Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet ballet. Music by Sergei Prokofiev. Libretto by Leonid Lavrovsky and  Sergei Prokofiev. Staged 2009 by Monika Mason at the Royal Opera House based on original choreography by Leonid Lavrovsky as later revised by Kenneth McMillian. Stars Tamara Rojo (Juliet), Carlos Acosta (Romeo), José Martín (Mercutio), Thiago Soares (Tybalt), Yohei Sasaki (Benvolio), David Pickering (Paris), Christopher Saunders (Lord Capulet), Elizabeth McGorian (Lady Capulot), Laura Morera (Head Harlot), Sian Murphy (Junior Harlot), Isabel McMeekan (junior Harlot), Gary Avis (Escalus, Prince of Verona), Christina Arestis (Rosaline), Sandra Conley (Nurse), Alastair Marriott (Friar Laurence/Lord Montague), and Francesca Filpi (Lady Montague). Boris Gruzin conducts the Royal Ballet Sinfonia. Designs by Nicholas Georgiadis; lighting by John B. Read; directed for TV by Ross MacGibbon; produced by Francesca Kemp. Released  2009, disc has 5.1 dts-HD sound. Grade: A+

There are  5 major strains of Romeo and Juliet in ballet with music by various composers. The Prokofiev score is the most popular, and it is considered to be the best ballet music written since Tchaikovsky. Various choreographers have tackled Prokofiev, and this is a Royal Opera House update of the most successful Prokofiev version. I would be hard pressed to think of any way to improve on this production. All the dancers are wonderful in motion, and Tamara Rojo is an outstanding actress as well. The Royal Ballet Sinfonia sounds grand---their base drum will give your home theater system a chance to show off your ".1". The design and lighting is elegant; the costumes are rich and convincing. There is lots of spirited sword fighting to please boys of all ages. The video cameramen demonstrate great skill in taking advantage of available light to get good images in many dark scenes. For particular, I was impressed by the scene of the brightly illuminated Juliet lying in state on her bier surrounded by the total darkness of the family tomb (think the foreshortened image by Andre Mantegna in his painting Dead Christ). (Special note: I should also point out that the Royal Ballet in 2013 released a different version of this same production with a different cast.  Opus Arte, which is affiliated with the Royal Ballet, published the second version. We also wrote a review of the Opus Art disc with screenshots you can compare to the screenshots provided below for this review.)

If God loves everyman the same, no man can be a stranger.

If you have the slightest interest in ballet, this Romeo and Juliet must be high on your shopping list. I gave this the grade of "A+." The L'OperaDou jury awarded an "A-." We usually use the higher of the two grades in this situation, so the A+ stands. Now for some screenshots.

Let's start with the most interesting role in this production after Romeo and Juliet---the head harlot---here played by the great character dancer Laura Morera. Macmillan invented the 3 harlots. They are constantly in action in all the street scenes adding zest and continuity. Romeo and his friends treat the harlots like pals. Laura is the harlot standing on the left; she is frustrated because she can't find Romeo. The two other harlots (Sian Murphy and Isabel McMeekan) are smooching with Benvolio and Mercutio:

Now we see Romeo (Carlos Acosta) and the head harlot. This shot was made from somewhere on stage. There are a number of other views like this that add a motion picture flavor to this recording. Romeo is a Montague. Benvolio is a Montague also; Mercutio, Romeo's best friend,  is related to the Prince of Verona.

Now we meet the menacing Tybalt (Thiago Soares) nephew to the house of Capulet. Tybalt doesn't like the harlots, maybe because he's a self-righteous prude or maybe because he doesn't want the harlots to scandalize his precious cousin, a girl named Juliet. She lives in the Capulet house on the market square and, though now of marriageable age, still plays with dolls:

The Montague and Capulet families and their retainers have been feuding for a long time. This time the antics of the harlots spark a huge sword fight in the square. The Prince of Verona (Gary Avis) arrives to put down the disturbance:

Now, standing to answer to the Prince, we see Lady Montague (Francesca Filpi), Lord Montague (Alastair Marriott), Romeo, Mercutio (José Martin), and Benvolio (Yohei Sasaki):

And on the other side of the dead and wounded we see Tybalt, Lord Capulet (Christopher Saunders), and  Lady Capulet (Elizabeth McGorian):

Paris (David Pickering) is related to the Prince. He has asked to marry Juliet (Tamara Rojo) and is regarded as a good catch by Lord and Lady Capulet:

The nurse (Sandra Conley) explains to Juliet why she must now stop playing with dolls:

There is a party in the Capulet manor to welcome Paris. Romeo and his friends crash the party:

Here is a saw of might: "He never loved who loved not at first sight." H'm...bad quote and wrong play. But here's Juliet loving at first sight:

Now everybody is noticing something odd, and Mercutio tries to extricate Romeo before there can be serious trouble:

Juliet on the balcony. It's hard to believe that one of the best ballerinas in the world could look this young and lovely:

The balcony scene pas de deux:

Friar Lawrence (Alastair Marriott again) marries the star-cross'd lovers in secret. The Friar hopes the marriage will lead to peace between the two families. His wish will be fulfilled, but not in the way he expected:

Fighting breaks out again and Tybalt kills Mercutio:

Romeo kills Tybalt, his new wife's closest cousin:

Romeo and Juliet share their wedding night in secret in Juliet's bedroom. Now it's morning and Romeo must flee the city before he can be found and arrested:

Juliet makes her decision. She will join her husband-of-one-night no matter what:

Juliet works up her courage to take the potion she gets from Friar Lawrence. The potion will make her appear as dead so she will be placed in the family tomb, where Romeo can find her and take her away:

Juliet in the tomb:

But Romeo doesn't get the message from Frau Lawrence. Instead, hears from others that Juliet is dead and sneaks into the tomb:

Convinced that Juliet is dead, Romeo takes poison and dies. Juliet then wakes up as planned, but too late. She finds Romeo and realizes he is dead. She tries to get some poison from his lips and recoils, "Thy lips are warm." Sorry, this is ballet, not a play:

The only way to join her husband now is to use Romeo's knife.