Demimondaine at the Abai Opera House, or the Premiere of the Ballet Manon for the Almaty Audience

The long-awaited by the residents of Almaty event has finally taken place: on February 14, the ballet Manon by the outstanding 20th century choreographer Kenneth MacMillan took place at the Abai Opera House. A dramatic story about a demimondaine has gathered a full house. There is a good reason for that – this ballet, which has never been staged in Kazakhstan before, is now featured exclusively at the Astana Opera, and even at world’s top venues Manon is a rare guest.

The Almaty tour of the Astana Opera is taking place from February 10 to 18 within the framework of the program of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev “Rukhani Zhangyru” with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

“The performance of the ballet Manon involves almost the entire Astana Opera Ballet Company. We have been preparing for this very difficult production for a very long time. Performing at the Abai Opera House is a big responsibility, as there were friendly, but demanding viewers and, of course, our teachers in the auditorium. All the dancers were a little nervous, and now all of us are very happy with our success. The complex choreography of this ballet is rather difficult to perform. It is a well-known fact that when K. MacMillan staged this ballet, he went to the Winter Olympic Games. Figure skating made a very strong impression on him, therefore there are very complex, uncomfortable for the dancers, but incredibly beautiful elements in the choreography. I call performing this ballet an ‘endurance check’. I think we passed it today,” Madina Basbayeva, the performer of the title role, Honored Worker of Kazakhstan, said.

Keen Almaty ballet critics carefully assessed not only the dancers’ skills, but also the compliance of the set, costumes and even the smallest pieces of props with the XVIII century era.

“Elegant decorativeness distinguishes the special, regally luxurious style of the costumes of the times three centuries ago. I think it was manifested in Manon’s costume, which involves a large amount of bows and frills. The headwear was also impressive: the ladies appeared to be fragile and refined, creating an overall air of sensuality and some affectation, inherent for the XVIII century. Aristocratic fashion dominated absolutely everything – sets and costumes. As for the performance, I would like to note Madina Basbayeva’s talent. She has created very clean and inspired interpretation of the role of Manon. Her partner Rustem Seitbekov was also very good as Des Grieux, the dancers followed the music of Jules Massenet very precisely. There was another performance, which I cannot help but mention – Bakhtiyar Adamzhan in the role of Lescaut. The Principal Dancer is at the peak of his career at the moment. We enjoyed his portrayal very much, he is very strong technically! An interesting general impression of the performance was created – as if we were watching the events from the side, just like in the cinema,” ballet critic Flyura Mussina noted.

The ballet was staged to the music of Jules Massenet. The libretto, written by the choreographer Kenneth MacMillan, was based on the novel by Abbé Prévost, L’Histoire du Chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut (1731). Musical pieces from Jules Massenet’s various works were chosen and orchestrated by the famous musician Leighton Lucas and his assistant, concertmaster of the ballet company Hilda Gaunt. The musical design of the ballet features J. Massenet’s famous Elegie as the main love theme. Music Director and Conductor – Arman Urazgaliyev. Orchestrated and arranged by Martin Yates. Set and Costume Designer – Nicholas Georgiadis. The Artistic Director of the ballet company and the initiator of the staging of the ballet Manon at the Astana Opera – People’s Artist of Russia Altynai Asylmuratova.

According to Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s partner Lady Deborah MacMillan, the ballet Manon staged at the Astana Opera is at the moment the best production of this ballet in the world!

Let us remind that this evening Honoured Worker of Kazakhstan Madina Basbayeva performed the part of Manon, Des Grieux – Honoured Worker of Kazakhstan Rustem Seitbekov, Lescaut – Grand Prix winner of numerous international competitions Bakhtiyar Adamzhan, Monsieur GM – Zhanibek Imankulov, the role of Lescaut’s mistress was presented by international competitions laureate Anel Rustemova. Beggar Chief – Bostan Kozhabekov, Madame – Altynai Kagazbayeva, Old Gentleman – Ruslan Temirbekov, Gaoler – Olzhas Makhanbetaliyev.

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