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American Ballet Theatre: Romeo and Juliet 2015
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American Ballet Theatre

Romeo and Juliet 2015
Ballet in Three Acts

At the
Metropolitan Opera House

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Chief Executive Officer
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters: Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa, Keith Roberts
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 18, 2015

(Read More ABT Reviews)

(See a Conversation with Conductor, David LaMarche, on this Season’s Ballet Music.)

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 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. (ABT Notes).

Cast on June 16, 2015:
Conductor: David LaMarche

Performed by Alexandre Hammoudi as Romeo, Misty Copeland as Juliet, Craig Salstein as Mercutio, Patrick Ogle as Tybalt, Joseph Gorack as Benvolio, Grant DeLong as Paris, Roman Zhurbin as Lord Capulet, Devon Teuscher as Lady Capulet, Alexei Agoudine as Prince of Verona, Leann Underwood as Rosaline, Marian Butler as Nurse, Alexei Agoudine as Friar Laurence, Karen Uphoff as Lady Montague, Pascal Knopp as Lord Montague, Luciana Paris, Zhong-Jing Fang, and Alexandra Basmagy as Three Harlots, and the Company as Rosaline’s Friend, Juliet’s Friends, Mandolin Dance, and Ballroom Guests and Townspeople.

Cast on June 18, 2015:
Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins

Performed by Herman Cornejo as Romeo, Evgenia Obraztsova as Juliet, Daniil Simkin as Mercutio, Patrick Ogle as Tybalt, Joseph Gorak as Benvolio, Grant DeLong as Paris, Roman Zhurbin as Lord Capulet, Devon Teuscher as Lady Capulet, Clinton Luckett as Prince of Verona, Luciana Paris as Rosaline, Marian Butler as Nurse, Clinton Luckett as Friar Laurence, Karen Uphoff as Lady Montague, Keith Roberts as Lord Montague, Isadora Loyola, Christine Shevchenko, and Luciana Voltolini as Three Harlots, and the Company as Rosaline’s Friend, Juliet’s Friends, Mandolin Dance, and Ballroom Guests and Townspeople.

We all studied the classic, romantic tragedy, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and Kenneth MacMillan’s 1965 ballet, choreographed to Sergei Prokofiev’s dynamic, mesmerizing music, has always been one of my favorite ballets. This week was no exception, except for two casting mishaps. However, Ballet Theater’s elegant, iconic production is quintessentially gorgeous with a balcony scene in Scene 6, Act I, that brings the house into a frenzy of breathless rapture. When Romeo and Juliet, from the warring family factions, respectively, Montague and Capulet, lock eyes at the Scene 4, Capulet Ball, they return, later that night, to dance under Juliet’s balcony. This is the ballet’s watershed Pas de Deux, often performed at ballet galas and special events.

On June 16, Misty Copeland, as Juliet, was headstrong, impassioned in the moment, and daring in leaps and tosses. However, in the first casting mishap, Alexandre Hammoudi, as Romeo, was shallow in dramatization, and off balance, visibly strained in the partnering, barely able to lift and carry the petite Ms. Copeland about the stage. There was zero chemistry between the two, both Soloists with the Company. Ms. Copeland needed a charismatic dynamo to match her energy, but Mr. Hammoudi was not that dynamo. In the Ballroom Scene, he leaped about like a lyrical gazelle, in his solos and trios with Benvolio (Joseph Gorak) and Mercutio (Craig Salstein). But, even in the Act III, Scene 4, Capulet crypt scene, Mr. Hammoudi seemed about to collapse, lifting and dragging the sleeping, lifeless body of Juliet, who was still under the potion’s spell. The second casting mishap was Craig Salstein, as Mercutio, also on the 16th. He’s been dancing this role for many years and needs a more mature, comedic role, built on his strengths. He almost drew laughter in his death scene, with all the silent film miming and campy, facial and hand gestures. Mr. Salstein needs a ballet choreographed on him, maybe including Roman Zhurbin, also an exemplary character actor, as both Soloists are in their prime. As Benvolio, on the 16th, Joseph Gorak, appropriately youthful and nuanced, was superb, with spring-like bounce.

On June 18, there were no casting mishaps, and the evening was extraordinary. Guest Artist, The Bolshoi’s Evgenia Obraztsova, was Juliet, and her Romeo was Ballet Theatre Principal, Herman Cornejo, always in fine form. Their chemistry was thick, and Ms. Obraztsova is diminutive, spritely, ingénue, ebullient. The muscular pro, Mr. Cornejo, swept her up in the Balcony Scene and dashed to and fro about the stage, with his ballerina on his back. His renowned, tight spins and elevated leaps drew gasps. The audience was vocally in abandon. It was spectacular theater, worthy of the Met Opera stage. In the final crypt scene, once again, this Romeo and Juliet duo was filled with angst, magnetism, and wild youthfulness. On this night, in the audience, I noticed David Hallberg, who also dances with The Bolshoi and is on leave from Ballet Theatre, due to injury, as well as Alessandra Ferri, retired from ABT, who now partners with Mr. Cornejo in a variety of balletic ventures. On the 18th, Daniil Simkin was Mercutio, also a bit too campy, as was Mr. Salstein on the 16th, but, at least Mr. Simkin knew when to evoke an aura of pathos and doom. In an earlier scene, in his solo mandolin dance, Mr. Simkin drew enormous accolades. As Benvolio, once again Mr. Gorak shown brightly.

In the role of Tybalt, who is slain by Romeo, after Tybalt slays Mercutio, Corps dancer, Patrick Ogle took the part on both nights. He was mostly menacing, but not nearly as treacherous as others have been, notably former Soloists with the Company, Gennadi Saveliev and Sascha Radetsky. I think James Whiteside would have been better in the casting, although Mr. Ogle did shove off the Montagues from his family Ball, with aplomb. As Paris, the role, both nights, was danced by Corps member, Grant DeLong, with a bit more savagery than the Company’s former Parises. Specifically, when Juliet rejects him, on various parental introductions, throughout the scenes, Mr. DeLong pursued both Juliets with aggression. Marian Butler, in the Corps, was the nurse, on both nights, and shuffled about with exquisite nurturing and sadness at Juliet’s plight. Rosaline, a harlot who’s fond of Romeo and his two cohorts, was danced by Leann Underwood on the 16th and Luciana Paris on the 18th, with both sassy and seductive.

Of the two Friar Laurences, Alexei Agoudine was more serene and subtle than was the mature, dramatic, Clinton Luckett, a Ballet Master with the Company. Devon Teuscher and Roman Zhurbin, both Soloists, were Lord and Lady Capulet on both nights. These are two of Ballet Theatre’s finest, both deserving of fuller, lead roles. Of the ensemble roles, Christine Shevchenko, as one of the Three Harlots, on the 18th, and Skylar Brandt, as one of Juliet’s Friends, on the 16th, caught my eye. Plus, Keith Roberts, a Ballet Master, was a refined Lord Montague on the 18th. Maestros, David LaMarche, on the 16th, and Ormsby Wilkins, on the 18th, in the pit, kept Ballet Theatre Orchestra resonant and vibrant. Kudos to all.

Misty Copeland and Alexandre Hammoudi
in "Romeo and Juliet"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

Evgenia Obraztsova and Herman Cornejo
in "Romeo and Juliet"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

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