Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of Manon. It was last on stage 26 September—1 November 2014 as part of the Autumn 2014/15 season.
Manon's brother Lescaut is offering her to the highest bidder when she meets Des Grieux and falls in love. They elope to Paris, but when Monsieur G.M. offers Manon a life of luxury as his mistress she cannot resist.
Read more… (Contains spoilers)
Kenneth MacMillan began work on Manon shortly after the birth of his only daughter. His source was the 18th-century French novel by Abbé Prévost, already adapted twice for opera by Massenet and Puccini. Renowned dance musician Leighton Lucas and his assistant Hilda Gaunt provided a score made from a patchwork of works by Massenet, including his famous yearning Elégie as the theme for the lovers. The premiere was given on 7 March 1974, the lead roles of Manon and Des Grieux danced by Antoinette Sibley and Anthony Dowell. The ballet quickly became a staple of The Royal Ballet's repertory.
MacMillan found new sympathy with the capricious Manon, bringing his customary psychological insight and the memories of his own impoverished upbringing. He described his heroine as 'not so much afraid of being poor as ashamed of being poor'. Designs by MacMillan's friend Nicholas Georgiadis reflect this, depicting a world of lavish splendour polluted by miserable poverty. MacMillan's spectacular ensemble scenes for the whole Company create vivid, complex portraits of the distinct societies of Paris and New Orleans. But it is Manon and Des Grieux's impassioned pas de deux – recalling the intensity of MacMillan's earlier work, Romeo and Juliet – that drive this tragic story, and make Manon one of MacMillan's most heartbreaking dramas.
News and features
30 March 2015
The great 20th-century choreographer broke all kind of taboos, including depicting death and loss – creating some of ballet’s most moving, and uplifting, works.
19 March 2015
The award-winning ballerina reveals how she moved from contemporary dance to ballet, and the challenge of balancing dance with being a mother.
5 February 2015
These expert dancer-actors are as important to the drama as the leading lady.
20 November 2014
How and where choreographers find stories has changed throughout the art form's history.
28 October 2014
Matthew Golding to replace Roberto Bolle in the role of Des Grieux.
16 October 2014
What did you think of Kenneth MacMillan's Royal Ballet production, the first cinema relay of the 2014/15 Season?
L'histoire de Manon is a ballet comprising the music of Jules Massenet, arranged and partially orchestrated by British composer Leighton Lucas, re-orchestrated entirely by conductor Martin Yates in 2011. The piece was first presented by The Royal Ballet in London in 1974, with choreography by Sir Kenneth MacMillan and it continues to be recognised internationally as one of the company's signature ballets. Ironically, the ballet contains none of the music from Massenet's opera Manon, with which it shares an almost identical story. The music compiled by Lucas is drawn from other works by Massenet, including thirteen operas and two oratorios as well as his orchestral suites, various songs and piano works. The ballet is a mainstay of the modern repertoire, generally referred to as simply Manon.There is a 1985 commercial recording available, conducted by Massenet champion Richard Bonynge on the Decca label, as well as three DVD releases: a 1982 Royal Ballet production and a 2000 Australian Ballet production, both from Kultur Video, and a 2009 Royal Ballet production released on the Decca label.