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Kenneth Macmillan's Manon / Yates, Rojo, Acosta, Royal Ballet


Release Date: 11/17/2009 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 001362409  
Composer:  Jules Massenet
Conductor:  Martin Yates
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Low Stock: Currently 3 or fewer in stock. Usually ships in 24 hours, unless stock becomes depleted.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

This new high-definition film of Kenneth MacMillan’s hugely-popular ballet Manon is the perfect twin to his classic Romeo & Juliet, recently released on September 29th, 2009. Once again, the romantic male lead is taken by the charismatic Carlos Acosta, and once again his beautiful partner is Tamara Rojo.

Prévost’s famous tale is set to the sensual music of Massenet and the Royal Ballet’s staging is played out against the sumptuous set and costume designs of Nicholas Georgiadis.

Manon is the third DVD release from Decca’s new exclusive artist, Carlo Acosta. The Cuban superstar builds on his stunning Spartacus and romantic Romeo & Juliet performances as the ardent young lover, Des Grieux, in
Read more MacMillan’s classic version of the tragedy.

This new high-definition film of Manon is one of the most popular ballets in the Royal Ballet’s repertory, having received over 200 performances since its premiere in 1974.

The DVD also includes an extensive (40 min) and fascinating documentary film, ‘Dancing Manon’, featuring interviews with Carlos Acosta, Tamara Rojo, Monica Mason (Director of the Royal Ballet) and Ross MacGibbon (TV Director).

Technical Specifications
DISCS: 2
SUBTITLES: N/A (ballet DVD)
PICTURE FORMAT : 16:9 (anamorphic widescreen), Color, NTSC, Region Code 0 (worldwide)
SOUND FORMAT : LPCM Stereo & DTS 5.1 Surround (DVD)

BONUS FEATURES:
Extended ‘Dancing Manon’ film, featuring interviews and rehearsal footage

Cast List:
Carlos Acosta (Des Grieux)
Tamara Rojo (Manon)
José Martin (Lescaut)
Christopher Saunders (Monsieur G.M.)
Laura Morera (Lescaut’s Mistress)
Genesia Rosato (Madame)
Thomas Whitehead (The Gaoler)
Paul Kay (Beggar Chief)
Philip Mosley (Old Gentleman)
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Conductor: Martin Yates
Choreography: Kenneth MacMillan TV Director: Ross MacGibbon


R E V I E W:

A truly spellbinding production with superb dancing from Rojo and Acosta.

This new version of Kenneth MacMillan's ballet, Manon, is a sumptuous production with two fabulous leads: the stunningly beautiful and supremely graceful Tamara Rojo as Manon and the athletic yet sensitive Carlos Acosta as Des Grieux. They have a vital sense of theatre and drama and their dancing is wondrous. I used excerpts from this DVD, in the week I am writing this review, at a UK WEA (Workers’ Education Association) Day School I held in Winchester. It spellbound the 36+ audience.

Those expecting Massenet's lovely music from his opera, Manon, will be disappointed for dancer-turned-composer Leighton Lucas and MacMillan selected music with strong dancing rhythms from other Massenet's works. Lucas (with the collaboration of Hilda Gaunt) assembled the ballet score from 45 fragments of Massenet’s music. Massenet was a prolific composer of over a dozen operas, ballets and orchestral music plus oratorios and some 200 songs, so there was plenty of source material to mine. It might be said that MacMillan’s ballet helped to launch a revival of interest in this unjustly neglected composer.

This tragic lyric ballet tells a moving tale of corrupted innocence in which the lovely Manon plunges from happiness to grief because of her fatal craving for luxury at the expense of love. The story of the ballet is based on the classic French novel, Manon Lescaut, by Abbé Prévost, or to give it its proper title, Mémoires et aventures d'un homme qualité. This hot-blooded opus had already been used as a basis for an opera by Massenet with the same title as this ballet. Puccini was to compose his first big hit, his opera, Manon Lescaut, based on other scenes from Prévost’s novella.

In this Royal Ballet production, costumes, scenery and lighting feast the eye. MacMillan’s genius shines everywhere, in his acute observation of character and traits transformed so sharply into dance. Take the evolution of the relationship of Manon and Des Griex. As they meet they are young and rather naïve and innocent. In Act 1 their dancing together, with tender ‘travelling lifts’ has the freshness and exhilaration of new-found love. In the next scene in their love nest, the intimacy and ecstasy of their dance movements leaves no doubt that they are now consummated lovers blissfully aware of each other’s bodies. After Des Grieux leaves, and her brother Lescaut and her rich admirer, G.M., come to entice her away with jewels and furs, the mood and movements descend to degradation as Manon abandons love for riches. In this amazing pas de trois, Tamara Rojo’s figures here are so elastic and snake-like sinuous, that one would imagine she is made of india-rubber. In the end Manon’s rapaciousness catches up with her and she descends through remorse to ruin when she is deported as a prostitute and a thief to the New World. Her final dance with Des Grieux with whom she has run off into the Louisiana swamps after his victorious duel, graphically declares her weakness and despair in Rojo’s heavier mournful movements.

The principals are ably supported especially by José Martín as Manon’s dissolute brother Lescaut and Laura Morera as his mistress. Their hilarious, tipsy dances together are a highlight of Act II’s first scene and these dances are another tribute to MacMillan’s keenly observed choreography. The Corps de Ballet’s characterisations also shine in this scene.

DVD 1 includes a 45 minute documentary on the production of the ballet with comments from the two principals and memories of Kenneth MacMillan and his methods of working from former ballet stars who worked in the original production. MacMillan’s Manon was first performed in 1974 at Covent Garden with Antoinette Sibley and Anthony Dowell.

A truly spellbinding production with superb dancing from Rojo and Acosta.

-- Ian and Grace Lace, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1. Manon: Ballet music by Jules Massenet
Conductor:  Martin Yates
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1883-1884; France 

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