ROMEO AND JULIET
Music- Sergey Prokofiev
Libretto by Sergei Prokofiev,Sergei Radlov,Adrian Piotrovsky after the play of the same name by William Shakespear
Choreography- Valentina Grishchenko
Costumes designer- Yulia Zhuravlyova
Stage designer- Maksim Ushakov
Light designer- Maksim Kuroshou
Ballet in two acts.
Duration: 2 hours (1 intermission).
Premiere: January 11, 1940, Kirov Theater (Mariinsky Theater), Leningrad.
The premiere of Sergey Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet was once postponed and prohibited in the USSR. Today, this ballet symphony is performed at the world’s most renowned stages. In the 1930s, Prokofiev, the famous pianist and composer, returned to Russia from a long tour and came up with the idea for a ballet based on William Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet. He usually created librettos for his plays on his own. This time, however, he decided to involve Sergey Radlov, a scholar of Shakespeare and art director of the Kirov Theater, and Adrian Piotrovsky, a dramatist and renowned theater expert. The ballet was completed in 1935, but it could not be staged – it was prohibited due to a “lack of music suitable for dancing.”
The ballet finally premiered in the Mahen Theater in Brno (Czechoslovakia, now Czech Republic) on December 30, 1938. The premiere was a success, but it took two more years before Romeo and Juliet was allowed to be performed in the USSR. Finally, Leonid Lavrovsky staged the ballet. It provoked controversy among the dancers and musicians, who could not get over Prokofiev’s “non-ballet” music. Two weeks before the premiere, they even refused to take part in the ballet.
Nevertheless, the ballet premiered in the Kirov Theater on January 11, 1940. Prokofiev and Lavrovsky created a hard-hitting and consistent show with prominent character profiles. The performance was a roaring success and even received the Stalin Prize.
Romeo and Juliet debuted in Moscow in 1946. Since then, the ballet has always held an important place in the repertoire of the Bolshoi Theater. Two years later, it was performed in London and received grand acclaim. The stage life of this masterpiece is intertwined with the names of the Bolshoi Theater’s most renowned stars, including Galina Ulanova, Natalya Bessmertnova, Maya Plisetskaya, Mikhail Lavrovsky, Ekaterina Maksimova, Vladimir Vasilyev, and Nadezhda Pavlova.
Early morning. Romeo can’t sleep. He wanders the deserted streets of Verona, dreaming of love. Little by little the square is filled with people. Meanwhile, young Juliet is playing with her Nurse, who dresses her up for the ball. Benvolio and Romeo’s faithful friend, the merry fellow Mercutio, persuade Romeo to go to the Capulet ball. To stay unrecognized, young people from the Montague family put on masks and go to the festival.
A lavish ball at the Capulet home. Disguised by masks, Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio slip unannounced into the ball. When Romeo sees Juliet, he is immediately lovestruck. Taking advantage of the fact that Tybalt takes Paris away from Juliet, Romeo approaches her. He does not hide his delight and admiration. Romeo’s accidentally dropped mask reveals his face to Juliet’s gaze. But Romeo is recognized by Tybalt and, fearing possible complications, hurries to leave the house. Juliet is still under the impression of meeting Romeo. Who is this beautiful young man? Moonlit night. Romeo appears.
They confess their love to each other and swear loyalty. The square of Verona is noisy and fun. Juliet’s nurse sends a note to Romeo on behalf of her young mistress. Friar Laurence spends his days in his cell. Romeo pleads with him to secretly seal the alliance between him and Juliet. Laurence promises his help, hoping this marriage will reconcile the warring families of Montague and Capulet. Juliet appears. Lorenzo performs the wedding ceremony. Mercutio, Benvolio and their friends are having fun. Appearing on the bridge, Tybalt notices his enemies and, drawing his sword, rushes to Mercutio.
Romeo wants to reconcile them, but without success. A battle ensues between Tybalt and Mercutio. Romeo tries to separate them, but Tybalt, seizing the moment, strikes Mercutio a fatal blow from under Romeo’s arm. The death of a friend enrages Romeo. Drawing his sword, he challenges Tybalt to a duel and kills him. The family of the murdered man, gathered at his body, swears eternal vengeance on the family of Montague.
Romeo must say goodbye to Juliet. He is banished from Verona. The morning sun breaks into the room. The nurse tries in vain to comfort Juliet. Parents appear. Paris is with them. Juliet learns about her wedding, listens to the groom’s confessions, but resolutely refuses to submit to the will of her parents. After Paris leaves, a hail of reproaches falls on her. The will of the Capulet is adamant. Juliet is desperate. She decides to consult with Friar Laurence. Amazed by the girl’s boundless love for Romeo, the father gives her a potion: after drinking it, Juliet will fall into a dream, everyone will think that she is dead, and her body will be carried in an open – according to custom – coffin to the ancient crypt of the Capulet. Meanwhile Friar Laurence will notify Romeo, who is hiding in Mantua. The young man will immediately return to Verona, find Juliet awake and take with him to Mantua, where they will have unclouded days of happiness. Returning home, Juliet pretends to submit to the will of her parents. After drinking the potion, she falls asleep. Her parents come, the Nurse throws back the curtains by the bed, and everyone freezes in horror: Juliet is dead … Romeo hurries to Verona.
Verona cemetery. Romeo appears. He cannot take his eyes off his beloved. She is dead – and life has lost its meaning for him. Believing Juliet to be dead, Romeo drinks the poison and falls at Juliet’s feet. Juliet wakes up to find Romeo sprawled at her feet. She leans toward him. The young man’s lips are already cold. With Romeo’s dagger, Juliet stabs herself with his dagger and joins him in death. The Montagues and the Capulets stare in daze at the dead bodies of their children. They hold out their hands in silence…The long-standing feud between Montague and Capulet is ended at the cost of the lives of two lovers…