The “star cross’d lovers” meet this Autumn in one of the best loved works in the Royal Ballet repertoire, to the eloquent strains of Prokofiev’s instantly recognisable score. There are many versions of this classic, but those looking for the best Romeo and Juliet ballet would do well to consider this one.
It tells the familiar tale of two young people from warring families who fall in love and marry in defiance of their parents’ wishes. But the ugly circumstances of their time conspire against them, and they become the innocent victims of society.
Kenneth Macmillan, choreographer of classic ballet tragedies like Manon and Mayerling, drew death in his work more clearly than most. Romeo and Juliet was his first three-act ballet and in it the rawness of grief is allowed full rein. Lady Capulet sobs uncontrollably over the body of her murdered nephew (and probably lover too).
The final scene, where the despairing Romeo tries in vain to reanimate the limp corpse of the lifeless Juliet, is a harrowing dance of death.
Other, brighter highlights include a joyful balcony scene, Romeo fizzing with exuberance, Juliet more than responding to his impassioned courtship.
Unlike many choreographers of great Shakespearean works like Romeo and Juliet, Macmillan abandoned spot lit entrances and elegantly held poses for applause at the end of a scene. Instead the action unfolds seamlessly, as though we were watching through a window rather than the fourth wall.
Nicholas Georgiadis’ original designs are faithful to the ballet’s setting in the Italian Renaissance; they provide atmospheric public spaces for the crowd and fight scenes, and the perfect moonlit scenery for the lovers’ enraptured balcony pas-de-deux.
The ballet was created on Lynn Seymour and Christopher Gable, but opening night was given to commercial draws Fonteyn and Nureyev, and to spectacular effect - the pair had 43 curtain calls at the première. Seymour and Gable, once allowed on stage, drew equally rapturous praise. The title roles, Juliet in particular, have since been something to fight for.
Luckily in this long run there is space enough for almost everyone. Every cast has something new to offer, so pick your Romeo and Juliet ballet tickets carefully. Natalia Osipova's appearances, the hot ticket, have been cancelled due to injury - her shows will be danced by Sarah Lamb. But Marianela Nuñez’ Juliet is one of the finest we have ever seen, here opposite real-life husband Thiago Soares. Amongst these international stars, the home-grown Lauren Cuthbertson reportedly brings youthful honesty, opposite the handsome Federico Bonelli, “possessed of an absolute sincerity.” (Telegraph)
Book for an evening of utterly exhausting beauty.
Québécois company Cas Public will be performing their energetic, contemporary version of Romeo and Juliet, Symphonie Dramatique, downstairs in the Linbury Studio from the 23rd to the 26th September.
Royal Ballet BP Big Screens: Romeo and Juliet will be screened live on outdoor screens across the country at 7pm on the 22nd September 2015. Sites in London include Canada Square in Canary Wharf, Lyric Square in Hammersmith, and Trafalgar Square in central London. Pack a posh picnic and a cushion, and take a night at the ballet outside.
|What||Royal Ballet: Romeo and Juliet, Royal Opera House|
|Where||Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
19 Sep 15 – 02 Dec 15, Times vary
|Website||click here to book via the ROH website|