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Manon at the Opera Garnier, in Paris

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clover.gif I went to see the above performance wondering if the ballet "Manon" had survived with pure authanticity during the years since it was created for The Royal Ballet by Sir Kenneth Mac Millan The moment the curtain was raised and the first dancers appeared on the stage

my fears were well and truly quoshed. I soon realised that thanks to people like Monica Mason and Pat Ruanne who have past down this wonderful ballet to the younger genaration of Dancers it is pretty well intact.

The performance still had the emphathy and character I remembered, and was performed very well by the cast I saw. Aurelie Dupont, (Manon) Josua Hoffalt ( De Grieux) Manon's sweetheart Jeremie Belingard (Lescaut) brother to Manon, Muriel Zusperreguy (Lescaut mistress) Aurelien Houette (as Monseir G.M,) Viviane Descouttures (The Madame).

Aurelie Dupont's role portrayal was perfect, sensative, niave, and beautifully danced, it was neither overdone or understated, she is able to create a picture to fit any role. and was up to her usual brillant technical standard. Her partnership with the newest Etoile Josua Hoffalt seems to be going from strength to strength, whether it is just a trial or will become permanant we will have to wait and see. I know Aurelie found herself without a regular partner after Manual Legris retired. The brief spell with Herve Moreau showed great promise, but he has only just returned after a long absence.

Josua Hoffalt is beginning to show he right fully deserved his rfecent promotion, and danced the role of the lovesick De Grieux with conviction, mastering the challenging

variations that are both full of technical brilliance and emotially demanding. He was a strong reliable partner, handling the many lifts and feats with apparent ease, as choreographed by Mac Millan.

Jeremie Belingard, shined as the disreputable Lescaut, from the scene opening when you see him sitting mid stage his cloak surrounding him you know he is going to form the character, of the scheming money craved young man who will stoop to the lowest levels to achieve his aims, which turns out to be at the cost of his sister Manon. It is a very strong role, needing a good technique. Something you do not always see Jeremie cast in. But he excells in this ballet, in the scene at "Madame's, party together with his Mistress, he gets very drunk. the result of which is a hilarious pas de deux full of wonderful out of control lifts and very funny to watch. Wearing a black embroidered frock coated costume, He looked stunning, very sexy being the handsome guy he is.

Muriel Zusperreguy danced Lescauts mistress, she was somewhat coy, she performed well, but did not seem to take advantage of the opportuinity to get fully into the character. She was too nice, and could have been more exaggereated, there is a chance to act the bawdy wench

albeit tongue in cheek, to mis behave. There could have been much more frivality, the role, especially in the Pas de deux, where Lescaut can easily outshine her should be equally entertaining.by both the partners dancing it. It was although carefully danced a little too restrained.

Another milestone in Manon, is the male virtiuoso Pas de Trios danced in the same scene, it usually is a "show Stopper", it needs to be crisp, in complete unison, a stunning piece, the music ably supports the variation, full of jaunty steps, danced ln turn by each dancer. I am sorry to say in this perfiormance the guys simply did not meet the required precision or effect this variation should give. They were not together, or able to give the desired quality of dance that is needed to make this variation spectacular. It was messy and weak.

Finaly the musical score, the original composition for the ballet was not from the opera Manon, but was a special collaboration of music from Massenet's works arranged by Leighton Lucas,

the music was adapted again in 2011 by Martin Yates. I am not sure how much of which version is included in this performance, but it is credited to Yates. Whether the conductor Keon Kessels is responsible for amending any of the music I cannot say. I do not favour him as a conductor for Ballet, as I find his musical imputt is erratic, and he thtends to cut short passages in mid stream. I found the orchestra to be lacking in finese, there was very tittle bass in the music, with a higher treble element in the strings and woodwind, no beautiful toned melodies, and on a number of occasions an overkill from the brass sectiion, which produced a louder than normal degree of very harsh notes, that went on for too long and detracted from the otherwise beauty of the score. Give me The Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra any day. Their performance is much more mellow and beatiful in construction than The Paris Opera Orchestra. It is basically a differently toned Orchestra.

