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ABT 2019 Manon


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23 minutes ago, California said:

Cornejo just posted on his public Instagram: "It's happening" and a picture of his first act costume. Now we just have to hope he has an uneventful afternoon!

And, pray he has an uneventful week so I can see this on Friday!

To those who go tonight, please post after.

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Just back from tonight's performance and yes, Herman did go on.

My first and only Manon was the Diana / Marcelo version and that remains not only the best ballet I ever saw, but also one of the best evenings I ever spent in any theater.  So I have long been hesitant about seeing anyone else for fear of ruining that memory.

Tonight's show did not equal that.  Nothing ever will.  But I was mostly pleased.  The music is so glorious and the choreography so ingenious - I loved seeing Sarah tossed around from one man to another - that I felt a touch of the chills that I felt the first time.  Just a touch, but that was good enough.

I am not an expert on the technical aspects of ballet, so others can probably provide a better critique of that. But I thought Sarah was the best she's ever been in what seems like an unlikely role for her.  Herman's dancing was nothing dramatic, but was fine, and he is adorable.  ABT dancers often suffer from a lack of chemistry, though definitely not tonight.  They were an ideal pair, with great passion and a very long steamy kiss in Act I.

Blaine Hoven was good as Lescaut.  Roman Zhurbin was the jailer, a role which he also played with Diana.  I remember that being a wonderfully seductive scene, which it was not this time.  Act III as a whole wasn't terribly exciting until the final scene, the scene by which all else will be judged.  And while there was nothing particularly out of the ordinary, I thought they did it perfectly - exactly what we'd expected and hoped to see. 

The orchestra seemed mostly full, with noticeable increase in empty seats after Act II.  That included the lady siting next to me, though I cannot imagine why. 

Edited by ord7916
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13 hours ago, abatt said:

Did anyone see last night's performance?  Reports?

I found it to be a disappointing performance overall. For me, Stella and James outshone Hee and Roberto. Their act II “drunk” pas de deuxs were the absolute highlight of the night for me (caveat: I left after Act II).

As @FauxPas noted, it was clear from Roberto’s first big act I solo that his technique has eroded significantly. There’s a bit in Act I where Des Grieux performs a diagonal series of leaps and he was barely getting off the ground at all. Looked really leaden and stiff throughout. I actually left after Act II because it just wasn’t how I wanted to remember Roberto’s dancing, and there wasn’t going to be any more dancing by James and Stella in Act III.

I didn’t feel like Hee gave me a reason to stay. I thought this might be a good role for her (she can be lovely as Juliet, another MacMillan heroine) and maybe it will be in time, but she was super-wooden last night. It’s such a challenge to make Manon’s shift from convent innocent to passionate lover to courtesan and so on feel coherent and Hee’s interpretation of the role doesn’t yet get there. Rather than chart the shifts in the character, she was just one-note throughout. 

What I learned last night is Manon is a ballet that is pretty unbearably boring for me if the central couple isn’t compelling. All the interesting dancing is really for the lead couple, except for the Act II pas de deux between Lascaut and his mistress. I have really enjoyed the ballet with Vishneva/Gomes and Vishneva/Malakhov, though, and am glad I have those memories! 

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15 minutes ago, ord7916 said:

Roman Zhurbin was the jailer, a role which he also played with Diana.  I remember that being a wonderfully seductive scene, which it was not this time. 

That is NOT how I would ever have described that scene....

It is a rape scene

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Just back from tonight's performance and yes, Herman did go on.

My first and only Manon was the Diana / Marcelo version and that remains not only the best ballet I ever saw, but also one of the best evenings I ever spent in any theater.  So I have long been hesitant about seeing anyone else for fear of ruining that memory.

Tonight's show did not equal that.  Nothing ever will.  But I was mostly pleased.  The music is so glorious and the choreography is so ingenious that I felt a touch of the chills that I felt the first time.  Just a touch, but that was good enough.

