The Royal Opera House's Manon: The Show Must Go On...

Desire, doomed love and a dodgy knee unfolded on Wednesday night at the Royal Opera House. The ballet in question was Kenneth MacMillan’s 1974 retelling of Manon. The dancer and choreographer also remade Romeo and Juliet, Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake throughout the 60s and 70s. The intense psychodrama of Manon is based on an eighteenth-century novel which was banned upon publication in 1731 due to its risqué content, before leaping into popular culture through the circulation of pirated copies. A ‘pas de deux’ between the fragile, flawed heroine Manon Lescaut and the solemn yet passionate student Des Grieux: it is a lover’s tale more tragic than even Romeo and Juliet.


Manon (Act I) at The Royal Opera House, 2019 (photo: Tristram Kenton)

The romance has been adapted by multiple artists, inspiring famous operas by Massenet and Puccini and even a film by French film director Henri-Georges Clouzot. Most recently, in 1980, the enigmatic female figure appeared in a Japanese pop song. In this particul