Last Saturday was Rupert Pennefather's 30th birthday and the Royal Ballet gave him a wonderful gift: the opportunity to début in Manon with the fellow newcomer Sarah Lamb. The Times‘ Debra Craine was ecstatic:
What are the odds? Two dancers make major debuts in the same ballet at the same performance and both turn out to be so sensational that they can only be described as the dream team.
From the twittered comments that reached me on Saturday afternoon she was not alone in her enthusiasm!
From the start, Pennefather makes us see the lengths to which his Des Grieux will go for love. He opens his heart to Manon the moment he meets her, you can almost feel his sublime arabesques willing her to succumb. Their pas de deux are touched by the blaze of his glorious longing; in his solos (tricky enough to have defeated many) one exquisite classical line is followed by another. And just when you think there can't be anything left to give, Pennefather finds more.
Lamb begins by hinting at the dark fate that is crowding in on her Manon, and that sense of hidden desperation never leaves her performance, despite the elegance and lush sensuality of her dancing. It's what makes the force of her dying duet so potent, the moment when all that beauty is well and truly destroyed.
And at the end?
There, with her, is Pennefather's Des Grieux, still adoring in his anguish, and prepared to love her forever, even after the final breath has been taken. It's an unforgettable performance from him.
Tomorrow night (Tuesday, May 10) is the only other opportunity to see them – and there are still some tickets available.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.