I am not an expert on the technical aspects of ballet, so others can probably provide a better critique of that. But I thought Sarah was the best she's ever been in what seems like an unlikely role for her.  Herman's dancing was nothing dramatic, but was fine, and he is adorable.  ABT dancers often suffer from a lack of chemistry, though definitely not tonight.  They were an ideal pair, with great passion and a very long steamy kiss in Act I.

Blaine Hoven was good as Lescaut.  Roman Zhurbin was the jailer, a role which he also played with Diana.  I remember that being a wonderfully seductive scene, which it was not this time.  Act III as a whole wasn't terribly exciting until the final scene.  That is the scene by which all else will be judged.  And while there was nothing particularly out of the ordinary, I thought they did it perfectly - exactly what we'd expected and hoped to see. 

The orchestra seemed mostly full, although there was a noticeable increase in empty seats after Act II.  That included the lady siting next to me, though I cannot imagine why. 

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I went last night and tonight.  My first Manon was at the Royal Ballet in 1980 with Jennifer Penney and Wayne Eagling, and I loved it.  The first season ABT did it, I rushed to see it and was sorely disappointed.  What had been fresh and interesting in London was stale in NY; I can’t even remember who danced.  As a result I’ve skipped all the intervening times it’s been done by ABT, but I wanted to see Bolle one more time and I wanted to see Lane and Cornejo.  Whiteside versus Hoven as Lescaut: Whiteside wins overwhelmingly, although Hoven was not bad.  Hammoudi versus Zhurbin as the jailer: Hammoudi takes this one.  Zhurbin was casual where Hammoudi radiated stage presence and authority.  Otherwise, tonight takes it.  Last night was boring and dragged on and on.  Tonight flew by and Lane and Cornejo were terrific.

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I’ve never seen Manon live in performance before tonight and I was overwhelmed.  I thought Lane and Cornejo were completely transformed tonight.  Never have I seen either one dance with so much emotion and conviction – maybe because neither one has been given the chance before, at least not at ABT.  Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but whatever frustrations, anger and pain they may have had bottled up - the promotions missed, the roles denied – it seemed everything appeared onstage via their characters.  And it’s about time, too.  Cornejo often tends to be more stoic than emotive, keeping his face subdued.  Not tonight.  By the third act his Des Grieux was an emotional wreck, a nobleman’s son turned cheat and murderer who loses it all.  His devastation was heart-rending.  Cornejo had to wait years to show us this performance, until it was almost too late – more lost opportunities.

This is the first time Lane has been cast in a real adult role, mature and very emotionally complex, and she pulled it off brilliantly.  Lane has never danced like this before.  Princess Aurora and Princess Praline have vanished, along with all of Lane’s usual mannerisms.  The Act I pas de deux with Cornejo was gorgeous and Lane’s port de bras was like a rippling flag, signaling her love.  It made her acceptance of G.M.’s gifts all the more amazing:  trying on the coat was like falling under a spell, and Lane made sure you could the change pass across her face.  Des Grieux never had a chance beside such magic.  In Act II, Lane moves her character even deeper into disrepute, with her haughty promenade around the room, basking in men’s attention.  In her Swan Lake performance, Lane was a natural as Odette, and here at last, in Act II’s Manon, we see her Odile.  She’s always had this darkness in her and it’s just taken the right opportunity to pry it loose.  By Act III, in a spiky wig, tiny costume and bare-legged, Sarah Lane has vanished completely.  Her beautiful port de bras is gone, and this dying woman is no one we know.  If you thought Lane’s Giselle was riveting, her Manon is astonishing.  And if you watch closely, you can see Lane’s Juliet within Manon, as well as her Odile.  If we never get to see her in these roles, at least we have this, and I can’t wait to see Manon again on Friday.

