Bocca and Ferri's dancing that it elevated their performances above the others. I wish there were more recorded performances of them together.

Bolle is both a beautiful dancer and a beautiful man. I thoroughly enjoyed Bolle and Ferri's performance and look forward to tonight's performance.

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Today's Times has a long story on Diana Vishneva. I assume someone official will soon post it on Links. For what it's worth, the last lines of the article are:

Diana Vishneva will be performing with American Ballet Theater at the Met tomorrow night in “Manon”; on Monday in “Romeo and Juliet”; and on June 26 in “Swan Lake.”
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If D.V.'s illness is serious and she cancels the rest of the season, it will be a major catastrophe.

Vishneva found time to give an exclusive interview, (today's NY Times). Interesting that she

doesn't mention her illness in the piece. In fact, she looks perfectly healthy. Here in L.A.

we call this a PR stunt. Perhaps she cancelled not because of illness, but capriciousness?

For those of you who are holding "Swan Lake," and "Romeo and Juliet" Vishneva tickets,

I hope she fully recovers so that you'll get your money's worth.

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Vishneva found time to give an exclusive interview, (today's NY Times).

We don't know when the interview was given during the five weeks she's been in NYC.

Interesting that she doesn't mention her illness in the piece. In fact, she looks perfectly healthy.

As above, re time of interview. Also she's not the editor. The top photo (Bayadere), at least, was taken four weeks ago.

Here in L.A. we call this a PR stunt.

If this is so, how sadly cynical life must be in L.A.

Perhaps she cancelled not because of illness, but capriciousness?

As a respected artist who rarely cancels, history would not make this plausible. Nor would the loss to her in performance fees.

For those of you who are holding "Swan Lake," and "Romeo and Juliet" Vishneva tickets,

I hope she fully recovers so that you'll get your money's worth.

Thank you for your kind wishes.

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Just arrived home from this evening's "Manon" with Alessandra Ferri and Roberto Bolle. This was a wonderful performance, as Ferri and Bolle have great chemistry and danced seamlessly together (though perhaps not with the same wild abandon and fluidity as Bocca and Ferri). Bolle is princely, and danced with great elegance and unfailing balance. Ferri, as I had hoped, was superlative - passionate, expressive, dancing the choreography without pause, so that it seems completely natural and unposed. (For a photo of the pair and review of their Monday night performance one can see the Wednesday NYTimes Manon review.) Herman Cornejo was a convincing Lescaut (although his technique is superior to his dramatic skills) while Gillian Murphy performed the role of his mistress with both coquettishness and humor. The audience's appreciation of the performances (and huge affection for Ferri) was demonstrated during innumerable curtain calls. During these, bouquets just kept flying onstage and one (of about 12 thrown) almost hit Ferri. For those not lucky enough to see the performance live, it was recorded on video for the research archives of the NYC Performing Arts Library.

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Gillian Murphy performed the role of his mistress with both coquettishness and humor.

Everytime someone says she has no personality on stage I think they should see her in Manon! she's a natural comedienne.

It was a WONDERFUL performance!!

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Heartbreaking Manon

Tonight Alessandra Ferri gave us her last Manon. The lights went up eight minutes late, but all the leads danced superbly, no hint of any curtain-delaying injury. Since everyone's already been reviewed on these pages, I'll just mention a few high points. Throughout the evening Herman Cornejo managed to dance beautifully while still making us hate Lescaut's guts. Craig Salstein's Beggar-in-Chief had to follow Mr. Cornejo's first variation and did so fearlessly, with virtuosity. Gillian Murphy supplied grand ballerina quality as Lescaut's girlfriend.

Roberto Bolle's display variation was far more brilliant than I'd expected and drew a powerful ovation that was far from completion when the action recommenced. But, then, he was dancing to Alessandra! Generally, tonight the performance hurried forward through well-earned ovations, perhaps due to that delayed start?

Through the years Ms. Ferri's interpretation has generally moved from the basic "wanton girl drags innocent boy down to her level" to (as especially the case for Vishneva/Malakhov) "innocent boy raises wanton girl to salvation." Such was especially the case this evening. By mid Act II, after the scene in which M. G. M. displays her to the other gentlemen at Madame's (the variation when she's passed overhead by them, including the brilliant pair of S-to-inverted-S swoops)--when she joins the lone Des Grieux on stage--Ms. Ferri has already turned the corner. After the murder of her pimp brother, when she and Bolle are back in his chambers, it does not take Ferri long to remind Bolle that they are in love, thereby setting up the battle of the bracelet (that G. M. had given her: how complete Mr. Barbee has made this character). Bolle wasn't even buying the idea that they could hock it for Francs, she had to give it up as proof that she had changed.

As always, the shorn, starving boatload of women prisoners was touching. Ms. Ferri was so intense, so deep. Yet her dancing was both grand and technically brilliant. She is famed for her perfect feet; she knows it, her fans do too, and despite the emotional significance of this performance her care for such details was itself a great gift to all. The rape by the gaoler was relatively discrete (of course such a Sin never really is) tonight, even the scum of the earth must pay some respect to the great ballerina.

The final death scene, with those remarkable triple spin lifts, especially high tonight, was off the charts, yet so believable... The house exploded for the next quarter hour, round after round of flowers, with numerous bows after the impatient Met raised the house lights. Brava! Bravo! Bravi!

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Very memorable performance tonight. And with a pretty unusual twist: with this Manon being almost twice the age of des Grieux, it was finally possible to understand why she dumped the rich old man for him :)

The second act was especially incredible - Ferri's Manon looked and behaved schizophrenic to the point when she was painful to watch.

