Kenneth MacMillan’s ballet to the music of Jules Massenet
World premiere: March 3, 1974 in the Royal Ballet (London)
Premiere at the Estonian National Opera: April 7, 2011
Kenneth MacMillan’s ballet to Jules Massenet’s beautiful music introduces 18th century life and strata – from aristocrats to social outcasts. The ballet is based on Abbe Prevost’s novel L’Histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut, the central character of which is Manon – the most desirable courtesan in Paris, who becomes a refugee in Louisiana due to an exciting and dramatic chain of events. The music, being full of emotions, expresses Manon’s downfall from the world of pleasures to the frustrating hellhole. The music of the ballet has been arranged by Martin Yates who have used a number of Massenet’s works but not his eponymous opera. The audience will hear extracts from thirteen Massenet’s operas (including Le Cid, Chérubin, Cinderella and Don Quixote), also from his oratorios, salon songs (Elegy), songs and orchestral suites (Scénes dramatiques and Scénes pittoresques).
Sir Kenneth MacMillan created one of the most popular ballets of the 20th century for the Royal Ballet in 1974. Since then, Manon has been performed by top ballet companies, such as English National Ballet, La Scala and Mariinsky Theatre, as the dancing technique of the dancers has to be of high level. “I do not always say “yes” when a ballet company approaches me wanting to acquire the work, I rely on trusted notators to assess the company” says Deborah MacMillan, the widow of Kenneth MacMillan. The Estonian National Opera got the permission to perform Manon in 2009. Manon was the last ballet Agnes Oaks and Thomas Edur performed in before returning from London to Estonia in 2009.