the program has been a winner for the festival and the company.
The season was a relatively late addition to the festival line up, as the Australian Ballet was supposed to be in London in late October with its production of Graeme Murphy's Tivoli, but the trip was cancelled for cost reasons.
Present at the opening night in Melbourne was Lady Deborah MacMillan, the widow of Manon's choreographer, Kenneth MacMillan. She told guests she was pleased with the energetic AB production which has sets by Peter Farmer, unlike the Royal Ballet's version designed by Nicholas Georgiadis.
MacMillan praised AB ballet mistress, Wendy Walker, for her coaching of the ballet which has been in the repertoire here since 1994. She told this writer that MacMillan had a cinematographer's eye - he liked the crowd scenes in the ballet to resemble a film, in which the audience focussed on one part of the action. Some Manon productions were distracting, with the dancers developing bits of business - attempting their own little versions of a three act ballet up the back.
Guillem, who earned a standing ovation on Tuesday night, is to return to Australia next June, when, with the Royal Ballet, she will dance Marguerite and Armand. Having seen Guillem in Manon, I feel disappointed for London audiences that they will not see her in Onegin, another ballet in which the heroine matures from girl to woman. Is there a possibility, though, that she will be cast as the dangerously sexy heroine in Mats Ek's Carmen at Covent Garden next April?