Stuttgart Ballet – Romeo and Juliet

Prokofiev
Romeo and Juliet

The House of Capulet:
Lord Capulet – Rolando D’Alesio
Lady Capulet – Márcia Haydée
Juliet – Elizabeth Mason
Tybalt – Petros Terteryan
Paris – Alexander Jones
Juliet’s Nurse – Ludmilla Bogart

The House of Montague:
Lord Montague – Dmitri Magitov
Lady Montague – Jelena Bushuyeva
Romeo – Marijn Rademaker
Mercutio – Arman Zazyan & Stefan Stewart
Benvolio – Roland Havlica

The Duke of Verona/Friar Lawrence – Tomas Danhel
Rosalinde – Myriam Simon
Gypsies – Katarzyna Kozielska, Anna Osadcenko, Alessandra Tognoloni
Dancers at carnival – Laurent Guilaud, Laura O’Malley, Hyo-Jung Kang, Mikhail Soloviev, Yaosheng Weng
Nobles and townsfolk of Verona – Corps de Ballet

Choreography – John Cranko
Sets and Costumes – Jürgen Rose

Royal Ballet Sinfonia
Wolfgang Heinz


Reviewed by: G. J. Dowler

Reviewed: 30 March, 2008
Venue: The Coliseum, London

John CrankoJohn Cranko essentially made the Stuttgart Ballet what it is today – a company with an international reputation, boasting its own distinctive repertoire. Cranko died as a result of a tragic accident in 1973, but had in the space of just over 10 years created dozens of works for his company and assembling a starry line-up of principal dancers who acted as his muses, the brightest of all being the Brazilian Márcia Haydée, a dance-actress of uncommon talent and Cranko’s first Juliet in his 1962 production. That the 68 year-old Haydée should appear as Juliet’s mother in these London performances was a cause of great rejoicing for all London ballet goers. Her presence lent a particular lustre to these performances at the London Coliseum, and she acquitted herself with dignity and gravitas – a walking legend.

The company is very engaging indeed, with many bright, keen dancers who display a soft classicism (most are graduates from the John Cranko School) and who are a real joy in performance. Nowhere was this more obvious than in the dance for Juliet’s friends in Act III as they prepare to greet her on her wedding day. The soloists were clear in their movement and full of grace and softness.

©Stuttgart BalletCranko’s take on the Shakespeare story and Prokofiev’s score is gentler and more lyrical than the MacMillan version revived all too frequently by The Royal Ballet. Where MacMillan goes for raw passion and naturalistic violence, Cranko is softer: the star-crossed lovers are mere innocents caught up in the family feuding of their families. Their great pas de deux which ends Act I is therefore a tentative affair, often slow and restrained; MacMillan’s pours forth in a great torrent of passionate movement. It comes as a surprise almost that we see them in bed together at the beginning of Act III and that they have consummated their secret relationship. Romeo’s attempted departure at dawn elicits another pas de deux which again is characterised by Juliet’s innocence and his helplessness.

Such choreographic and emotional reticence does not allow the leads to develop as much intensity or abandon as does MacMillan, and without strong actor-dancers both Romeo and Juliet run the danger of being bland. Elizabeth Mason is a company soloist and a sweet dancer but lacks that emotional depth to charge up her performance – she was suitably agonised when in the tomb she awakes and discovers the dead Romeo, but all too often she lost her dramatic quality when concentrating on the technical challenges, which she did not always carry off. The same can be said for Marijn Rademaker, a company principal who had impressed me greatly in Stuttgart a few months back. Here, he suffered from a degree of the same blandness and seemed oddly challenged by some of the choreographic demands made on him. A slight disappointment.

Drama was provided by the Mercutio, Arman Zazyan, going off injured mid-scene and being replaced by Stefan Stewart – not that many in the audience seemed to have noticed. Zazyan is a perky demi-caractère dancer full of vim, and he had carried off his bouncy solo in the Capulets’ ball with aplomb. I was particularly impressed with the clear and telling acting of Juliet’s Nurse, Ludmilla Bogart, whom Cranko had intelligently made walk in accidentally on Romeo and Juliet’s first pas de deux at the ball, thereby giving her the motivation for helping them meet and marry. But I was less taken with some other Cranko touches, such as the ultimately tiresome carnival dancers of Act II. The choreography has its moments, but as ever with Cranko, movements of sublime beauty can be juxtaposed with those of startling clunkiness – the balcony pas de deux was the most salient example of this phenomenon.

The whole story is clearly told, helped immeasurably by Jürgen Rose’s superb sets, which provided a clear and beautiful setting for the unfolding drama. The back arcade and raised walkway proved flexible in evoking all the scenes from market place and ball to balcony and tomb. They make Nicholas Georgiades’s designs for the Covent Garden version appear overbearing and unwieldy.

Playing by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia was charged under Wolfgang Heinz’s expansive conducting.

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