Tag Archive: Martina Arduino

Ambivalent

“Manon”
Ballet Company of Teatro alla Scala
Teatro alla Scala
Milan, Italy
July 08, 2024 (live stream)

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2024 by Ilona Landgraf

 1. N.Manni (Manon) and R.Clarke (Des Grieux), “Manon” by K.MacMillan, Teatro alla Scala 2024, photo by Brescia and Amisano © Teatro alla Scala Given the mind-boggling speed with which Western culture is changing, La Scala’s live stream of Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon felt like a relic from the good old days of ballet. Unlike other staples of the classical repertory—Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, or The Nutcracker, for example—with a spiritual dimension that serves as a source of inspiration in difficult times, Manon has the opposite effect. Based on Abbé Prévost’s novel Manon Lescaut (1731), it dives deeply into the social swamp of early-18th-century France and in the real swamps near the then-French colony of Louisiana. Rabble and the poor crowd the streets and the upper class’s silk and satin façade barely hides their rotten morals. Sex, money, and power reign in everyday life, and, for women, alluring men is the only way to secure an existence. Not a single soul remains untainted in the sex-and-crime-ridden love tragedy of Manon.

3. D.Di Cristo (Chief of the beggars) and ensemble, “Manon” by K.MacMillan, Teatro alla Scala 2024, photo by Brescia and Amisano © Teatro alla Scala2. N.Del Freo (Lescaut) and ensemble, “Manon” by K.MacMillan, Teatro alla Scala 2024, photo by Brescia and Amisano © Teatro alla Scala Its eponymous heroine, initially the epitome of purity and inner beauty, falls for fur, jewels, and status just as all the rest do and realizes too late that she has made herself a captive of ephemeral glitter. Manon’s faithful lover, Des Grieux, is so imbued with his idea of the good, true, and beautiful that he struggles to keep her from being led astray. Only gradually does he man up and free Manon from the grip of her wealthy suitor, Monsieur G.M. Des Grieux and Manon escape to their love nest, but Des Grieux, blinded by bliss, again acquiesces to her fascination with wealth. While both waste away precious time instead of fleeing, the noose is quickly tightening for them. Monsieur G.M. takes revenge by shooting Manon’s brother and arresting her for prostitution. Des Grieux accompanies Manon on her way to the penal colony in Louisiana and there, by stabbing a brutal jailer for raping Manon, Des Grieux finally put his foot down. However, it is too late for a happy ending.

4. R.Clarke (Des Grieux) and N.Manni (Manon), “Manon” by K.MacMillan, Teatro alla Scala 2024, photo by Brescia and Amisano © Teatro alla Scala5. R.Clarke (Des Grieux) and N.Manni (Manon),“Manon” by K.MacMillan, Teatro alla Scala 2024, photo by Brescia and Amisano © Teatro alla Scala The story of Manon is anything but uplifting unlike the quality of the performance, which was indeed uplifting. The courtyard of the inn near Paris brimmed with cocky, fleet-footed beggars (led by a crafty rascal danced by Domenico Di Cristo) and saucy demimondes parading their charms. Yet the sauntering gentlemen and their dressed-up companions couldn’t hide the fact that this was a sleazy place. In such surroundings, both Nicoletta Manni’s Manon and Reece Clarke’s Des Grieux reminded me of fresh, white linen that has fallen into the muck. Clarke’s elegant lines seemed an extension of his soul’s ideals to which he aspired with pathos. He was a pure-minded young man who, for a time, rested within himself.
7. N.Del Freo (Lescaut), N.Manni (Manon), and G.Corrado (Monsieur G.M.), “Manon” by K.MacMillan, Teatro alla Scala 2024, photo by Brescia and Amisano © Teatro alla Scala 6. G.Corrado (Monsieur G.M.), N.Manni (Manon), and N.Del Freo (Lescaut), “Manon” by K.MacMillan, Teatro alla Scala 2024, photo by Brescia and Amisano © Teatro alla Scala Perhaps that was why Clarke seemed fully absorbed in the choreography rather than in the fond eyes of his Manon. Once alone with her in his lodgings, he turned into an attentive lover with unleashed, deep passion. Was the faint smile on his lips as Manon was swarmed by suitors at Madame’s brothel party an expression of despair or a lack of comprehension? In any case, his glance as he lay his heart at Manon’s feet was irresistible.

