Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Birthday: Part 2. Manon

My final present from The Boyfriend was 2 tickets to see the English National Ballet at the Royal Opera House.       

We started the evening with an early dinner in Les Deux Salon in Charing Cross. We have been meaning to check out the restaurant for ages. I ordered monkfish with tiny sweet onions and The Boyfriend had pasta with pumpkin and mushroom.  I don't think the food is as good as Arbutus but we had a lovely meal anyway.

I enjoy contemporary dance but didn't know much about classical ballet before we went so I looked up the plot of Manon on the internet earlier in the day.  

The ballet is set in 19th century Paris and it is the story of a beautiful but poor girl - Manon -who falls into the world of aristocrats, beggars and courtesans.  Manon and a young student called Des Greiux are in love and they try to run away together. However her corrupt brother Lescaut has promised that she'll become the mistress to an old wealthy aristocrat and she is seduced by the promise of comfort and riches. The lot of a classical heroine is rarely good, and the unfolding story is a genuinely moving tragedy.  The performance itself is fantastic and I was surprised how clear the story telling was. Even if we hadn't looked it up it was easy to follow what was going on. 

The dancing was beautiful with amazing shapes and lines from strong charismatic dancers.  The leads were amazing and conveyed the tender and passionate relationship between De Greiux and Manon. My favourite scene was in De Greiux's student room. The ensemble cast were also brilliant and there were brilliant mini-vignettes danced by the ensemble dancers that helped establish the narrative but also add humour. 

Overall it was an amazing experience.  The orchestra sounded fantastic. The hyper modern bars and restaurants felt super glamorous. The gold and red colours in the theater and porcelain blue 19th century ceiling are opulent. But most importantly I experienced the whole thing with my lovely boyfriend.  We've cut back a lot of things this year because we've been saving for the wedding, moving and like everyone else worrying a bit about what the future holds. I've been feeling the strain a bit recently so this was a particularly thoughtful treat.  One of the reasons I love The Boyfriend so much.    

Manon is still running until 26 November and if you can get tickets then I'd highly recommend it. 

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