Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

'Manon' Still Thrills amid Balletic Beauty

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

'Manon' Still Thrills amid Balletic Beauty

Article excerpt

When Kenneth MacMillan created "Manon" for the Royal Ballet in 1974, it marked a radical departure from the conventional classical cast of fairies, nymphs and exotic princesses.

The late Scottish choreographer believed ballet should reflect contemporary reality and the complicated truths of people's lives. His portrait of a young courtesan torn between love and money, based on an 18th-century novel by Abbe Prevost, brought a moral sensibility to the stage and a psychological depth to the ballet world.

Forty years later, "Manon" remains a fresh and fascinating study in human frailty, a cautionary tale that is dark, deeply human and, even today, startlingly erotic.

It was with anticipation that I settled into a cushy new seat at the recently renovated Royal Palm 20 in Bradenton for an encore screening from the Royal Opera House's "Live Cinema" series, part of the theater's new slate of "alternative programming" that includes ballet, opera, theater and music performances from around the world.

Unfortunately, during the first 10 minutes, the theater's proud display of its new wide-screen projection capability cut off either the feet or the heads of all the dancers on the screen. Luckily, an adjustment was made before I stormed out in a snit and three and a half hours later, I couldn't have been happier that I chose to stay. "Manon" is both a balletic and a theatrical tour de force.

Of course, sumptuous period costuming, extravagant sets, live music and high caliber dancing are routine from the Royal. But it was MacMillan's strikingly original yet fluidly organic choreography to the Jules Massenet score -- danced by a well-cast ensemble filmed last October -- that made this production sing.

Marienela Nunez's expressions captured every nuance of the tragic heroine's emotional rollercoaster, while refraining from the histrionics MacMillan purportedly abhorred. …

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