Francesca Hayward is Spellbinding as Manon at the Royal Opera House

The Royal Ballet © 2024 Foteini Christofilopoulou.

Two stars collided on the opening night of Manon at the Royal Opera House, principal dancers Francesca Hayward and Marcelino Sambé who made his debut as the beloved Des Grieux. They left the audience enraptured as we were drawn deep into a world where passion and tragedy unfold. This timeless tale of Manon, who is torn between an opulent life of riches and her love for the more humble Des Grieux had the audience on the edge of their seats.

From the sounds to the sets, the costumes to the movement. It is an aesthetic masterpiece, that will simultaneously seduce all of your senses. The enchantment extends beyond the performers to the orchestra pit, where the Royal Opera House Orchestra, guided by the hand of a masterful conductor, breathes life into Jules Massenet’s rich and evocative score. The music becomes a magical current, carrying the audience on an emotional journey that sweeps through the highs of love and the depths of tragedy.

The Royal Ballet © 2024 Foteini Christofilopoulou.

Amidst the grand sets, a sense of intimacy prevails, creating a magical balance between spectacle and raw, human emotion. The stage was transformed from glittering soirées to a bustling 18th-century Parisian square. Each scene flows like a dream, especially to the opulent bedroom with the most glorious four-poster golden bed, which stretched to the heavens, the setting for Manon and Des Grieux’s passionate trysts. The stage becomes a portal into the decadent and devastating world of Manon.

At the heart of this enchanting spectacle is a cast that radiates with extraordinary talent and emotional depth. The role of Manon, played on opening night by the majestic Francesca Hayward is torn between the intoxicating allure of true love and the glittering promises of wealth, and demands a leading lady of unparalleled skill and Hayward delivers with great passion and poise.

The chemistry between the characters is electric, drawing the audience into a world where every glance, every movement, is charged with emotional significance. The supporting cast adds layers of thrill, especially the deliciously sinister Monsieur G.M., played masterfully by Gary Avis.

The Royal Ballet © 2024 Foteini Christofilopoulou.

From the moment the iconic curtains are parted, the audience is spellbound. They remain at the edge of their seats, their hearts thumping in their chests in awe and horror as they watch Manon, torn between her desire for a life of splendour and her true love, for which she will sadly pay the ultimate price.

Manon is a magical odyssey into a realm that explores the strength and the delicacy of love, desire, and the human condition. Within the grandeur of the Royal Opera House, Massenet’s masterpiece is reborn for a new generation into a living, breathing fairy tale.

The Royal Ballet © 2024 Foteini Christofilopoulou.

The performance lasts about 2 hours 45 minutes, including two intervals.

In addition to a full stage run, from 17th January – 8th March, Manon will be broadcast live to cinemas across the world on 7th February 2024.


Royal Opera House, Bow St, London WC2E 9DD