L'histoire de Manon

Last updated

L'histoire de Manon
Choreographer Sir Kenneth MacMillan
Music Jules Massenet, original orchestration by Leighton Lucas – New orchestration in 2011 by Martin Yates
Premiere1974
Royal Opera House, London
Original ballet company Royal Ballet
GenreClassical ballet

L'histoire de Manon, generally referred to as Manon, is a ballet choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan to music by Jules Massenet and based on the 1731 novel Manon Lescaut by Abbé Prévost. The ballet was first performed by The Royal Ballet in London in 1974 with Antoinette Sibley and Anthony Dowell in the leading roles. It continues to be performed and recognised internationally.

Contents

Background

Kenneth MacMillan had been thinking about choreographing a ballet about the story of Manon Lescaut for some time. Three years into his artistic directorship of The Royal Ballet, he wanted to create a large-scale operatic ballet that would provide exciting roles both for the company's principal dancers and the corps de ballet . [1]

On the last night of the company's summer season in 1973, MacMillan left a copy of Prévost's novel in Antoinette Sibley's dressing room, with a note informing her that it would "come in handy for March 7, '74". As the copy of Manon Lescaut was in a double volume with the novella Carmen by Prosper Mérimée, Sibley asked Anthony Dowell to find out which story was to be turned into a ballet, while she performed onstage in The Sleeping Beauty . [2]

MacMillan began choreographing Manon during the 1973–74 season. He left the title character open to differing dancer interpretations, but was himself sympathetic to her poverty, believing that it was her desire to escape this that underpinned her decisions. [1]

MacMillan used the designs of Nicholas Georgiadis, which reflected the "precarious division between opulence and degradation" with "the stench of poverty ever-present". [3] The ballet's narrative structure is based on that of MacMillan's earlier Romeo and Juliet, with hero and heroine meeting each other as young innocents and their love being revealed through a series of pas de deux . [4]

Critical responses to the opening night performance were mixed. The Guardian newspaper stated, "Basically, Manon is a slut and Des Grieux is a fool and they move in the most unsavoury company", while the Morning Star described the ballet as "an appalling waste of the lovely Antoinette Sibley, who is reduced to a nasty little diamond digger". The opening night audience gave the ballet a standing ovation. [5]

Synopsis

Act I – Paris
Scene 1The courtyard of an inn near Paris
The courtyard at the inn is frequented by actresses, gentlemen and the demimonde from Paris. Among them are des Grieux, a young student, the wealthy Monsieur GM, and Lescaut, who is there to meet his sister Manon on her way to enter a convent. A coach arrives bringing Manon and an old gentleman who has been very much attracted to her. Lescaut notices this and takes the gentleman into the inn to come to an arrangement with him over Manon. Manon remains outside and meets des Grieux. They fall in love and decide to escape to Paris with the help of the money that she has stolen from the old gentleman. Lescaut and the old gentleman come out of the inn, having made a bargain, and to their dismay see that Manon has disappeared. Monsieur GM tells Lescaut that he too is interested in Manon and because of this wealth Lescaut promises to find Manon and persuade her to accept GM.

Scene 2Des Grieux's lodgings in Paris
Des Grieux is writing a letter to his father but Manon interrupts by declaring her love for him. Des Grieux goes to post the letter and in his absence Lescaut arrives with Monsieur GM. Manon yields to GM's advances and when des Grieux returns, Lescaut persuades him that there will be great wealth for all of them if he, des Grieux, will sanction the liaison between Manon and GM.

Act II
Scene 1A party at the hotel particulier of Madame
Manon arrives at the party given by Monsieur GM and is clearly torn between the wealth of her companion and her love for des Grieux, who is also there with Lescaut. Des Grieux tries to persuade Manon to leave with him but she tells him that the time is not right and only will be when he takes more of Monsieur GM's money at cards. Des Grieux is caught cheating and he and Manon rush away.

Scene 2Des Grieux's lodgings
Manon and des Grieux once again declare their love for one another but Monsieur GM arrives with the police and Manon is arrested as a prostitute. In the ensuing struggle Lescaut is killed.

Act III – New Orleans
Scene 1The port
The gaoler of the penal colony awaits the arrival of the convicts from France. Manon has been deported to America as a prostitute and des Grieux has followed her there by pretending to be her husband. The gaoler now turns his interest towards Manon.

Scene 2The gaoler's room
The gaoler has arrested Manon but offers her rewards in the hope that she will desert des Grieux and live with him. Des Grieux, however, breaks in and kills the gaoler.

Scene 3The swamp
Manon and des Grieux have escaped into the swamp of Louisiana. All her former ambitions of wealth and splendour have been renounced for her love for des Grieux. While eluding their pursuers, Manon collapses and dies in his arms.

Music in L'histoire de Manon

MacMillan chose not to use music from Massenet's opera Manon , instead selecting other well-known pieces by the same composer such as Elegie and Méditation . The music, originally arranged and partially orchestrated by the British composer Leighton Lucas and re-orchestrated by the conductor Martin Yates in 2011, draws on thirteen operas and two oratorios as well as Massenet's orchestral suites, various mélodies and piano works.

Act I

Act II

Act III

Original cast

Antoinette Sibley and Anthony Dowell were selected by MacMillan to create the roles of Manon and Des Grieux. The first performance was at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden on 7 March 1974, [6] with the following cast:

Jennifer Penney and Wayne Eagling led the second cast late in the month. [7]

Notes

  1. 1 2 Parry, p. 428
  2. Parry, p. 429
  3. Parry, p. 431
  4. Parry, p 423
  5. Parry, p. 437
  6. "Manon". Kennethmacmillan.com. Archived from the original on 20 October 2014. Retrieved 15 October 2014.
  7. Percival, John. "Manon", The Times, 14 March 1974, p. 15

Related Research Articles

<i>Manon Lescaut</i> Novel by Abbé Prévost

The Story of the Chevalier des Grieux and Manon Lescaut is a novel by Antoine François Prévost. Published in 1731, it is the seventh and final volume of Mémoires et aventures d'un homme de qualité.

