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American Ballet Theatre: Romeo and Juliet 2006
-Onstage with the Dancers

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American Ballet Theatre
www.abt.org

Romeo and Juliet 2006
At
Metropolitan Opera House
www.lincolncenter.org

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters:
Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Georgina Parkinson, Kirk Peterson

Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 15, 2006

Originally Published on ExploreDance.com


Romeo and Juliet (1965, Royal; 1985, ABT): Choreography by Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Staged by Julie Lincoln, Music by Sergei Prokofiev, Scenery and Costumes by Nicholas Georgiadis, Lighting by Thomas Skelton. This ballet was Originally commissioned by Leningrad's Kirov Ballet in 1934, but then this commission was cancelled. However, after Moscow's Bolshoi Ballet also rejected the music as un-danceable, it was mounted in Czechoslovakia by the Yugoslav National Ballet of Zagreb in 1938. MacMillan's version was Originally performed in 1965 by Nureyev and Fonteyn for the Royal Ballet. Yet, it is a ballet for young couples, as this Shakespearean duo was conceived as youthful and lyrical. (ABT Notes).

July 12, 2006: Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by David Hallberg as Romeo, Paloma Herrera as Juliet, Jesus Pastor as Mercutio, Isaac Stappas as Tybalt, Jared Matthews as Benvolio, Grant DeLong as Paris, Victor Barbee as Lord Capulet, Veronika Part as Lady Capulet, Alexei Agoudine as Prince of Verona, Melissa Thomas as Rosaline, Sasha Dmochowski as Nurse, Frederic Franklin as Friar Laurence, Jennifer Alexander as Lady Montague, Roman Zhurbin as Lord Montague, Carmen Corella, Stella Abrera, and Kristi Boone as Three Harlots, and the Company as Rosaline's Friend, Juliet's Friends, Mandolin Dance, and Ballroom Guests and Townspeople.

July 15, 2006: Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Jose Manuel Carreño as Romeo, Alessandra Ferri as Juliet, Craig Salstein as Mercutio, Sascha Radetsky as Tybalt, Carlos Lopez as Benvolio, Gennadi Saveliev as Paris, Roman Zhurbin as Lord Capulet, Stella Abrera as Lady Capulet, Kirk Peterson as Prince of Verona, Melissa Thomas as Rosaline, Susan Jones as Nurse, Kirk Peterson as Friar Laurence, Amanda Cobb as Lady Montague, Vitali Krauchenka as Lord Montague, Carmen Corella, Simone Messmer, and Sasha Dmochowski as Three Harlots, and the Company as Rosaline's Friend, Juliet's Friends, Mandolin Dance, and Ballroom Guests and Townspeople.

For days, the magnificent Prokofiev score danced in my head; I even awakened to fragments of percussive or mandolin or violin solos. This sumptuous music is the true star of the ballet, highlighted in sword fights, death and love scenes, balcony dances, the Capulet ball, mandolin dance, bedroom solos and pas de deux, and the candle crypt scene. The ballet stars remain the leads, Romeo and Juliet. These principals must be charismatic, connected, stylistically virtuosic, theatrical, and youthful (at least in spirit). Romeo (a Montague) and Juliet (a Capulet), in Shakespeare's work, were young teens.

The other stars are Mercutio, Romeo's comrade, as well as Tybalt, Juliet's brother and figurehead of the Capulets, plus Benvolio, another of Romeo's comrades, Paris, Juliet's rejected fiancée, the doomed Lord and Lady Capulet, Rosaline, Romeo's rejected harlot, Nurse, Juliet's weak-willed caretaker, Friar Laurence, Romeo and Juliet's "communication-challenged" pastor, and Lord and Lady Montague. The cast on each of the two viewings was splendid, with some differences in partnered chemistry and seasoning of the roles. Each night had its unique excitement, such as David Hallberg's debut as Romeo on July 12 and Alessandra Ferri's signature (and perhaps final, as rumors go) Juliet on July 15.