Would I recommend going to see Manon, a definate yes, it is absolutely wonderful,. The final scene in the Everglades, takes your breath away, and almost redueces you to tears.

Manon is yet again mis-used for her beauty, and raped, by the Goaler, who De Grieux in desparation kills with a knife, forcing the couple to run away into the swamps, starving

exhausted and with her ripped dress, Manon is dying. The final act starts with a vision of the events that fashioned her fate. With the last of her strength she is comforted by her lover, the despartion and desire that fuels her being, makes her try to go to him, when she finaly makes it, she slips through his arms, but dies in the process. The destraught De Grieux trys to revive her, but it is in vain, his tears shake his very being, as the curtain falls.

After a truly amzing performance Aurelie and Josua return to their dressing rooms, no doubt still full of emotion, which takes them time to overcome, and return to the realities of everyday life

Some time later, having rested showered and dressed they walk with their life partners, Jertemie with Aurelie and Muriel with Josua ( also stars in the Ballet) to the Artists exit, where I waited to see them, and was able to have a conversation. And so the chemistry continued OFF STAGE. BRAVO.

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I saw Manon at the Paris Opera a few years ago and was a bit disappointed. I have a problem with the Paris Opera Ballet in that they are so technically perfect, the dancers somehow give me the impression of being "cold" and lacking somewhat in emotion. The emphasis always seems to be on finishing in the perfect 5th etc and less on losing themselves in the role. Whatever it is, and of course it could just have been the particular dancers I saw on that day and that particular performance, I was not as moved as when I saw it danced by the Royal Ballet.

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Yes, Hamorah, I would agree with you on this, and it was exactly what I was expecting, but I honestly did not find it so with this cast, even the corp de ballet, had the mood correct with the choreography, at the party and last two scenes. I do think Aurelie Dupont mastered the role, Josua also gave a good impression of De Grieux,, he seems to be growing into the repertoire. I recently saw a clip of Tamara Rojo of the Royal Ballet from a recent performance, now she was definately dancing her part far too technically, with beautiful pointed toes, when she was supposed to be dying. I do not know what the other casts will be like, except Ludmila Pagliero the new etoile, who dances it later, is also a very lyrical and musical ballerina. I worked in close connection with Manon when it was created by Sir Kenneth, and the work had a great atmosphere, Another version which has been kept true to the original has been danced by The Australian Ballet and was taught to them by Pat Ruanne who worked with the Paris Opera for many years.

In regard to POB dancers being too technical, it is probably due to their schooling, high extensions etc, but when you compare them usually with the Corp de Ballet, en mass, they are beautifully together, in unison, something many companies need to improve.. I still really enjoyed the performance, and am usually very critical expecting perfection at times, which iis not always possible.

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Hamorah, I saw POB's 'Manon' many years ago (in the mid-90s, I think, when it was newly-acquired by the company) and had exactly the same reaction as you; I found it perfectly, exquisitely danced but utterly 'bloodless', lacking in any emotion or excitement. It was unforgiveably 'polite' in comparison with the Royal Ballet's sex-drenched, blood-spattered, disreputable and wickidly enjoyable version. I do remember that the only part I thought the POB did bettter than the Royal was the beggar boys' dance - they were so realistically filthy-looking that, sitting in the stalls, I found myself actually covering my nose in case they smelt! (Funny how these details stay with one). That, as I said, was years ago and 'Manon' has become so popular with the Paris ballet audience that POB have performed it many times since so they will have become more at ease with it and probably now dance it with less respect and far more abandon, which is exactly what it needs.

And Nanarina, you mention that you consider Tamara Rojo's Mamon too technical, but - technical or not - to me she is the most interesting of all the Manons I've seen (and I think I've seen about ten by now); she alone showed what the character in Le Prevost's novel really was: calculating and just a tiny bit cruel with the adoring Des Grieux.

