Romeo and Juliet. He is a Montague, she is a Capulet. These two families have hated each other for many generations.
Romeo is madly in love with Rosaline, but sinks into melancholy when she rejects him.
Then one day, the Capulets, Juliet’s family, organize a ball. Romeo’s two best friends : Benvolio and Mercutio propose to him to invite themselves incognito to the Capulet’s party to cheer him up. Roméo accepts because he hopes to find Rosaline there.
For Juliette’s parents, this ball is the occasion that their daughter finds a husband. And during the ball, it is the love at first sight, Roméo and Juliette declare their love.
They plan to organize their wedding, a clandestine wedding.
Some time later, Romeo and Juliet are married, but live their love far from everyone. Tybalt, Juliette’s cousin, comes to insult Roméo, but Roméo refuses to fight him because he is related to Juliette.
Mercutio then takes his place, and Roméo, by trying to intervene, is responsible for the wound which kills his friend. By revenge, Roméo rushes on Tybalt, and kills him. Juliette’s secret husband is finally banished from Vérone.
Juliette’s parents are determined to marry her to Pâris. Obviously, Juliette is opposed to it. She thus asks the help of her confessor, Brother Laurent. He gives her a potion which is supposed to give her the appearance of death for a few hours. The plan established is that she will be deposited in the vault of her family and thanks to a letter, Roméo will come to join her and make her leave.
The next morning, as planned, Juliette is discovered inanimate by her nurse, the funeral takes place, and Juliette is placed in the family vault.
Only, an epidemic of Plague prevents the messenger from carrying his message to Romeo. Juliette’s husband learns of his wife’s death from his servant.
Roméo returns to Juliette’s grave, determined to die with her. He gives himself death by swallowing a vial of poison
Juliette wakes up a few moments later and discovers the body of her dead Romeo. She cannot live without him and places a last kiss on the lips of her lover, before passing away.
The score of Romeo and Juliet was written by Sergei Prokofiev, a Russian composer who lived during the first part of the 20th century.
The ballet is composed of three acts. In the first act we find the Capulets’ ball and the balcony scene. In the second act we see the wedding of the two lovers and the death of Mercutio. The death of the characters and the tragic end make up the last act.
In 1934, the score was commissioned by the Leningrad Kirov, now called the Mariinsky of St. Petersburg, but the composer’s proposal displeased the theater.
Prokofiev therefore signed a contract with the Bolshoi of Moscow to perform the ballet. But this time, it was not the theater that refused the score, but the dancers. Indeed, they judged the ballet “undanceable” because of its rhythmic complexity and certain passages considered inaudible.
Prokofiev then reworked his score and it was not until 1938 that the ballet was finally performed in the Czech Republic, where it was very well received by the critics.
Two years later, Leonid Lavrovski recreated the ballet in Russia, at the Kirov, then at the Bolshoi.
Another important character is Kenneth MacMillan. He entered Sadler’s Wells School, now known as the Royal Ballet School, at the age of 15. He directed the Royal Ballet company from 1970.
In 1965, he remounted the ballet Romeo and Juliet, again to Prokofiev’s score, with Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn. The first performance at Covent Garden was a success. The applause lasted nearly 40 minutes and the audience asked for 43 encores. Since then, the company has performed the ballet over 400 times.
Nureyev also recreated the ballet for the Paris Opera in 1984 and many pantomime movements are used to translate the text.
It is also the case of Angelin Preljocaj who made a much less classical choreography, but still on the score of Prokofiev, in 1990.
In 2007, Sasha Waltz, a German choreographer, took the score of Hector Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet Opera and created a very contemporary version.
I think you now know a lot about Romeo and Juliet, a ballet that shows us love at first sight, but also inspires regret, suffering and sadness.