Manon, a ballet created by Sir Kenneth MacMillan, was first performed in by the Royal Ballet Brisbane in 1988 as part of the Bicentennial celebrations and again by the Australian Ballet in 1994. It has returned in 2014 to be performed again by the Australian Ballet with a cast of younger dancers under the artistic directorship of David McAllister .
Leanne Stojmenov and Daniel Gaudiello in Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Manon.
The performance was partnered by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra under the musical directorship of conductor Nicolette Fraillon. Its performance highlighted the melodic character of the score.
The role of Manon was danced by Principal artist, Lucinda Dunn, Manon's lover, des Grieux, Principal Artist Adam Bull; Manon's brother Lescaut, Principal Artist Andrew Killan and Lescaut's mistress, Principal Artist Lana Jones.
Guest artists were well known ballet veterans Steven Heathcote as Monsieur GM (Manon's suitor) and Julie de Costa as Madame X (hotel/brothel manager). Soloists Brett Chynoweth and Brett Simon, danced the roles of the beggar chief and gaoler respectively.
The opening scene is set in a courtyard in an inn near Paris where Lescaut has come to meet his sister, Manon, who is about to enter a convent. However events unfold differently as Lescaut enters negotiations to broker a deal over his sister's fate with an elderly wealthy gentleman. Manon in the meantime meets and falls in love with a young student, des Grieux, with whom she hastily elopes to Paris aided by money stolen from wealthy gentleman. The discovery of her disappearance by her brother, sees the emergence of another suitor, Monsieur GM, and sets in train a search for Manon by Lescaut to persuade her to accept him. What follows is the unfolding of Manon's fate. This lurches between a struggle for her affection by Monsieur GM and des Grieux, mediated by her brother's financial motives, and ends with her own death and that of her brother .
Along the way, the audience is treated to four pas de deux between Manon and des Grieux, danced with passion and beauty by Lucinda Dunn and Adam Bull. The dancing of the two guest artists brought dramatic tension with balletic grace into the story of Manon's fate. This combined well with the playfulness of the performances of Andrew Killen as Lescaut and Lana Jones as Lescaut's mistress. Dancing by the coryphees and members of the corps de ballet throughout the performance was energetic, visually pleasing, well executed and contextualised the story.
Costumes and set design were the work of Peter Farmer
Given the astonishing dedication and effort required to produce a work of this standard, it was encouraging to be part of a really appreciative audience, who clearly loved what they were seeing and hearing, and were generous with their applause.