Monday, November 09, 2015

ROMEO AND JULIET at Covent Garden: a 50 year old love affair...

On February 9th 1965 the choreographer Kenneth MacMillan premiered his ballet of ROMEO AND JULIET with the iconic pairing of Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev playing Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers but it wasn't meant to be them.

MacMillan had originally planned - and indeed collaborated - with the younger dancers Christopher Gable and Lynn Seymour in the roles but they were relegated to the second cast, they even had to help teach the more famous pair their roles due to time constraints in rehearsals. 

It was all due to the promoter of the American tour that was scheduled after the London opening who wanted guaranteed box-office names to sell tickets.  The production was filmed for cinema release the following year and since then the production has been staged countless times in the Royal Ballet's repertoire and here it is back again in it's 50th anniversary year.

Just in time to fit into our year of New Cultural Things (aka ballet and opera).  It's interesting how ballet and opera companies will keep a production going year after year; where are the National Theatre productions from the 1960s directed by John Dexter or Laurence Olivier or the RSC productions by Peter Hall or Peter Brook in the company's repertoires?  Not to be seen.

But what did I think of this year's production which has been recreated by Julie Lincoln and Christopher Saunders?  Well Constant Reader, I thought it was excellent, thanks for asking.

Prokofiev's almost filmic score sounded big and bold under the baton of Koen Kessels and MacMillan's choreography was still thrilling in it's sweep, lyricism and sheer story-telling bravura.

The cast we saw were all very good: Steven McRae was a vital, virile Romeo (despite his lute-playing) and Iana Salenko was excellent in Juliet's short journey from innocent rapture at her first love to her desperate anguish in the tomb.

Alexander Campbell was a quicksilver Mercutio and was well-partnered with Thomas Whitehead (an ex-Matthew Bourne Swan King) as Tybalt.  The co-stager Christopher Saunders was an imperious Lord Capulet and Genesia Rosato made the most of Lady Capulet's anguish over the death of Tybalt.  A special mention too for Itziar Mendizabal, Olivia Cowley and Helen Crawford who were feisty and spirited as the three tarts of Verona!

Nicholas Georgiadis' evocative set is a timeless design which allows for both grandeur and intimacy and I am sure the production will last for many years to come in the repertoire.

I think our adventures into the more rarefied arts this year have been interesting but for me the dance productions are out in front so far.

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