Blaine Hoven was razor-sharp as Lescaut, a thief and cheat with the good looks of a gentleman.  His drunken dance in Act II was a feat of great skill and flexibility, and his acting top-notch.  He is better and better each time I see him, and I hope something good will come of it.  He is a great dancer and his promotion, as we know, is long overdue.

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7 hours ago, laurel said:

This is the first time Lane has been cast in a real adult role, mature and very emotionally complex, and she pulled it off brilliantly.  Lane has never danced like this before.  Princess Aurora and Princess Praline have vanished, along with all of Lane’s usual mannerisms.  The Act I pas de deux with Cornejo was gorgeous and Lane’s port de bras was like a rippling flag, signaling her love.  It made her acceptance of G.M.’s gifts all the more amazing:  trying on the coat was like falling under a spell, and Lane made sure you could the change pass across her face.  Des Grieux never had a chance beside such magic.  In Act II, Lane moves her character even deeper into disrepute, with her haughty promenade around the room, basking in men’s attention.  In her Swan Lake performance, Lane was a natural as Odette, and here at last, in Act II’s Manon, we see her Odile.  She’s always had this darkness in her and it’s just taken the right opportunity to pry it loose.  By Act III, in a spiky wig, tiny costume and bare-legged, Sarah Lane has vanished completely.  Her beautiful port de bras is gone, and this dying woman is no one we know.  If you thought Lane’s Giselle was riveting, her Manon is astonishing.  And if you watch closely, you can see Lane’s Juliet within Manon, as well as her Odile.  If we never get to see her in these roles, at least we have this, and I can’t wait to see Manon again on Friday.

This is exactly what I was hoping for from Lane in this role. Very excited to see this on Friday. Thanks for your review.

We did see Lane as Odile here, and I thought much the same was true of her performance then. It sounds like her Manon is a further big step for her artistically.

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Like Laurel, I was blown away by Lane's portrayal -- so much nuanced detail and convincing emotion, along with her impressive technique. Even more impressive for me: the intense chemistry between Lane and Cornejo. They have danced together before in many roles and seem to have a comfort level in pushing the envelope in their acting and dancing. By the final PdD, Cornejo seemed totally spent, emotionally and physically, and it showed in his bows. 

Abrera and Whiteside impressed me Monday as Lescaut and his mistress. Hoven was fine on Tuesday, but Trenary was a blank for me. She seemed cynical and bitter in Act I, while Abrera seemed to have decided that this is the life she is stuck with, so find some fun and sassiness in it. 

This is one of my favorite ballets. I saw three performances in 2014, including the Vishneva-Gomes pairing that others have mentioned. Then I found a way to see three performances with Royal last year, although I never managed to see Osipova. There are several DVDs out there, too, including the original cast (Dowell and Sibley). My favorite is the Acosta-Rojo recording, which is free on Amazon Prime, for those of you who subscribe. A writer I otherwise adore finds Manon too "schmaltzy." Well, I guess I love schmaltz -- the lush score, the drama, the intense partnering.

I'm so glad to see Cornejo back on stage and can't wait to see Lane-Cornejo again on Friday. I think we're all in for another treat. And I'm wondering if Hallberg and Boylston do as well in their debuts in this wonderful ballet tonight.

Edited by California
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Ratmansky just posted on Facebook his last performance with Royal Danish Ballet as Lescaut. Take a look at the hideous costumes for the women! Lane posted on her Instagram story some shots of the names in her costumes. Sibley and Collier wore those! Good for ABT to bring in the Royal's costumes! It must be exciting for the dancers to see those legendary names.

 

Edited by California
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I too saw the Lane/Cornejo performance last evening. I have seen Manon twice: once with Alessandra Ferri substituting for an injured Xiomara Reyes in 2007 (she was partnered by Angel Corella); the other time with Julie Kent partnered by Roberto Bolle close to the time she retired. Ferri owned that role—I have never forgotten her dramatic performance. Kent was good but not transcendent.