Murphy and Cornejo were also great.

But was the Jailer really Sasha Radetsky?

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Very memorable performance tonight. And with a pretty unusual twist: with this Manon being almost twice the age of des Grieux, it was finally possible to understand why she dumped the rich old man for him :)

Hnh? Ferri is 44; Bolle 32. I am arithmetically challenged here.

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Very memorable performance tonight. And with a pretty unusual twist: with this Manon being almost twice the age of des Grieux, it was finally possible to understand why she dumped the rich old man for him :)

Hnh? Ferri is 44; Bolle 32. I am arithmetically challenged here.

When Bolle danced in the recent Aida that Alagna quit, there were reviews that made it sound like Bolle is in his mid 20's. I don't know his career, and I was surprised to read in one of the recent Links articles that he is 32.
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Very memorable performance tonight. And with a pretty unusual twist: with this Manon being almost twice the age of des Grieux, it was finally possible to understand why she dumped the rich old man for him :)

Hnh? Ferri is 44; Bolle 32. I am arithmetically challenged here.

When Bolle danced in the recent Aida that Alagna quit, there were reviews that made it sound like Bolle is in his mid 20's. I don't know his career, and I was surprised to read in one of the recent Links articles that he is 32.

In a recent interview, Bolle says he first met Nureyev when he was 15 (and afterwards, Nureyev wanted him for a role but La Scala wouldn't release him). Since Nureyev died in 1993, the youngest Bolle could be would be 29.

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Very memorable performance tonight. And with a pretty unusual twist: with this Manon being almost twice the age of des Grieux, it was finally possible to understand why she dumped the rich old man for him :)

Hnh? Ferri is 44; Bolle 32. I am arithmetically challenged here.

When Bolle danced in the recent Aida that Alagna quit, there were reviews that made it sound like Bolle is in his mid 20's. I don't know his career, and I was surprised to read in one of the recent Links articles that he is 32.

Several web sites (but not his own personal site) give his birthdate as March 26, 1975.

I can only echo all the comments above. This was the second time I've seen Manon at ABT, the first with Ferri/Bocca at his farewell, and both performances were transcendent. What a sweeping choreographic narrative, compared to Peter Martins's uncertain, timid R+J. What a fully realized production, compared to ABT's caricatural Sleeping Beauty. And what erotic energy from the two stars. This must rank as one of the greatest performances I've ever seen of anything.

(And yes, that was Sasha behind that fake mustache.)

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Several web sites (but not his own personal site) give his birthdate as March 26, 1975.

You're right Klavier. Roberto Bolle was born on March 26, 1975. He's 32.

I sure hope I look that good when I turn 32.

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Craig Salstein's Beggar-in-Chief had to follow Mr. Cornejo's first variation and did so fearlessly, with virtuosity.

DrB,

Did you notice that Craig at one point touched both hands to the floor? Was that in the choreography, or did he have a momentary slip?

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I might be in the minority but I was a bit let down by last night's performance. Maybe her third Manon in a week got to Ferri, but I thought she seemed cautious and at times fidgety. Her body (especially those feet, which she adorns in extra shiny shoes) is as stunning as ever, but her dancing seemed to lack a certain energy. I thought Bolle was wonderful -- very handsome and a great partner. But there wasn't much chemistry between the lovers. I remember Ferri's almost reckless energy a few years ago as Juliet. Don't get me wrong -- she was a lovely Manon. Very lyrical, very beautiful, certainly arresting, but the performance just lacked a certain something.

As for Vishneva, having seen her multiple times, she gives her all in every performance. If she cancels, I choose to believe she has good reasons.

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Very memorable performance tonight. And with a pretty unusual twist: with this Manon being almost twice the age of des Grieux, it was finally possible to understand why she dumped the rich old man for him :)

Hnh? Ferri is 44; Bolle 32. I am arithmetically challenged here.

But he looks barely old enough to be of legal age:)

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Bolle is extremely youthful looking. At the Ferri-Corella matinee, he sat on the aisle in Row H. I had my binocs on him quite a bit. He could barely fit in the seat. His shoulders were blocking half of the aisle. Okay, a slight exaggeration, but he is one handsome young man - in a very NFL quarterback way.

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My impression was that Bolle is a very handsome clean and very "large" dancer, but with a very boyish looking face. he didn't show a bit of aging in the final act, but Manon sure did.

I sat in the orchestra and pertty much decided that grand tier is a much better perspective for viewing ballet. A perfect example why I prefer being up (a bit) was the opening scene from Manon. From the orchestra you could not see the beautiful round cloke of Lesaut arrayed around him. He simply appears to be kneeling at stage center. From above the large round shape with him in the center is a very power statement of how central he is to the fate of his sister.

Also one notices the disparity in the dancers heights much more from the orchestra level and I find this a bit annoying. Bolle seems huge next to diminutive Ferri. Cornejo also looked small next to Gillian Murphy. A perfect role for Gillian and she rose to the occasion. And finally some of the intricate choreography of this ballet is lost when viewed from stage level. My fiend who accompanied me last night agreed as I got her up to sit with me in the grand tier on the previous ballet. She has always sat down in the orchestra as we did last night. She's moving up!

At the final curtain call for Ferri (there were many) her husband, who sat close to us with their two daughters... raised the little Ferri up on his shoulders and she waved to her mother who smiled at her and waved back. A very moving movement.

Sasha nailed the jailor and he was perfect as Lesaut on Tuesday. Good on him!

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