I was taken completely by surprise by Darcey Bussell's Manon last night. She has matured beautifully into the role and is a now long way from the naive girl I first saw doing it a few years ago.
Her incomparable dancing speaks for itself. It is juicy and sensual, and she takes time to show every nuance of every step. We are used to this, but we are not used to the cooly calculating and manipulative Bussell revealed last night. I especially loved her crucial 'pimping' first-act pas de trois with Lescaut (Nigel Burley) and Monsieur GM (Alistair Marriott); she never lost sly eye contact with Lescaut while giving a distinct 'come-on' to GM. Sadly, any attempt at showing the true sexuality of Manon was foiled by her dull partner, Igor Zelensky. Does this man have chemistry with anyone? All she got from him in the first bedroom pdd was a half-hearted hug in place of the lengthy 'kiss' we normally see. His dancing is splendid, of course, but last night he distinguished himself only by not dropping her. The sad thing is, he could be really great if he just tried a little.
Muriel Valat started the performance as Lescaut's mistress but, as was announced before the second act, became injured and was replaced by Deborah Bull (what would the Royal do without Bull?) who turned in an immaculately-timed comic performance. Still, I really would like to have seen what the normally restrained Valat would have made of the role.
I've now seen Manon so many times that I feel free to miss some of the action by homing in on detail with my opera glasses (I refuse to call them binoculars...) so I was able to spot what one or two of the chaps were up to in the brothel scene. I laughed out loud at the gent who goes for the'boy' - you just wouldn't believe the gesture he made to Madame to indicate what it was he wanted!
On the whole then, a very enjoyable evening..