I agree with the other commenters that Sarah was glorious. The highest compliment I can give is that in her own way she inhabited the role just as Ferri did. She started slowly in Act 1, looking as innocent as how she plays Aurora, but her portrayal deepened in Acts 2 and 3. By the last scene she was  Manon, helped enormously by Cornejo’s abandon. Together they transcended the ballet and created indelible art.

The orchestra had pockets of empty single seats in the center section and banks of empty seats in the side sections. And yet for a huge theater the stage seemed small and crowded, something I did not notice all these years of ABT subscriptions at the Met. It was hard to single out, much less appreciate, individual dancers. Blaine Hoven, dubbing for Simkin, hardly had enough room to traverse the stage in his jumps. Too many costumed non-dancers on the stage.

Some thoughts: I found the ballet too long. Some people did leave after Act 2. In the crowd scenes I found my mind wandering. But I must commend the orchestra, under the direction of David La Marche. The music was wonderful, glorious, kept bringing me back when my mind wandered.

Unfortunately I was not riveted by Cassandra Trenary’s performance. She is a lovely, beautiful, lyrical dancer, but despite adequate acting, especially in the drunk dance, she did not project and own the stage. That’s what I am looking for in a prima ballerina. Blaine Hoven, on the other hand, was fantastic as the drunken Lescaut. Every movement and facial expression was right on. I was not expecting him to be so good at character dancing. I think he has a great career ahead in these roles. He was supposed to be one of the Three Gentlemen. Joseph Gorak, Calvin Royal III, and a third, unnamed dancer, were terrific in their solo. Who was that third dancer?

Finally, it was a privilege to see Cornejo in his long coveted role. He gave it his everything and he and Sarah created a partnership for the ages in these roles. I am so happy for him. I will long remember this performance.

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What more can be said? Lane was transcendent. One of her greatest roles to date - that and Giselle. She keeps getting better and better when dancers in her age group start slowing down and showing signs of diminishing technique. She's extraordinary. Her partnership with Cornejo is truly special -- just chemistry off the charts. 

At bows, I was close enough to see that she was crying. It must have been a wonderful and momentous experience for her.

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Lane proved her principal dancer chops long before she was promoted to Principal Dancer, but last night she outdid herself, delivering a heart-stopping performance that took every risk and nailed it, along with her fellow principal Herman Cornejo. Her dancing was, indeed, "transcendent," as Fleurfairy noted above, both technically, and emotionally. I've long been a fan of Lane's and hope that this Manon will give her access to more performances of Giselle, Swan Lake, and Romeo and Juliet.

I'd like to put in a plug here for Courtney Lavine, who is a beautiful dancer and finally got to take a curtain call outside the curtain with her fellow harlot (was that Betsy McBride?).

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8 hours ago, nanushka said:

This is exactly what I was hoping for from Lane in this role. Very excited to see this on Friday. Thanks for your review.

We did see Lane as Odile here, and I thought much the same was true of her performance then. It sounds like her Manon is a further big step for her artistically.

Yes, I did see her NY Swan Lake debut two years ago, and her Odile was impressive, but after only four rehearsals (per Daniil Simkin), it was a project in the works.  In Manon, she gives a far more visceral portrayal.  And it will return on Friday!

As Fleurfairy noted below, Lane was weeping through much of the curtain calls - they received a standing ovation, of course.  When she and Cornejo appeared for front of curtain bows, she appeared slightly awestruck, and gazed around at the audience with what seemed to be a look of gratitude. 

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I went to both the Copeland-Stearns matinee and the Hallberg-Boylston in the evening on Wednesday. Apparently all four Manons are debut performances and it strikes me that all have gotten good coaching on dramatic details and nuance. Somebody on this board said that Ferri is in town and wondered if she's coaching. Nobody has posted anything like that on Instagram, so who knows.

If Copeland or Boylston blurred or omitted choreography, I didn't notice. Both brought a sense of abandon, although they didn't knock my socks off as Lane did Tuesday night. And nobody had the chemistry with their partners that Lane did with Cornejo.

