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Monday
Apr082013

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet ballet. Music by Sergei Prokofiev. Libretto by Leonid Lavrovsky and Sergei Prokofiev. Staged 2012 at the Royal Opera House based on choreography by Kenneth McMillian. Stars Lauren Cuthbertson (Juliet), Federico Bonelli (Romeo), Alexander Campbell (Mercutio), Bennet Gartside (Tybalt), Dawid Trzensimiech (Benvolio), Valeri Hristov (Paris), Christopher Saunders (Lord Capulet), Christina Arestis (Lady Capulet), Gary Avis (Escalus, Prince of Verona), Tara-Brigitte Bhavnani (Rosaline), Kristen McNally (Nurse), Christopher Newton (Friar Laurence/Lord Montague), Sian Murphy (Lady Montague), Leanne Cope, Elsa Godard, Elisabeth Harrod, Emma Mcguire, Romany Pajdak, Sabina Westcombe (Juliet's Friends), Itziar Mendizabal, Laura McCulloch, Samantha Raine (Three Harlots), James Hay, Paul Kay, Ludovic Ondiviela, Andrej Uspenski, James Wilkie, Valentino Zucchetti (Mandolin Dance). Barry Wordsworth conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. Lighting design by John B. Read; staging by Monica Mason and Christopher Saunders; Ballet Master Christopher Saunders; Ballet Mistress Ursala Hageli; coaching by Lesley Collier and Jonathan Cope; directed for film by Ross MacGibbon. Released 2013, disc has 5.1 dts-HD sound. Grade: B+

This is the same production of Romeo and Juliet that the Royal Ballet staged 3 years earlier and promptly published in Blu-ray form under the Decca label with the same music, dancing, sets, and costumes. Ross MacGibbon was TV director for both versions.  Christopher Saunders (Lord Capulet), Gary Avis (Prince of Verona), and a few other dancers appear in both versons, but all of the major roles have new stars. Why did the RB republish this? Well, Opus Arte is affiliated with the Royal Ballet, so why not take away royalties from Decca if they can. The only problem with this gambit is that the Decca version is  distinctly better than what Opus Arte came up with.

Maybe I'm too influenced by what I"m used to, but I prefer the entire cast in the Decca version over the dancers who were cast later. Lauren Cuthbertson, Juliet in the Opus Arte version, is known for acting ability. She was terrific as Alice in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. But she is too plain, tall, and mature to be convincing as Juliet on film (may have been fine in the theater). If fact, I think the Royal Ballet should have called this title Romeo and Alice. (Please don't think I'm beating up on Lauren---I'm giving this show a B+.) So Tamara as Juliet in the Decca version gets my vote. I also love the evil-looking Thiago Soares as Tybalt in the Decca version; for Bennet Garthside I harbor only respect. And who on earth could follow Laura Morera (the head harlot in the Decca version) on the stage and not wilt a bit?

I was surprised how different the two shows can be even with staging and TV filming being handled by the same folks in both versions. In general, I prefer the earlier Decca result, but I also see ways in which the later version was better. I do think attention to fit and finish lagged a bit in the Opus Arte show. For example, in the Opus Arte tomb scene, Juliet gets her white leggings dirty under both knees---this is maybe realistic, but it looks bad. Juliet cannot get dirty!  And a few seconds later at the end, the main curtain closes, then reopens, and finally closes again. What's that about? Did somebody get his hand caught in the gears? Why didn't the editor fix that? I think long running productions like this may experience the following life cycle: smash hit, routine show, cash cow, and finally, tourist trap. Where in the cycle is this R&J?

Well, on to some screenshots saving me 1000s of words. The shots below generally follow the subjects and scenes shown in the screenshots I already provided in my review of the Decca R&J. So splict your screen and call up two browsers side-by-side. Click back and forth between the reviews of the two versions and decide for yourself if one version appeals to you more than the other.

Romeo (Federico Bonelli) and the head harlot (Itziar Mendizabal):

Tybalt ( Bennet Gartside):

Gary Avis is the Prince in both versions:

This is the best shot I could get of the waring family leaders:

Juliet (Lauren Cuthbertson) meets Paris (Valeri Hristov):

This Juliet is definitely too old for dolls:

Romeo at the party:

The love-at-first-sight scene with Lauren Cuthbertson:

Juliet on the balcony:

The Opus Arte balconiy pas de deux:

The secret marriage:

The death of Mercutio:

The death of Tybalt:

Lady Capulet grieves for Tybalt:

Romeo and Juliet part after their wedding night:

Juliet makes up her mind:

Juliet works up her courage to take the powerful sleeping draught. Her right knee is dirty: did this come from kneeling behind the bed?

In the tomb:

The dirt below Juliet's knees don't look too bad here, but they really bothered me as I watched this:

The deaths of Romeo and Juliet are portrayed and filmed well in the Opus Arte version (before we see the curtain close twice):

Here's a clip with pretty good HD video:

 

 

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