Sundays at the Bolshoi Ballet—Romeo and Juliette

~By Norm Robins~

This Sunday, March 29, 2020, the Bolshoi had planned to telecast the 2020 production of Romeo and Juliette from Moscow. But, like every other theater in God’s creation they will be dark. What to do? How to go on?

Fear not, loyal readers, an answer is at hand. The Bolshoi telecast their May 5, 2013 production of Romeo and Juliette. That was the year after Nina Kaptsova dancing Juliette was promoted to prima ballerina. It is a ballet in two acts that you can view below by clicking on the link.

Shakespeare’s story centers on the competition and hostility between the Montagues and the Capulets, two noble families, in Verona, Italy. It is a competition between two monied versions of our feuding Hatfields and McCoys. It opens in a square in Verona where youngsters from the two families are brawling. A masked Romeo Montague and his close friend Mercutio are on their way to crash a ball being held by the Capulets. Once there the very young Romeo sees Juliette Capulet, age 14. They immediately fall in love. Romeo courts Juliette. Friar Lawrence marries them in secret hoping the marriage will end the family feud. It doesn’t. It makes things worse. Mercutio and Tybalt Capulet meet at a carnival. They fight, and Tybalt kills Mercutio. Romeo avenges Mercutio by killing Tybalt. Romeo is banished. Paris, a kinsman of Prince Escalus, ruler of Verona, woos Juliette, but she is still in love with Romeo. Friar Lawrence gives her an opiate to relieve her despair that puts her to sleep temporarily. She takes it. The news of Juliette’s “death” is spread throughout Verona. Romeo in his own despair at Juliette’s “death” comes to her and decides to join her. He kills himself just as Juliette is reviving from her slumber. She sees Romeo dying and kills herself to join him. Final curtain. Raucous, wildly enthusiastic applause at the curtain call. The end.

The story, of course, is Shakespeare’s. But Shakespeare, like many writers, get their stories from somewhere else, in this case, a long poem by English poet Arthur Brooke who got the story from a French translation of a story by Italian Matteo Bandello. The score was written by Sergei Prokofiev. The ballet was choreographed by Yuri Grigorovich. The production is stunning, perhaps the most beautiful Romeo and Juliette I have ever seen. The waltz in Act I is a frightful counterpoint to the elegant dancing at the ball. It is repeated in modified form throughout the ballet when the story is tense or confrontational. The choreography syncs perfectly with it. Kaptsova at age 35 dances with the energy and verve of a teenager. It is commonplace for a prima ballerina to spend time en pointe. It is rare for a ballerina to run on pointe as Kaptsova does. Truly she is a remarkable woman, convincing too. The cast, orchestra, scenery, lights, and costumes are perfect as one would expect of the Bolshoi.

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