Jules Massenet (1842-1912)
Ballet in three acts
after the book by L’Abbé Prévost
Music by Jules Massenet
Manon Lescaut: Aurélie Dupont
Le Chevalier des Grieux: Roberto Bolle
Lescaut: Stéphane Bullion
Corps de Ballet de l’Opéra national de Paris
Choreography by Kenneth MacMillan
Orchestre de l’Opéra national de Paris
Conductor: Martin Yates
The film of L’Histoire de Manon, reproduced on this DVD and this Blu-ray, was directed by Cédric Klapisch and co-directed by Miguel Octave on 18 May 2015. This exceptional evening marked the farewells of Aurélie Dupont as prima ballerina of the Paris Opera Ballet. On 4 February 2016, Aurélie Dupont was appointed Director of Dance of the Paris Opera Ballet.
Since it was first published in 1731, L’Histoire du Chevalier Des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut has been the object of numerous adaptations for both stage and screen. In the 19th century, Daniel-François-Esprit Auber, Jules Massenet and Giacomo Puccini used Abbé Prévost’s novel as the theme for their respective operas. After 1912, cinema transposed the story of Manon and the Knight into lms of varying degrees of melodramatic intensity. The tragic fate of the two lovers struck a chord with artists and audiences alike who were moved by the story’s fatal outcome and captivated by the realistic portrayal of the morals of a society in crisis.
In 1974, British choreographer Kenneth MacMillan in turn decided to focus on the two protagonists for an ambitious ballet that could translate the feelings and emotions of two souls abused by the accidents of life and their own personal weaknesses. In short, how a young girl on her way to a convent manages to elope with the young student with whom she has just fallen in love, only to leave him to escape destitution and finally allow herself to be persuaded by her brother Lescaut to yield to the advances of wealthy “protectors”. Accused of prostitution and deported to Louisiana, Manon is rescued by Des Grieux. Driven to murder by Manon’s jailer, he escapes with her into the marshes where the young girl ultimately succumbs. Although sincere, the love that Manon and Des Grieux share for each other cannot stand up to the vagaries of existence. As a result, neither is able to escape moral or social decline. Rather than reuse the score of Massenet’s opera, MacMillan entrusted Leighton Lucas with the task of arranging a series of extracts taken from a selection of the French composer’s operatic, symphonic and vocal scores… The end result was a huge success from its debut performance in London in 1974 onwards. Sixteen years later, L’Histoire de Manon entered the Paris Opera Ballet’s repertoire.