<i>Manon</i>

Manon is an opéra comique in five acts by Jules Massenet to a French libretto by Henri Meilhac and Philippe Gille, based on the 1731 novel L’histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut by the Abbé Prévost. It was first performed at the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 19 January 1884, with sets designed by Eugène Carpezat, Auguste Alfred Rubé and Philippe Chaperon, and Jean-Baptiste Lavastre.

Jules Massenet French composer (1842-1912)

Jules Émile Frédéric Massenet was a French composer of the Romantic era best known for his operas, of which he wrote more than thirty. The two most frequently staged are Manon (1884) and Werther (1892). He also composed oratorios, ballets, orchestral works, incidental music, piano pieces, songs and other music.

<i>Manon Lescaut</i> (Puccini)

Manon Lescaut is an Italian-language opera in four acts composed by Giacomo Puccini between 1889 and 1892 to a libretto by Luigi Illica, Marco Praga and Domenico Oliva, based on the 1731 novel Histoire du Chevalier des Grieux, et de Manon Lescaut by the Abbé Prévost. The opera was first performed in 1893 in Turin, at the Teatro Regio.

<i>Manon Lescaut</i> (Auber)

Manon Lescaut is an opera or opéra comique in three acts by Daniel Auber to a libretto by Eugène Scribe, and, like Puccini's Manon Lescaut and Massenet's Manon, is based on the Abbé Prévost's novel Manon Lescaut (1731). Auber's version is nowadays the least-performed of the three.

Dame Antoinette Sibley, is a British prima ballerina. She joined the Royal Ballet from the Royal Ballet School in 1956 and became a soloist in 1960. She was celebrated for her partnership with Anthony Dowell. After her retirement from dancing in 1989 she became President of the Royal Academy of Dance in 1991, and guest coach at the Royal Ballet (1991) and Governor, Royal Ballet Board (2000).

<i>Le portrait de Manon</i>

Le portrait de Manon is an opéra comique in one act by Jules Massenet to a French libretto by Georges Boyer. It is related to Massenet's 1884 opera Manon, widely regarded to be his masterpiece. However Le portrait de Manon is rarely performed today.

Kenneth MacMillan

Sir Kenneth MacMillan was a British ballet dancer and choreographer who was artistic director of the Royal Ballet in London between 1970 and 1977, and its principal choreographer from 1977 until his death. Earlier he had served as director of ballet for the Deutsche Oper in Berlin. He was also associate director of the American Ballet Theatre from 1984 to 1989, and artistic associate of the Houston Ballet from 1989 to 1992.

<i>Cendrillon</i>

Cendrillon (Cinderella) is an opera—described as a "fairy tale"—in four acts by Jules Massenet to a French libretto by Henri Caïn based on Perrault's 1698 version of the Cinderella fairy tale.

<i>Boulevard Solitude</i>

Boulevard Solitude is a Lyrisches Drama or opera in one act by Hans Werner Henze to a German libretto by Grete Weil after the play by Walter Jockisch, in its turn a modern retelling of Abbé Prévost's 1731 novel Manon Lescaut. The piece is a reworking of the Manon Lescaut story, already adapted operatically by Auber, Massenet and Puccini, and here relocated to Paris after World War II where, as is noted in Grove, the focus of the story moves away from Manon and towards Armand des Grieux. It became Henze's first fully-fledged opera. The work stands out for its strong jazz influences, from a composer who had hitherto been associated with twelve-tone technique.

Laurent Pelly is a French opera and theatre director born in Paris in 1962. He enjoys a career as one of France's most sought after directors of both theatre and opera, working regularly in the world’s most prestigious houses.

Sir Anthony James Dowell is a retired British ballet dancer and a former artistic director of the Royal Ballet. He is widely recognized as one of the great danseurs nobles of the twentieth century.

Manon is an opera by Jules Massenet, adapted from Abbé Prévost's novel Manon Lescaut.

Lucien Fugère

Lucien Fugère was a French baritone, particularly associated with the French repertory and Mozart roles. He enjoyed an exceptionally long career, singing into his 80s.

Patrick Fournillier

Patrick Fournillier is a French conductor, particularly associated with opera and with the works of Jules Massenet.

"Donna non vidi mai" is a tenor aria from the act 1 of Giacomo Puccini's opera, Manon Lescaut. The aria is sung by Des Grieux to a beautiful young lady, Manon Lescaut, who is destined for a convent at the will of her father. Des Grieux sings this aria of his feelings for her.

<i>When a Man Loves</i> 1927 film by Alan Crosland

When a Man Loves is a 1927 American silent historical drama film directed by Alan Crosland and produced and distributed by Warner Bros.. The picture stars John Barrymore and features Dolores Costello in the frequently filmed story of Abbe Prevost's 1731 novel Manon Lescaut. The UK release title was His Lady.

Nathalie Manfrino is a French soprano. For UNIVERSAL- DECCA, She recorded her first disc, "French Heroines" with The Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, DECCA label, which received the Golden Orpheus and the "Georg Solti prize". Her second solo recording album, Méditations, is a tribute to Jules Massenet, with the Monte-Carlo philharmonic orchestra conducted by Michel Plasson.

Derek Rencher

Derek Rencher was a British ballet dancer. A commanding figure among Royal Ballet character dancers for more than four decades, he was probably the most prolific performer in the company's history.

References