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New York City Ballet: Romeo + Juliet
- Onstage with the Dancers

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New York City Ballet
Romeo + Juliet
(NYC Ballet Website)

Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Children's Ballet Master, Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director, Fayçal Karoui
Communications, Managing Director, Robert Daniels
Assoc. Director, Communications, Siobhan Burns
Manager, Press Relations, Joe Guttridge
New York State Theater, Lincoln Center
www.lincolncenter.org


by Dr. Robert E. Zlokower
May 4, 2007
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com

Conductor, Fayçal Karoui

Romeo and Juliet (2007): Based on the Play by William Shakespeare, Music by Sergei Prokofiev, Choreography by Peter Martins, Scenery by Per Kirkeby, Costumes by Per Kirkeby and Kirstin Lund Nielsen, Costumes supervised by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Technical design by Perry Silvey, Fight scenes staged in association with Rick Washburn and Nigel Poulton, Performed by Sterling Hyltin as Juliet, Robert Fairchild as Romeo, Daniel Ulbricht as Mercutio, Antonio Carmena as Benvolio, Joaquin De Luz as Tybalt, Darcy Kistler as Lady Capulet, Jock Soto as Lord Capulet, Georgina Pazcoguin as The Nurse, Jonathan Stafford as Paris, Nikolaj Hübbe as Friar Laurence, Albert Evans as The Prince of Verona, and the Company as The Montagues, The Capulets, The Ballroom Guests, Juliet's Friends, and The Mandolin Dance. Dedicated to Howard Solomon.

Peter Martins has distilled the emotional, physical, and aesthetic ambiance of this renowned ballet: by casting lead roles with rising stars, by staging the production in only two acts, by simplifying the sets to contemporary expressiveness, by brightening the costumes to showcase each performer, by enlarging the role of Mercutio, to take advantage of youthful bravura, by enlarging the role of Lord Capulet, to bring Jock Soto back onstage, by enlarging the role of The Prince of Verona, to magnify Albert Evans' magnetic presence, by enlarging the dimension of Friar Laurence to take advantage of dramatic gesture, by enhancing the edge of the fencing scenes, to magnify theatricality, by magnifying the Mandolin Dance, to highlight upcoming, youthful males, and by adding extravagant passion to the pas de deux scenes of both leads. This Romeo and Juliet is choreographed to the renowned Prokofiev score, but it achieves originality in invention and dimension: invention in sets, costumes, tightening of music and plot, and dimension in youthful abandon, spotlighted minor roles, and pure dramatic fever.

At first, I was amazed at Mr. Martins' choice of sets, by Per Kirkeby, so contemporary and post-modern, but, in this case, they worked splendidly, as this production, in the gestalt, was neither traditional nor historical. Mr. Martins' new production is, rather, as introduced above, a synthesis of the oft-produced three-act version, that slowly leads to and methodically unfolds Shakespeare's original tragedy that inspires driven dance of the leads, the Capulets, and the Montagues, in pas de deux, trios, and ensembles. He uses iconic sets and costumes, with Tybalt (Joaquin De Luz) in primary yellow, Mercutio (Daniel Ulbricht) in purple, Romeo (Robert Fairchild) in blue, and Benvolio (Antonio Carmena) in green, and with the multi-purpose castle/balcony/bedroom/ballroom/chapel/tomb, all quasi-Van Gogh, grey stones, heavy modern brush strokes, and instantly moving parts. Peter Martins has added his own daring brushstroke to a well-worn ballet, by inviting a bold shape with a bold cast.

Sterling Hyltin, a rising star extraordinaire, was the living embodiment of the rebellious, rapturous, riveting Juliet, with backward bends and en air turns, all against the torso and shoulders of her Romeo, another rising star, Robert Fairchild, who grows in dramatic and stylistic nuance each season. Daniel Ulbricht, as Mercutio, emblazoned this role with fiery and feverish presence, aerobic dynamism, and commanding charisma. He riveted the attention of both audience and corps, as ballroom guests and friends focused on his dizzying spins and twists. Joaquin De Luz, as Tybalt, similar in physicality to Mr. Ulbricht, was a perfectly book-ended match in the sword scenes. Neither overwhelmed. Both had to exude out-sized emotions and electricity, with swords flying and music pulsating. Nikolaj Hübbe, as Friar Laurence, a much subdued role for this bravura dancer, transferred his focus to the internalization of authority and pathos, as he tried to save the doomed lovers in an urgent marriage ceremony and in the also urgent offer of sleep-inducing potion.

But, much of my attention was aimed at Jock Soto, not seen onstage since his 2005 retirement performance. He was, as Lord Capulet, seething with pride, anger, compulsion, and un-harnessed violence, the punishing parent, whose daughter does not bend to his will. His parental slap sent shocks through the audience. His dramatic delivery was probably right on target of the original Lord Capulet, whose pre-arranged match for Juliet could not be thwarted. Darci Kistler, a Lady Capulet with a heart, but a will of feathers, could do little to stop the fate in flight of her tortured daughter. Georgina Pazcoguin, as The Nurse, was overly campy, but that camp was illustrative of Mr. Martins' dramatic synthesis, as The Nurse has always been a foolish character, one who assisted at Juliet's wedding but enabled the pursuit of Paris. Jonathan Stafford, as Paris, was elegant and restrained, the regal gentleman, who awaits his catch. Joaquin De Luz, as Tybalt, was vicious, vibrant, and virulent. I know Joaquin, and this was definitely a new role, one about depth and danger. He was threatening and theatrical, and, in this production, had a woman by his side. His death scene (and that of Mercutio) was not overly extended. Rather, there was finality with definitive drama.

Albert Evans, as The Prince of Verona, used a slight touch of wit and a massive touch of persona, as he brought both Capulets and Montagues to his control, with a gesture of arm and a sense of authority. Antonio Carmena seemed transformed as Benvolio, with added demeanor and depth. The Company did not have the endless Ball of the Capulets, but an abbreviated version, that magnified the starkness and seeming triumph of this warring clan. As The Montagues, as well, the Company enhanced the plight of this warring family . Five young men appeared in a new take on The Mandolin Dance, with spark, spunk, and style. Fayçal Karoui conducted City Ballet Orchestra with persuasive mastery, as he tightened and propelled the power of Prokofiev. Mark Stanley's lighting was critical to the imagery of changing scenes, especially a moonlit balcony, a midnight bedchamber, and the translucent chapel and tomb. Perry Silvey deserves kudos for technical design of the one, complex, multi-purpose set, that works for background ambiance and foreground action.

Shakespeare's program quote ends, "A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life". Peter Martins has created and choreographed a ballet distillation that keeps this theme center and evolving, throughout both Acts. His Romeo and Juliet brings new meaning to "star-crossed". It also brings new authenticity to the ideal of youthful roles, those that should be danced by rising stars. This is a work with energy and meaning. Kudos to Peter Martins, kudos to Per Kirkeby, and kudos to tonight's fine cast.

Sterling Hyltin and Robert Fairchild in NYCB's Romeo + Juliet

Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik


Nikolaj Hübbe, Sterling Hyltin, Robert Fairchild and Georgina Pazcoguin in NYCB's Romeo + Juliet

Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

 

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