David Hallberg radiated youthfulness and rapture as Romeo and, for the most part, was quite steady and stylized in this role. The look of his long, windy cape billowing in his rushed leaps around Juliet's balcony and his athletic lifts of Paloma Herrera were dramatic and driven. In time, he will achieve the seamless flow of the choreography that has been mastered by Jose Manuel Carreño, the July 15 Romeo. Mr. Carreño could focus on the speed and elevation necessitated in various solos, as he has expertly internalized the rhythms of MacMillan's motion. Both Mr. Hallberg and Mr. Carreño exuded regal demeanor, rapturous emotion, and sudden predatory anger (in the sword scenes). In fact, both were superb swordsmen. And, both Romeos were successful in captivating the audience as the drama unfolded.

As Juliet, Ms. Herrera was willful and defiant, while Ms. Ferri was impassioned and vulnerable. Ms. Herrera's Juliet seemed lustful, while Ms. Ferri's seemed lovelorn. In the renowned pas de deux, balcony scene, Ms. Herrera tossed herself onto Mr. Hallberg's muscular torso time and again, and their dance was exciting, but not as passionate as that of Ms. Ferri and Mr. Carreño, who embraced and kissed at random. As Romeo, Mr. Carreño seemed to catch the audience's approval, in exits and entrances, where Mr. Hallberg seemed more focused on the stage. These two duos are combinations of superior partnering, and I would choose to see them time and again. As Mercutio, Jesus Pastor was a bit more virtuosic (driving the audience wild) than Craig Salstein, But Mr. Salstein had the edge in mime and camp, his specialty. Both death scenes kept the audience breathless.

On July 12, Grant DeLong was a passive, pleasant Paris, while Gennadi Saveliev, on July 15, was seething with desire and fury. Isaac Stappas, as Tybalt on July 12, had the charismatic-dramatic edge, while Sascha Radetsky, on July 15, seemed virtually wounded in pride and power. Jared Matthews and Carlos Lopez both exuded an entertaining quality as Benvolio, and, in the mandolin dance, both met the choreographic challenge. Victor Barbee had the edge as Lord Capulet, with natural maturity and expertise, while Roman Zhurbin will grow into the role. He clearly did not look the part of Ms. Ferri's father, superb wig withstanding. Stella Abrera, as Lady Capulet on July 15, although young for the role as Ms. Ferri's (and Mr. Radetsky's) mother, was so theatrical and perfect in every image, head to the side, arms outstretched, that she had some edge on Veronica Part (Lady Capulet on July 12). In Tybalt's death scene, Ms. Abrera's performance was heart-rending.

Susan Jones is the quintessential Nurse, matronly and nurturing, while Sasha Dmochowski carried the role quite well. This is the Nurse, who forces Juliet to receive and partner Paris, moments after she coordinated Juliet's marriage with Romeo. It takes a nuanced characterization to pull off this requisite role, and Ms. Jones does it splendidly on each revival. Melissa Thomas was Rosaline on both nights, raunchy, sassy, sexy. As Friar Laurence, it was wonderful to see Frederic Franklin, 92, once again, with arms outstretched marrying the doomed lovers on July 12, before he finds the sleep potion for Juliet. Kirk Peterson's Friar Laurence was, however, equally persuasive.

Jennifer Alexander and Roman Zhurbin (July 12) and Amanda Cobb and Vitali Krauchenka (July 15) as Lord and Lady Montague, were stately and stylish. On both nights, the Three Harlots were rambunctious and effervescent, with Carmen Corella repeating the role with relish, and Ms. Abrera standing out on July 12, an engaging performer. The Company was outstanding, especially in the Dance of the Capulets in the ballroom. As the scrim rises, and the Company begins this pulsating procession, the edge of this masterpiece is palpable. Nicholas Georgiadis has designed both powerful and sensual sets and costumes, especially the brocaded ballroom outfits and the silky moonlit ones. Juliet's balcony staircase allows one to hear her toe shoes dashing up and down to her lover, almost the sound of a heartbeat.

Ormsby Wilkins was a dramatic conductor and kept the music monumental with his active baton on July 15, while Charles Barker, in his hands-only conducting style, elicited dynamic and graceful eloquence from Ballet Theatre's versatile orchestra. Kudos to Kevin McKenzie, Ballet Theatre's Artistic Director, for another memorable and splendid season. Kudos to the entire Company and Staff for daring and dashing dance.

Paloma Herrera and David Hallberg in Romeo and Juliet

Photo courtesy of Gene Schiavone


Alessandra Ferri in Romeo and Juliet

Photo courtesy of Fabrizio Ferri

 

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net