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American Ballet Theatre: Romeo and Juliet 2012
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American Ballet Theatre

Romeo and Juliet 2012

Metropolitan Opera House

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters:
Susan Jaffe, Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
James Timm, Director of Marketing and Brand Management
Susan Morgan, Manager of Press and Online Media

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 20, 2012

(Read More ABT Reviews)

Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins

Romeo and Juliet (1965, Royal; 1985, ABT):. Choreography by Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Staged by Julie Lincoln, Music by Sergei Prokofiev, Scenery and Costumes by Nicholas Georgiadis, Lighting by Thomas Skelton, Performed by Johan Kobborg as Romeo, Alina Cojocaru as Juliet, Craig Salstein as Mercutio, Gennadi Saveliev as Tybalt, Jared Matthews as Benvolio, Sascha Radetsky as Paris, Roman Zhurbin as Lord Capulet, Kristi Boone as Lady Capulet, Alexei Agoudine as Prince of Verona, Luciana Paris as Rosaline, Susan Jones as Nurse, Alexei Agoudine as Friar Laurence, Zhong-Jing Fang as Lady Montague, Vitali Krauchenka as Lord Montague, Isabelle Boylston, Kelley Potter, Jessica Saund as Three Harlots, and the Company as Rosaline’s Friend, Juliet’s Friends, Mandolin Dance, and Ballroom Guests and Townspeople.

This ballet was originally commissioned by Leningrad’s Kirov Ballet in 1934, but then this commission was cancelled. However, after Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet also rejected the music as un-danceable, it was mounted in Czechoslovakia by the Yugoslav National Ballet of Zagreb in 1938. MacMillan’s version was originally performed in 1965 by Nureyev and Fonteyn for the Royal Ballet. Yet, it is a ballet for young couples, as this Shakespearean duo was conceived as youthful and lyrical. (ABT Notes).

Tonight’s performance of this often reviewed MacMillan production of Romeo and Juliet was one of the most memorable in years, mainly due to the fact that real life partners, Johan Kobborg and Alina Cojocaru, Guest Artists from the Royal Ballet, were cast as the tragic lovers, Romeo and Juliet. This was an erotic and voluptuous duo, as he held her upside down, her legs around his neck. Their balcony scene was breathtaking and brash, their bedroom scene tortured and commanding. Even at Mr. Kobborg’s first appearance onstage, as he searches for Rosaline, his early object of infatuation, he’s driven and reeking with destiny and desire. Ms. Cojocaru, on her first appearance, with her Nurse, Susan Jones, had an unusual spirited spring and magical glow. There was more than onstage anticipation, there was electricity in the air.

To add to the hormonal fireworks, Craig Salstein delivered the longest death scene, as Mercutio, I’ve ever seen, even surpassing himself, which is not easy. After being fatally stabbed by Tybalt (a seething Gennadi Saveliev), Mr. Salstein managed to use his sword as a silent mandolin, kiss a harlot, drink wine from a goblet, and wittily cavort about. Tybalt, as well, with Mr. Saveliev in his seasoned role, seemed to expand his death scene with heavy throes. Jared Matthews was Benvolio, and Sasha Radetsky was Paris, two Soloists who have played the good and the evil in ballet scenarios. Here, Mr. Matthews, often cast in Swan Lake as von Rothbart, and Mr. Radetsky, often cast here as Tybalt, were amiable and upbeat, as Romeo’s cohort and Juliet’s rejected suitor. Roman Zhurbin and Kristi Boone, as Lord and Lady Capulet, were bristling with irritation and impatience. Alexei Agoudine seamlessly doubled as Friar Laurence and the Prince of Verona, in mostly theatrical roles, while Vitali Krauchenka and Zhong-Jing Fang were stoic as Lord and Lady Montague. Isabella Boylston, Kelley Potter, and Jessica Saund were provocative and playful as Three Harlots.

But, with Ormsby Wilkins’ extra searing interpretation of the Prokofiev score, as he masterfully maximized the Orchestra’s strings and percussion, tonight’s performance was monumental. In the Capulet ballroom dance, the women’s heads were extra precisely held to the side, for stunning effect, and the fencing-sword scenes were extra tense, taut, and tenacious. In the Crypt, Ms. Cojocaru and Mr. Kobborg literally threw themselves at their lifeless partners, seeming to will them to breathe. This was so much more than ballet. This was truly theater, and this was what makes story ballet occasionally stupendous and unforgettable. This is what balletomanes live for, just these rare moments. Tonight we got more than moments; we got hours of intoxicating drama, quintessential Ballet Theatre. Kudos to all.

Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg
in "Romeo and Juliet"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at