Queensland Ballet: Manon

QB-Kenneth-MacMillan's-Manon-photo-by-David-KellyManon is an immensely challenging production for any select, accomplished ballet company to be permitted to undertake. The late, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, who choreographed this and other world-renowned works, reached for the stars in faraway galaxies.

His genius is clearly evident and present in every aspect of this magnificent and emotive work – which is his romantically tragic ballet, Manon.

The complex intricacy inherent in all of MacMillan’s works demands the utmost in ability not only from the dancers but from all those involved in the presentation of his large productions: dancers, stagers, costume designers, conductor and orchestra.

On opening night, Wednesday 28 September, Queensland Ballet brilliantly and wonderfully brought this ballet to life right here in Brisbane.

 was at The Lyric Theatre at Queensland Performing Arts Centre, yet I could have been seated in any of the world’s prestigious theatres watching a world-famed ballet company expertly stage this massive production.

The standard of professional excellence reached by Queensland Ballet on opening night could not have climbed any higher. Every aspect of the performance was exact and executed powerfully, yet delicately, with time-splitting precision plus immense beauty.

From my perspective as reviewer, not a single detail required recommendation for improvement, rectification or alteration. I had no doubt that I was attending a performance presented by one of the world’s best ballet companies currently at its peak.

Congratulations to Li Cunxin AO on all that he and wife, Mary have achieved in championing and shaping Queensland Ballet for the past decade. It was a privilege to see Mary in the production: majestic, regal and emanating tangible strength of stage presence.

The ballet, Manon is based on the 1731 book by French author, Antoine Francois Prevost. A poor, innocent, young girl en route to a closeted life in a convent, Manon’s beauty (plus the exploitive intent of her brother) brings unexpected and polarised options.

Instead of a nunnery, there is potential life with a moneyed old man or the wealthy Monsieur GM. There is also the possibility of love and poverty with a handsome but penniless student, Des Grieux.

Initially, love, youth and poverty are her preferred choices as Manon (Mia Heathcote) and Des Grieux (Patricio Reve) make good their temporary escape. Ultimately, Manon becomes immersed in wealth and decadence but that is not where her story ends.

Mia and Patricio had previously captured my attention when they were perfectly paired in the lead roles in another of Kenneth MacMillan’s iconic works, Romeo and Juliet.

I knew immediately that I was watching two young dancers on the rise through the ranks of an elite Ballet company. I have followed and applauded their rapid promotions.

On opening night with Mia’s parents in the audience and Patricio’s looking on from Cuba, Li Cunxin AO promoted both to the rank of principal dancers.

Congratulations to Queensland Ballet Company on the successful and magnificent staging of this tremendous production. Along the way, behind the scenes, whatever challenges may have been encountered; if anything ever seemed too demanding, all of those obstacles were defeated.

I spoke with Lady Deborah MacMillan at the post performance reception. I felt somehow compelled to personally thank her for permitting Queensland Ballet to present this production of her late husband’s work.

In Lady Deborah’s own words, “If a ballet is not performed then it remains dead.”

Indeed, the genius of Sir Kenneth MacMillan lives on in the wonderful legacy of choreographic works which he has left to this world.

Lyric Theatre – QPAC, Cultural Precinct, South Bank (Brisbane)
Performance: Wednesday 28 September 2022
Season continues to 8 October 2022
Bookings: www.qpac.com.au

For more information, visit: www.queenslandballet.com.au for details.

Image: Mia Heathcote and Dancers of the Queensland Ballet in Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon – photo by David Kelly

Review: Michele-Rose Boylan