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American Ballet Theatre

Romeo and Juliet 2013

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 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-Taylor, Manager of Press and Online Media

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 12, 2013

(Read More ABT Reviews)

(See an Interview about Spring Season Ballet Music 2013, with David LaMarche, Conductor)

Romeo and Juliet (1965, Royal; 1985, ABT):. Choreography by Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Music by Sergei Prokofiev, Scenery and Costumes by Nicholas Georgiadis, Lighting by Thomas Skelton.

This ballet was originally commissioned by Leningradís Kirov Ballet in 1934, but then this commission was cancelled. However, after Moscowís Bolshoi Ballet also rejected the music as un-danceable, it was mounted in Czechoslovakia by the Yugoslav National Ballet of Zagreb in 1938. MacMillanís 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).

Cast on June 11, 2013:

Conductor: David LaMarche

Performed by David Hallberg as Romeo, Polina Semionova as Juliet, Jared Matthews as Mercutio, Patrick Ogle as Tybalt, Joseph Gorack as Benvolio, Daniel Mantei as Paris, Roman Zhurbin as Lord Capulet, Kristi Boone as Lady Capulet, Clinton Luckett as Prince of Verona, Leann Underwood as Rosaline, Nicola Curry as Nurse, Clinton Luckett as Friar Laurence, Zhong-Jing Fang as Lady Montague, Thomas Forster as Lord Montague, Misty Copeland, Sarah Smith, Melanie Hamrick as Three Harlots, and the Company as Rosalineís Friend, Julietís Friends, Mandolin Dance, and Ballroom Guests and Townspeople.

Cast on June 12, 2013:

Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins

Performed by Herman Cornejo as Romeo, Xiomara Reyes as Juliet, Arron Scott as Mercutio, Patrick Ogle as Tybalt, Daniil Simkin as Benvolio, Grant DeLong as Paris, Roman Zhurbin as Lord Capulet, Kristi Boone as Lady Capulet, Alexei Agoudine as Prince of Verona, Luciana Paris as Rosaline, Nicola Curry as Nurse, Alexei Agoudine as Friar Laurence, Jessica Saund as Lady Montague, Thomas Forster as Lord Montague, Isabella Boylston, Sarah Smith, Melanie Hamrick as Three Harlots, and the Company as Rosalineís Friend, Julietís Friends, Mandolin Dance, and Ballroom Guests and Townspeople.

I must say that Romeo and Juliet remains one of my favorites of ABTís story ballets, with the propulsive, searing Prokofiev score. Itís as ingrained in the mind as Swan Lake and Giselle, and itís only mounted biannually or so. For this season, I chose two productions, with Hallberg-Semionova and Cornejo-Reyes. Both duos exude intense chemistry, with Herman Cornejo and Xiomara Reyes in more seasoned and practiced partnering. Both David Hallberg and Herman Cornejo really care for these partners, and, in this ballet, that caring needs to morph onstage as amour. Hallberg and Semionova are tall, mature, worldly in affect, and deep in drama. They provided gripping fascination in the bedroom scene, breathtaking tossing and embracing in the balcony scene, and pain in the crypt scene. Cornejo and Reyes are short, ingťnue, impulsive, energized, and entertaining. They provided athleticism, eager chases, and serendipitous flourishes in the balcony scene, youthful exuberance in the bedroom scene, and urgency, angst, and denial in the crypt scene. As Romeo and Juliet are historically teens, in love in Verona, the Cornejo-Reyes duo would seem more authentically drawn. Yet, the Hallberg-Semionova duo extrapolated the internal fire and psychic need of that historical and tragic, romantic saga, and the audience was riveted.

The Dance of the Capulets, in the ballroom scene, is a major highlight, with angular MacMillan choreography, synchronized to the voluminous, repetitive pulse. On both nights, the Corps and the participating leads were all outstanding. Patrick Ogle was Tybalt on both nights. He was less seething and unsettling than past Tybalts, theatrical, but not menacing. Clinton Luckett, an ABT ballet master, was Prince of Verona and Friar Laurence on the 11th, with Alexei Agoudine in the duo roles on the 12th. Mr. Luckett exuded mastery, while Mr. Agoudine exuded more charisma. Daniel Mantei and Grant DeLong were in the role of Paris, respectively on the 11th and 12th, both finding their way between guarded aggression and regal understatement. As Lord and Lady Capulet, on both nights, Roman Zhurbin and Kristi Boone were powerfully persuasive. As Lord and Lady Montague, Thomas Forster, with Zhong-Jing Fang (11th) and Jessica Saund (12th), were compelling. Nicola Curry was a nurturing nurse, on both nights, but Iíve never understood the un-dramatized conflicts in that role, as the nurse, Julietís confidante, arrives in Julietís bedroom, smiling, with the wedding dress, callous and oblivious to the unfolding reality of grief.

The prominent role of Mercutio, who fights to the death in a riveting sword scene, was performed by Jared Matthews on the 11th and Arron Scott on the 12th. There was no comparison. Mr. Matthews made little of the theatricality, a dancer feigning death with camp and choreography. Mr. Scott drew outsized curtain applause for his commanding and surprise handling of the roleís emotional and physical nuances, never grandstanding, a thrilling take on a familiar dance-drama segment. He was great at fencing, and even greater as actor-dancer. This is a rising star. As Benvolio, Joseph Gorak, on the 11th, had a huge edge over Daniil Simkin, on the 12th, whoís far too self-conscious and underdeveloped as an actor. Mr. Simkinís dancing is athletic, but heís not mesmerizing, not a bit. As Rosaline, Romeoís ex-fling, Leann Underwood was effective on the 11th, but Luciana Paris was electrifying on the 12th. Of the Three Harlots, a dance in itself, in a bustling Verona scene, the leads were Misty Copeland on the 11th and Isabella Boylston on the 12th, with Sarah Smith and Melanie Hamrick joining for a trio on both nights. Ms. Copeland is one of todayís most fascinating and consequential ballet dancers, and she was magnificent in this much too minor role.

In the Corps, Julio Bragado-Young and Joseph Phillips caught my eye. (The ballet programs should include head shots of the entire Company for easy identification of Corps.) David LaMarche conducted on the 11th, with Ormsby Wilkins taking the baton on the 12th. Maestro LaMarche had the edge on the 11th, with the orchestra especially melodic and tight. Kudos to all.

Polina Semionova and David Hallberg
in "Romeo and Juliet"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

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