DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

PROKOFIEV: Romeo and Juliet ballet, Blu-ray (2013)

A glorious Blu-ray version of the best production of Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet.

Published on July 24, 2013

PROKOFIEV: Romeo and Juliet ballet, Blu-ray (2013)

Choreographer: Kenneth MacMillan
Performers: Lauren Cuthbertson, Federico Bonelli, Bennet Gartside & other members of The Royal Ballet
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House/ Barry Wordsworth
Studio: Opus Arte OA BD7116D [2/25/13] (Distr. by Naxos)
Video: 16:9 1080i HD color
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, PCM stereo
Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese
All regions
Extras: Documentary on MacMillan’s Romeo & Juliet, Sharp points and pirouettes – on sword fighting, Cast gallery
Length: 158 minutes (extras: 15 min.)
Rating: *****

Recorded live at London’s Royal Opera House in March of last year, this is basically the same production premiered by the Royal Ballet in 1965 with Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn dancing the title roles. The company has now performed the ballet over 400 times, but each time is a bit different. This production has also been shown around the world live as part of the HD Cinemas series in theaters.

Dance and theater aspects get equal billing in this version, and the documentary emphasizes the focus which the late MacMillan put on the emotional and theatrical part of the story. The hopeful young couple are stuck in a difficult world with the constant pugilistic fighting between the two important houses in Verona, the Capulets and the Montagues. McMillan wanted to ensure that the sword fighting was authentic-looking and yet fit in with the ballet. I’ve always been bothered by not understanding all of the gestures the dancers in classical ballet make since they are stuck in their mime performances.  Yet I understood every gesture made by these dancers, which advanced the plot and seemed quite logical.

Bennet Gartside is great as the Capulet cousin with a big chip on his shoulder. The production is full of life, especially in the market and outdoor scenes, which revel in plenty of color and vibrancy. The drama is usually uppermost, which makes for a more exciting production. The only part which annoyed me was the light-hearted dance of Juliet’s female attendants around the bed where she lay after taking the poison that would make her seem dead but let her wake up later. They continually danced right over the bottle of poison on the floor without noticing it.

The orchestral backing is also excellent, in spite of the cramped conditions of their below-stage orchestra pit. None of the other companies seem to dance this ballet as well as the Royal Ballet, and no ballet lover should be without this terrific Blu-ray. I’m not a balletomane, but my favorite ballets are this and Khachaturian’s Spartacus.

—John Sunier




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