Since its premiere by the Royal Ballet in 1974, »Manon« by the famed British choreographer Sir Kenneth MacMillan has been regarded as a masterpiece of narrative ballet. To the music of Jules Massenet, MacMillan tells the tragic story of the young lovers Manon and Des Grieux, a tale which begins in wild passion and ends in bleak despair. This impassioned classic ballet is sure to tug the heartstrings of Dresden’s audiences.
Scene one: The courtyard of an inn near Paris
The inn’s courtyard is bustling with lively activity. Among those present we find the student Des Grieux, the old Monsieur G.M., and Lescaut. Lescaut is waiting for his sister Manon, who is to be sent off to a convent. When her carriage arrives, he notices that one of her travelling companions has taken a great interest in her, and ushers the old bon vivant into the inn to bargain with him for Manon. In the meantime, Manon meets Des Grieux, and it is love at first sight. Both of them decide to set off for Paris with the old man’s money. When Lescaut steps out of the inn after reaching an agreement, he discovers that his sister has fled. Sensing his opportunity, Monsieur G.M. also announces his interest in Manon. Impressed by his wealth, Lescaut promises him Manon’s hand.
Scene two: Des Grieux’ apartment in Paris
Des Grieux is seated, writing a letter to his father, when Manon interrupts him. Forgetting everything around them, the lovers give free reign to their emotions. When Des Grieux brings the letter to the post office, Lescaut appears in order to lead his sister to Monsieur G.M. Conquered by the old man’s opulence, Manon yields to his approaches. Des Grieux returns, and Lescaut explains to him that for the best interests of everyone concerned, he should approve of a liaison between Manon and Monsieur G.M.
Scene one: A banquet at Madame’s “Hôtel particulier”
At Monsieur G.M.’s side, Manon enters the banquet at Madame’s “Hôtel particulier” – an establishment where all the girls are for sale. Lescaut is also there and, drunk, has brought Des Grieux along as well. The latter tries to convince Manon to run off with him, but though she still loves him, she no longer wants to be without Monsieur G.M.’s opulence. Then Lescaut suggests that Des Grieux win money by playing gambling tricks. But when he is caught, the situation escalates: Des Grieux wounds Monsieur G.M. and dashes off with Manon, while Lescaut remains behind at the old man’s mercy.
Scene two: Des Grieux’ apartment
Manon and Des Grieux are together once again; however, Manon’s longing for wealth now stands between them. Monsieur G.M. then appears with Lescaut, accompanied by guards, hoping to arrest Manon – as a prostitute, she is to be shipped off to America. In the ensuing scuffle, Lescaut is killed.
Scene one: The port of New Orleans
The prostitutes are brought from the ship onto land and appraised by the overseer of the penal colony. Here Manon immediately captures attention because of her beauty. Des Grieux, posing as her husband so he can accompany her, does the best he can to protect Manon – but he has little power against the overseer.
Scene two: The overseer’s room
The overseer has thrown Manon into prison, but offers her privileges if she were to leave Des Grieux and accept his advances. When he becomes increasingly insistent, Des Grieux storms in and kills the overseer.
Scene three: In the swamps
In their plight, Manon and Des Grieux have fled to the swamps of Louisiana. Manon has given up all her longing for wealth for her love of Des Grieux. However, their escape from their pursuers drains their strength: becoming weaker and weaker, she hallucinates of days past before finally breaking down in exhaustion, and dies in the arms of her beloved.