Hallberg was magnificant. I was up close and the emotion in his acting was riveting. He's such a polished professional and he "spoke" so eloquently throughout. He's prepared for this role before and had to pull out with injuries, so we might be seeing the result of some of that coaching at Royal Ballet. His technique in all those long adagio solos seemed much more secure than others in the role, and with his beautiful lines, he's just gorgeous.

Stearns is a blank to me. I just don't see anything in his face. When he was expressing joyfulness, his smile looked more like a teenager's grin. Adagios didn't seem as secure as Cornejo or Hallberg. No complaints about the partnering. We know this was a debut for Cornejo and Hallberg, but I don't know about Stearns. And I don't know that coaching on the emotional expressiveness would help. 

The house for both seemed about 75%. Copeland had warned her young fans that this might not be appropriate, so that probably cut attendance. 

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I saw Cory Stearns dance Des Grieux in 2014 with Polina Semionova.  He is one of two Des Grieuxs (the other being Bolle) who have danced the role before.  All four Manons and Cornejo and Hallberg are role debuts.

Like California, I also attended both the afternoon and evening performances yesterday.

The thing about "Manon" is you need strong chemistry between the leads.  Neither performance yesterday had that chemistry.

Misty Copeland had a very strong debut as Manon - I think she is well cast in the role actually.  Misty has engaging youthful charm (and Manon needs charm since she doesn't treat people well) and also a natural unaffected sensuality.  The choreography doesn't require more technique than she has and the beautiful curves of her torso and legs give a sensual line to the choreography.  Misty is also a very good actress with natural facial expressions and a lovely smile.  Her Act I Manon worked for me in the first scene as an open, curious teenager with lots of joie de vivre discovering the world and the power of her sexuality.  The second act worldly courtesan was less convincing - Misty just didn't radiate quite enough sophisticated glamour and looked like a small-town girl dressed up in borrowed finery.  (Diana Vishneva was the only ballerina who really convinced me as the superstar courtesan in Act II)  Misty also is small and was very light when lifted and carried and her back is flexible.  The final scenes were very well done by Misty who was quite intense.   Her Manon was full of a lust for life and experience that made you see why Des Grieux has trouble letting her go - she didn't seem mean spirited just emotionally naive and morally undeveloped.  I think this was a very good start with room for further refinement.  Misty can take this role around the world as she has with her MacMillan Juliet.

Cory was Cory.  The first solo was dull if competently enough danced.  He didn't give as much back to Misty and she gave to him though he partnered her well.  Cory has always looks very handsome and his body has beautiful lines and placement.  Other than that he is a cipher.  The real life came from Calvin Royal III and Catherine Hurlin as Lescaut and his Mistress.  Calvin had lots of bad boy fun in him and danced the hell out of the part.  Hurlin is really having a breakthrough season - her dancing was clean and vibrant.  Her characterization was of a young, saucy good time girl with zero f*cks to give.  She was a good natured cocotte who didn't care what happened as long as she was making a good living while having a good time.  Her second act showed real potential as a comic actress with lots of witty dramatic touches.  Her dancing was excellent throughout.  Hurlin is moving fast and really making the most of every opportunity.

The evening show was quite different.  David Hallberg showed that Des Grieux is a role that he was born to dance - he really brought out the naive poetic quality in Des Grieux as no one has since Vladimir Malakhov danced it with Vishneva.  Marcelo was very dramatic in a Latin lover way but David is more the sensitive, dreamy naif from Prevost's novel.  I found his acting full of nuance and feeling - he really brought the character's emotional dilemma to vivid, painful reality. Hallberg's line is beautiful and his port de bras a dream.  The refinement in his dancing mirrors that of the creator Antony Dowell.  His partnering was good, not great and quite careful but he also has had shoulder and arm injuries.  Of course, one can only imagine what might have been had this been ten years ago and pre-injury Hallberg was partnered with Osipova.  For right now in his late thirties and after nearly career-ending injuries, this was a minor miracle. 

