Manon – reviews of 'sizzling' Royal Ballet revival

Revival of Kenneth MacMillan ballet about French courtesan 'infernally sexy, desperately moving'

(Image credit: Alice Pennefather, ROH 2014)

What you need to know

A revival of Kenneth MacMillan's ballet Manon has opened at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. MacMillan created the ballet in 1974, based on Abbe Prevost's 1731 novel, with a score by Jules Massenet.

It tells the story of Manon, a beautiful young woman who leaves her poor student lover, Des Grieux, after being pimped out to a wealthy man by her mercenary brother Lescaut. Initially seduced by Monsieur GM's money, she eventually leaves him to return to Des Grieux, and suffers the rich man's revenge.

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The title role is danced by alternating soloists including Marianela Nunez and Russian star Natalia Osipova. Runs until 1 November, and broadcast live in cinemas 16 October.

What the critics like

Lovers of classical ballet should go and see this "magnificent" production of Manon, while sceptics should see it twice, says Mark Monahan in the Daily Telegraph. It remains a towering piece of work, infernally sexy, desperately moving and blessed with a terrific Massenet score.

Kenneth MacMillan's "sex-and-death blockbuster" is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and seems more popular than ever, says Debra Craine in The Times. And who can resist such a sordid and seductive tale or the sizzling sensuality of MacMillan's choreography?

Yes, there's some blistering sex in Manon, but this modern classic "fascinates because it's so ambiguous", says Hanna Weibye on the Arts Desk. It raises questions about morality, culpability and femininity that other ballets often answer simplistically, or never ask at all.

What they don't like

"Even in 1974, this ballet was a period drama", but it was gritty, with insalubrious goings-on, says Lyndsey Winship in the Evening Standard. But 40 years on, this story of an 18th-century material girl has lost some of its power.

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