Royal Reign: Royal Ballet Visits Kennedy Center Opera House June 25-28

Classic Arts Features   Royal Reign: Royal Ballet Visits Kennedy Center Opera House June 25-28
The Royal Ballet returns to the Kennedy Center June 25 with Kenneth MacMillan's full-length Manon and an ambitious mixed repertory program.


Based at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, The Royal Ballet is Great Britain's most prestigious ballet company. Returning to the Kennedy Center for the first time in three years, the Company led by Director Monica Mason performs two eagerly anticipated programs.

June 25 _28 in the Opera House is Kenneth MacMillan's three-act narrative ballet Manon, based on the classic French novel Manon Lescaut by Abb_ Pr_vost and set to music by Massenet. Praising its "astonishing theatrical vitality," the New York Times declares, "with Manon, The Royal Ballet triumphantly demonstrates that it remains one of the world's great companies." A cautionary tale full of deadly sins, the ballet follows a beautiful young woman whose plan to run away with a handsome student: and with money stolen from her would-be suitor: ultimately turns disastrous. Whisking its doomed lovers from a moonlit Parisian courtyard to a high-society brothel and finally to the gritty streets and swamps of New Orleans, Manon "remains an irresistible combination of immorality, opulence, suffering, and tears" (Financial Times).

The Royal Ballet presents a mixed repertory program on June 23 and 24 featuring three works specifically created for the Company.

Founding choreographer Frederick Ashton's much-loved A Month in the Country features music by Chopin and beautiful period designs by Julia Trevelyan Oman. The ballet, which was choreographed by Ashton at the age of 69, follows the emotional drama of Ivan Turgenev's play, in which a young tutor's presence disturbs the calm of a Russian household. Remarking on the premiere performance in 1976, Time Magazine lauded it as "an airy confection of elegant humor, bittersweet lyricism, and charm."

Christopher Wheeldon's pulsing, energetic DGV (Danse _ grande vitesse) is an imaginative meditation on travel created for the Company in 2006 to music by Michael Nyman. London's Guardian hailed it as "stunning...a thing of grand scale and hurtling momentum." Michael Nyman originally wrote the score: Musique _ grande vitesse: for the inauguration of the TGV north European high-speed train line and it was first performed in Lille, France in 1993.

Resident choreographer Wayne McGregor's Chroma: which won the 2006 Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production: is a taut, jazzy suite for five couples with mesmerizing movements and a glowing white cube of a set. Chroma "swings confidently from hard to soft, from brazen to intimate, closing in on a pas de serene it's a dream, and climaxing in a party spirit that almost lifts the roof" (The Independent, UK). The Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra plays the score by Joby Talbot: four of his own compositions and his arrangements (in Christopher Austin's orchestration) of three songs by popular duo the White Stripes.

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Jeremy D. Birch is the writer/editor of Kennedy Center News.

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