I found Isabella Boylston too strong as Manon and not ideally cast.  Her real role in this ballet is Lescaut's Mistress - it has harder footwork and turns and is a sassier, pluckier character.  Boylston has great technique and her footwork and chainés were impressive all night.  She and Hallberg have danced together a lot lately and worked well together.  Her Manon seemed experienced in the first scene and in the second scene of Act I she seemed to immediately become a calculating, cynical prostitute before our eyes.  It seemed to me that Boylston's Manon was basically a prostitute from the get go and the innocence was an act she quickly dropped when Msr. G.M. shows her the money.  Her Act II was well-danced - particularly her solo - but I didn't see what made Manon the object of every man's attention in the room.  I also wasn't heartbroken for her at the end.  As I said, her role is the Mistress not Manon.  Blaine Hoven and Christine Schevchenko danced and acted the hell out of Lescaut and his Mistress.  Hoven's trick jumps and turns were virtuosic and he seemed to outdance Hallberg.  Whiteside had just a little more hammy insouciance and acting ability but Hoven delivered a bravura dance performance.  Schevchenko danced better on a technical level than any other Mistress though the experienced Stella Abrera had more nuance.  Schevchenko also was very funny in Act II with great comic reactions.  The drunk pas de deux was a big hit with the audience in both the matinee and evening performances.  Tom Forster was very menacing and sadistic as the Jailer.  

For those who want to know:  the sets and costumes are the original Nicholas Georgiadis production from the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden and the music is in the arrangement and orchestration by Martin Yates.  Some years ago ABT borrowed a rather dingy production by Peter Farmer from Houston Ballet.  This borrowed production from the ROH looks in good condition and is luxe - in particular the costumes.  One detail I am missing or did I imagine it?  In Act II during Manon's solo which turns into that sequence where she is carried aloft and passed from man to man - I remember that during this scene all the men in the room are fixated on Manon and are starting to approach her by the end.  In this staging, the other male partygoers are dallying with other prostitutes and ignoring Manon during her solo and then suddenly converge on her when it is over.  You don't get that sense of Manon seducing everyone.

Edited by FauxPas
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11 minutes ago, abatt said:

According to Hallberg's website, he is scheduled to do Manon at ROH in the fall with Osipova.

That is a pairing that would get me back to Manon in a heartbeat (I really dislike the ballet but that would be amazing)!

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1 hour ago, FauxPas said:

For those who want to know:  the sets and costumes are the original Nicholas Georgiadis production from the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden and the music is in the arrangement and orchestration by Martin Yates.  Some years ago ABT borrowed a rather dingy production by Peter Farmer from Houston Ballet.  This borrowed production from the ROH looks in good condition and is luxe - in particular the costumes.  One detail I am missing or did I imagine it?  In Act II during Manon's solo which turns into that sequence where she is carried aloft and passed from man to man - I remember that during this scene all the men in the room are fixated on Manon and are starting to approach her by the end.  In this staging, the other male partygoers are dallying with other prostitutes and ignoring Manon during her solo and then suddenly converge on her when it is over.  You don't get that sense of Manon seducing everyone.

I'm so glad to hear they rented a good production! I'd just been watching this video of Aurelie Dupont in the variation that I think you are referencing. Here it seems like she's mostly interacting with Des Grieux and her older benefactor (I forget the character's name). From past ABT viewings, I do remember the freeze-frame device in which everyone but those three characters are still throughout the center portion of her variation. 

 

Edited by fondoffouettes
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I thought Lane was gorgeous as Manon on Tuesday night, and Cornejo made for a superb Des Grieux.   Lane was absolutely stunning and she hit every dramatic nuance and gesture.  By the last scene I was totally exhausted and my heart was breaking for them both.   The audience went absolutely wild which was well deserved.

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