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Ann, it probably was at the end of the last century that I saw it (heavens doesn't that sound awful!) so, as you say, they have probably grown into it by now!

I had to laugh at your comment, Nanarina, about Tamara Rojo dying with beautifully pointed toes. I have a photo of myself, as the mother in the Israel Ballet's Giselle, emoting madly over the body of my (supposedly) dead daughter - yes you guessed it - she's lying there with beautifully stretched feet! And this was a Russian guest artist..........

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I am always confused when I hear about the technical perfection of the POB imparting coldness to their dancing. I find that their technical security allows their etoiles to be consumate, passionate artists. They may have a more refined style, more restraint in movement and emotion, but I find the French style tasteful, not cold at all. Of course, their caution during some Balanchine (Tchai PDD fish dives!!!) is to the detriment of the choreography....but pure class and restraint in an artform that can be prone to 'circus' overtones of late is to be admired...

But maybe I'm strange... I, personally, gather much more 'feeling' and artistic expression from the French than many Russian dancers of late...

Just my 2cents. Thank you so much for the report!!!

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trieste.... I agree with you, I love the Paris Opera Ballet and their technical perfection. But the way different Ballerina's porftray roles really does vary beyond belief. For this reason although she is a wonderful dancer, I find Agnes Letestu very cold., understated and and lacking emotion. I saw her live in Le dame aux Camelias, and she seemed to just go through the movements without much thought to feeling. She was dancing with Stephane Buillon who also did not seem very responsive to her. But that all changed when he danced with Isabella Cia. then he was all passion. I like Aurelie Dupont because she can act, but even her portrayal changes from time to time. I just got the DVD of Manon for the Royal Ballet original version with Jennefer Penny and Tony Dowell,with my dear friend David Wall as Lescaut, now he was something else., partnered with Monica Mason, absolutly brilliant. There seems to be much more facial expression and the use of port de brae, on this disc. It is difficult for me to see if I am not close to the stage, and at Paris recently my seat wias in the balcon, so I had to use Opera Glasses. But you can still see the body language and style being danced..

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I have to agree about Agnes Letestu. Beautiful, yes, but she is a very remote presense...I'm sure her mood would be perfect for some things, I'm just not sure what. And sometimes Dorothee Gilbert strikes me as laking in depth, but perhaps that will come to her with years. Ciaravola is wonderfully alive -- I consider her underrated and one of my favorites. Those feet! And of course, Gillot, Dupont, Osta...

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trieste, it is good to hear you agree with me about Agnes Letestu, she seems fine in non character roles, like Jewels, she is brilliant in Diamonds, with Jean Guillamine Bart on the DVD, so classical and technically correct, JGB also fits the role, and seems to have the "Balanchine" touch, reminding me of NYCB Male Dancers, he dances it very much in the same style. Diamonds is my favourite movemnet in Jewels, I love the way it builds up to the marvelous ending, and of course Tchaikovsky's music.. Sadly he is now retired, and possibly Agnes Letestu will soon go as well, I think she is older than Aurelie Dupont, who will be 40 in January 2013.

Sure will be interesting to see how the younger Etoile's work out.

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clover.gif I went to see the above performance wondering if the ballet "Manon" had survived with pure authanticity during the years since it was created for The Royal Ballet by Sir Kenneth Mac Millan The moment the curtain was raised and the first dancers appeared on the stage

my fears were well and truly quoshed. .......................................

................................ and was able to have a conversation. And so the chemistry continued OFF STAGE. BRAVO.

My appreciation and many thanks Nanarina, for the vivid review of POB's Manon.

You had my attention from the curtain, to the greeting of the artists

after the performance.


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chiapuris....... You are very welcome, it was rewarding to be able to comment on the ballet, having been closely involved with it when I was younger. I am waiting for The Royal Ballet to perform it again, hopefully in the nearish future. My ideal would be to see two of my other favourite dancers, (yes I do have more than one) they are Alina Cojocaru as Manon and Laura Morera as Lescaut's Mistress, both very good dancers..

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