8. M.Arduino (Lescaut’s mistress), and ensemble, “Manon” by K.MacMillan, Teatro alla Scala 2024, photo by Brescia and Amisano © Teatro alla Scala9. N.Manni (Manon), G.Corrado (Monsieur G.M.), N.Del Freo (Lescaut), and ensemble; “Manon” by K.MacMillan, Teatro alla Scala 2024, photo by Brescia and Amisano © Teatro alla ScalaManni’s Manon was an affirmation that she merited her nomination for this year’s Prix Benois, albeit for a different role: Medora in Le Corsaire. Manni’s dancing was immaculate, her nuanced acting utterly convincing, and her entire performance pure joy.
Although he was a well-mannered gentleman on the surface, Gabriele Corrado’s Monsieur G.M. turned out to be a scumbag inside. Incongruent, too, were the façade and real character of Manon’s brother Lescaut (Nicola Del Freo). At first sight, he appeared to be a caring young man but was in fact utterly corrupt and, at times, sottish. I don’t know why his mistress (Martina Arduino) put up a brave front when his alcohol odor and glassy stare cried out for a thorough dressing down. Perfectly lascivious, she knew how to sell herself, and I think she certainly got hold of a new suitor once Lescaut had met his untimely death in a bloody showdown.
11. G.Starace (Jailer) and ensemble,“Manon” by K.MacMillan, Teatro alla Scala 2024, photo by Brescia and Amisano © Teatro alla Scala 10. R.Clarke (Des Grieux), “Manon” by K.MacMillan, Teatro alla Scala 2024, photo by Brescia and Amisano © Teatro alla Scala The jailer (Gioacchino Starace) who received the shipload of female convicts in Louisiana was immediately disgusting. A violent, arrogant bastard, he ticked all the boxes of stereotypical rotten penal system staff.
A smart whore mistress to the core, Madame (Francesca Podini) satisfied the appetite of all of her brothel’s clientele. Her business seemed to go very well, though her employees were sometimes absorbed in catfights.

Paul Connelly and the Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala contributed a well-versed rendition of Jules Massenet’s score.
12. N.Manni (Manon) and R.Clarke (Des Grieux), “Manon” by K.MacMillan, Teatro alla Scala 2024, photo by Brescia and Amisano © Teatro alla Scala

Links: Website of the Teatro alla Scala
L’histoire de Manon” – Trailer
“L’histoire de Manon” – Making of
Photos: 1. Nicoletta Manni (Manon) and Reece Clarke (Des Grieux), Manon” by Kenneth MacMillan, Teatro alla Scala 2024
2. Nicola Del Freo (Lescaut) and ensemble, Manon” by Kenneth MacMillan, Teatro alla Scala 2024
3. Domenico Di Cristo (Chief of the beggars) and ensemble, Manon” by Kenneth MacMillan, Teatro alla Scala 2024
4. Reece Clarke (Des Grieux) and Nicoletta Manni (Manon), Manon” by Kenneth MacMillan, Teatro alla Scala 2024
5. Reece Clarke (Des Grieux) and Nicoletta Manni (Manon),Manon” by Kenneth MacMillan, Teatro alla Scala 2024
6. Gabriele Corrado (Monsieur G.M.), Nicoletta Manni (Manon), and Nicola Del Freo (Lescaut), Manon” by Kenneth MacMillan, Teatro alla Scala 2024
7. Nicola Del Freo (Lescaut), Nicoletta Manni (Manon), and Gabriele Corrado (Monsieur G.M.), Manon” by Kenneth MacMillan, Teatro alla Scala 2024
8. Martina Arduino (Lescaut’s mistress), and ensemble, Manon” by Kenneth MacMillan, Teatro alla Scala 2024
9. Nicoletta Manni (Manon), Gabriele Corrado (Monsieur G.M.), Nicola Del Freo (Lescaut), and ensemble; Manon” by Kenneth MacMillan, Teatro alla Scala 2024
10. Reece Clarke (Des Grieux), Manon” by Kenneth MacMillan, Teatro alla Scala 2024
11. Gioacchino Starace (Jailer) and ensemble,Manon” by Kenneth MacMillan, Teatro alla Scala 2024
12. Nicoletta Manni (Manon) and Reece Clarke (Des Grieux), Manon” by Kenneth MacMillan, Teatro alla Scala 2024
all photos by Brescia and Amisano © Teatro alla Scala
Editing: Kayla Kauffman

La Scala’s Tasteless New “Cinderella”

“Cinderella”
Ballet Company of Teatro alla Scala
Teatro alla Scala
Milan, Italy
January 15, 2016

by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2016 by Ilona Landgraf

1. A.Albano, D.Gazzo and V.Toppi, “Cinderella” by M.Bigonzetti, Ballet Company of Teatro alla ScalaLast Friday a huge crowd queued up in front of La Scala, eagerly waiting to gain entry for Mauro Bigonzetti’s new “Cinderella”. Just ten minutes before the performance was to begin did things finally get going. Passing policemen, who lined the entrance area, people hurried to their seats. Only a few minutes late the curtain went up.
What had happened? The police had decided to do bag checks but, having started much too late, necessarily had to stop to not overly delay the performance. Later, the young Italian woman sitting next to me told me that “Italians already feel safe when police are within sight.” (more…)