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"Manon" & "Swan Lake": Classics of Ballet From The American Ballet Theater

Isabella Boylston and David Hallberg in Manon. Photo: Rosalie O’Connor
One of the most extraordinary events in the superb current season at American Ballet Theater at the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center will surely prove to be the thrilling matinee performance on Saturday, June 22nd, of the Kenneth MacMillan masterpiece, Manon —after the classic 18th-century novel by the Abbé Prévost—regrettably not seen in New York for several years. The enchanting score is assembled from works by the estimable Jules Massenet—who himself composed a major opera adapted from the story—orchestrated and arranged by Martin Yates, here excellently conducted by Ormsby Wilkins. The effective staging is by Julie Lincoln and Robert Tewsley, with scenery and period costumes designed by Nicholas Georgiadis, and lighting by Thomas R. Skelton.
Isabella Boylston has scarcely ever been better than she was in the title role, although the tragic outcome of the final act might have had more pathos had the part been danced by Natalia Osipova. Her partner, as Des Grieux, was the incomparable David Hallberg, performing for the first time this season, and dazzling in every scene. Also at his best was Blaine Hoven—who has been moving from strength to strength this season—as Lescaut. Christine Shevchenko was outstanding as Lescaut’s mistress. The primary cast was assisted by Alexandre Hammoudi as Monsieur G.M. and Thomas Forster as the Jailer, while the marvelouscorps de balletwas simply magnificent.
slseozhurbin1gsThe following week’s performance on the evening of Monday, June 24th, of the sublime, immensely popular Swan Lake was also fabulous. The choreography is by Kevin McKenzie after that of the legendary Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, with a glorious score by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky conducted by David LaMarche, and attractive sets and costumes by Zack Brown and clever lighting by Duane Schuler.
Hee Seo was simply astonishing as Odette-Odile, perfectly incarnating both roles. Her partner, Cory Stearns, was exceptional as Prince Siegfried. Hoven again excelled as Benno, the Prince’s friend. Von Rothbart was played by both Roman Zhurbin and, remarkably, Forster.
The superlative secondary cast deserves enumeration with Katherine Williams and Catherine Hurlin mesmerizing in the two Pas de trois. The exquisite Cygnettes were Cassandra Trenary, Luciana Paris, Nicole Graniero, and Skylar Brandt. Also terrific were April Giangeruso and Melanie Hamrick as the Two Swans.
Act III too was replete with first-rate dancing including Paulina Waski, Courtney Lavine, Gemma Bond and Stephanie Williams as, respectively, the Hungarian, Spanish, Italian, and Polish Princesses. In the Czardas, there were Zhong-Jing Fang and Alexei Agoudine; in the Spanish Dance, Hamrick again, Duncan Lyle, Brittany Degrofft, and Jose Sebastian; and in the Neapolitan dance, Joseph Gorak and Jonathan Klein. The corps de ballet, despite a few infelicities, was again entrancing.
The season closes next week with performances of Tchaikovsky’s fantastic Sleeping Beauty.

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