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"All anticipation was about Manon. This ballet now stands outside time and competitors, and it was its creator Kenneth MacMillan’s pass to the world of big-scale ballet"
24 JUN 14 Another preview of Manon by a Russian TV channel makes clear once again of the anticipation of the Moscow public for the Royal Ballet’s performance of Kenneth MacMillan’s drama ballet, never before seen at the Bolshoi. Reviews are slowly coming online, as most critics waited to see the final cast, their own former star in the Bolshoi Natalia Osipova, in her debut in the ballet alongside Carlos Acosta on Sunday evening.
The public interest in the company’s previous triple bill of one-act ballets is far lower, so again patience seems required - even as the London company is now in Taiwan.
It’s been little mentioned in Britain but there is in fact a major year of cultural exchanges going on between here and Russia this year - overshadowed, naturally, by the events in Ukraine.
The article mentions Acosta's great following in Moscow after his remarkable Spartacus with the Bbolshoi Ballet a few years ago.
Here’s a translation of this featurette, which has comments by Carlos Acosta, Marianela Nuñez and Federico Bonelli, as well as RB director Kevin O’Hare.
The pride of the Covent Garden ballet
On 10 June the Royal Ballet of Covent Garden performed the world-renowned ballet by Kenneth MacMillan, Manon, at the Bolshoi Theatre. Based on the ever-attractive book by Abbé Antoine François Prévost, The Story of the Cavalier Des Grieux and Manon Lescaut, first published in 1731, MacMillan’s ballet is now four decades old, but its age in no way reduces the great interest it draws from the public all over the world. This production is the pride of the London company, and its performance in Moscow was one of the most notable events of the Anglo-Russian cultural exchange year.
The company’s evening of one-act ballets, with its minimalism and avantgardism, was taken by the Moscow public as a prelude to the main event. All anticipation was about Manon. This ballet now stands outside time and competitors, and it was its creator Kenneth MacMillan’s pass to the world of big-scale ballet, defining the passionate, dramatic style of the English Royal Ballet.
The mixed programme was not the big one. The public knows what Manon means to the Covent Garden repertoire - the ballet has already endured 40 years. Carlos Acosta will be dancing his Manon with Natalia Osipova in two days’ time. And this evening he was only a spectator. But the fans know his legendary Spartacus, and they want his autograph. Acosta has been embracing Manon for 20 years now. He knows very well what the spectators are feeling.
"They live a life that every person sitting in the theatre can understand" - Acosta
‘This is a story in which there are many different stories and many characters. They live a life that every single person in that theatre can understand. There’s no happy ending here, but you have passion - disturbing, burning passion,’ says Acosta.
Four casts were announced for the Moscow tour. On the first night Manon and her Des Grieux were to be Marianela Nuñez and Federico Bonelli.
"Manon has been a visiting card for our company" - O'Hare
"MacMillan’s Manon is an enormously eloquent dance work. As is well-known, Massenet wrote the opera Manon Lescaut and never wrote music for ballet. The choreographer created the score from pieces of the most famous of Massenet’s compositions and filled them with hugely dramatic dance.
"Manon has really been a kind of visiting card for our company for many years now, because it shows the major traditions that we work in. Here you get the depth of imagination, portraits of real people," says the Royal Ballet’s director Kevin O’Hare.
"The Bolshoi stage gives us a boost" - Nuñez
For Marianela, every time she dies in the arms of Des Grieux she feels contradictory emotions - bitterness and ecstasy. Especially now, on the stage of the Bolshoi, where she danced as a 20-year-old ballerina.
"The Bolshoi stage gives us a boost - we know the history of this ballet theatre and of course we’re nervous, but the nerves work very positively for this story," she says.
"Anyone who has ever loved understands this story" - Bonelli
Federico Bonelli, a frequent guest on the Bolshoi stage, does not conceal his happiness. He is ready once again to live the three hours of this terrible story. "Anyone who has ever loved understands this story," comments the Royal Ballet principal.
Firmly established in London, this French Manon enchants the public in many countries. The Bolshoi’s audience and own artists experienced the love story in one breath with the English company. And they thanked the performers with ecstatic ovations.
Manon is keenly awaited in Russia
Lamb and Pennefather in Manon (photo Bill Cooper/ROH)