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Romeo and JulietWhat to anticipate?


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#1 Treefrog

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Posted 04 October 2003 - 09:07 AM

We'll be going to see Romeo and Juliet (Prokofiev/Cranko) in a few weeks. What can you tell me about this ballet?

#2 BW

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Posted 04 October 2003 - 01:05 PM

Treefrog, I know that you are well read and, thus, have read Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet"...so are you looking for some specifics on Cranko's version?

Maybe if you put that as a subtitle for this thread you'll flag down some passersby? :thumbsup:

Do you have Robert Greskovic's Ballet 101: A Complete Guide to Learning & Loving Ballet? If not - click on the Amazon link above and send for it - pronto! I would like to have it as a book on tape...with video clips! :yes:

Hang in there, I'm sure someone will come to your rescue!

#3 Treefrog

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Posted 04 October 2003 - 01:51 PM

Yes, BW I do know the basic story, although you have set me up perfectly to retell about the date who came out of the film version exclaiming, "Gee, I never expected it to end like that!" :green:

Thanks for pointing me to Ballet 101. I will reread that -- I'd forgotten it was in there. However, it refers to the MacMillan choreography, and you are correct, I'd like to hear what people have to say about the Cranko version.

#4 Alexandra

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Posted 04 October 2003 - 04:06 PM

It's similar to the MacMillan version in many ways -- they're both derivative of the Lavrovsky one. Cranko's is more lively, less grand (the Stuttgart was a smaller company than the Royal), more dramatic -- in that the drama is the focus. More street fighting, less formal dancing. (with apologies to those on this board who know the ballet more intimately; feel free to add, correct, etc. :thumbsup: )

#5 BW

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Posted 04 October 2003 - 04:36 PM

I just did a search on Cranko's version and came up with several intersting sites... And I had to laugh when I read the article from August 14th's Sun Times...about the new marketing director's approach and her use of a shot of a "single ballet toe shoe spattered with blood"

I wonder if this is any hint as to the approach that will be taken in this production. Treefrog, please promise to give us your impressions of the performance, OK?

#6 Mel Johnson

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Posted 04 October 2003 - 05:09 PM

I think that with the supervision of Georgette Tsingurides to make sure that Cranko's original intent is carried out, and the hypercompetent ballet mastering that this production is getting, the production won't go over into bad taste, or unnecessary sanguinary excesses. But the marketing director's point is well-taken. Romeo is a rather violent show!

#7 Alexandra

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Posted 04 October 2003 - 05:16 PM

I'd agree -- it's not a lurid ballet. It was violent by 1965 standards. No blood, no spilled entrails, no close ups of the poison going down the gullet projected on the backcloth.

#8 Mel Johnson

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Posted 04 October 2003 - 06:04 PM

Yes, blood pellets are out! But even in Shakespeare's day it could go over the top and get really messy, with characters carrying bladders filled with sheep's blood and whatnot. Elizabethan Londoners knew what street fighting looked and smelled like! The later audiences wanted nicer versions, so the tendency to rewrite the ending came on in the eighteenth century and continued well on into the nineteenth, with the practice being gloriously sent up by Charles Dickens in his uproarious version performed by the Crummles' Acting Company in Nicholas Nickleby. There have been productions of this ballet that are just plain godawful when it comes to violence, but you're safe with Cranko. I hope you will find it stirring, exciting and poignant.

#9 Paul Parish

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Posted 04 October 2003 - 08:16 PM

Treefrog, What you will NOT get from any version of Romeo and Juliet is movement like Sleeping Beauty's. Prokofieff's music is too frothy: the dancing will be larger and looser and there will be large swathes where Romeo or Juliet will just run around the stage -- the music sweeps and pulses and rushes like water over rocks, so any choreographer will have to open up the steps and make long long phrases, and find pretexts in the balcony scene for one dancer to stop and just WATCH the other (so they can in fact get their wind back, for it's 10 or eleven minutes long). The music is so beautiful and exciting it can be played , and often is, by a symphony orchestra as a concert, with nothing to look at but the musicians playing, but it is really more like movie music than a ballet score in some respects.

The Stuttgart was just here recently performing it, so I've just seen it within the last 3 months -- As Alexandra says, like Macmillan's, Cranko's is based on Lavrovsky's -- though it's ALSO based (unlike Lavrovsky's) on Zefirelli's movie. The lovers are conceived as VERY YOUNG, in the first flush of hormones -- it's much sexier than Lavrovsky's, and considerably less heroic. Lavrovsky's Juliet is a tragic heroine, immensely intelligent, aware of the full scope of what's going on; Cranko's and Macmillan's versions are more pathetic -- or let's say, it stresses the tenderness and the pathos -- these are just kids, like the boys being sent to Vietnam (which is when the ballet dates from).... charming, marvelous, wonderful kids, but they don't have the human stature that Ulanova had.

That said, the Stuttgart's version is one where the steps do not get in he way of the dramatic action. Aside from a staggering series of double tours for the three boys just before they enter the Capulet's ball, most of the ballet is technically not virtuosic -- which means that the dancers have plenty of energy to put into characterization. The choreography is effective and spectacular; a really smart use of two levels of the stage-- there's an upper level where much happens -- people look down on the street fighting, and the funeral procession uses it to tremendous effect.

The scene that's closest to Lavrovsky's is the ball scene -- though none other comes close to the power of Lavrovsky's in depicting the crushing social forces arrayed against Romeo and Juliet, the grasping hand of Capulet, which sticks out overhead in Lavrovsky's staging characterizes a power structure no less cruel than Stalin's.... But Cranko's dance of the Knights is a tremendous thing, also.

I Wonder what you'll think. I'm sure the Joffrey will do the ballet justice, and I only wish I could be there to see the performance.

Please let us all know what you think.

#10 Mel Johnson

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Posted 05 October 2003 - 05:54 AM

A note on chronologies here - Cranko's R&J dates from 1962. The Zeffirelli film was premiered in 1968. Now, this is not to say that Cranko could not have done some tinkering with the ballet once it had opened, but I don't know whether he did or not.

#11 Paul Parish

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Posted 05 October 2003 - 07:56 AM

Thanks, Mel -- I didn't realize that :thumbsup: :wink: -

maybe the influence went the other way, and Cranko had some influence on Zefirelli, then -- Zefirelli certainly worked a great deal in opera houses...

I'm really just reporting on a feeling I have, I haven't done any research --

maybe it's just the influence of the youth culture of hte 60's or maybe it's the way the ballet has developed since Cranko's death -- which was itself tragically early --

But to me the characters of the young lovers seem radically younger and more fluid than in Lavrovsky's version, as they so powerfully do in Zefirelli's movie version..... (By the way, I recommend to anybody checking out hte old HOllywood ROmeo and Juliet with Leslie Howard and Norma Shearer: Shearer is truly great in the role -- look how she takes the potion -- and Howard is the only ROmeo I've ever seen who's an intellectual, as Romeo actually is in hte play.....)

#12 Treefrog

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Posted 05 October 2003 - 11:43 AM

Thank you, Paul. Your writing is incredibly descriptive and evocative! It helps me to envision what we'll experience.

Your description of the choreography is not too different from what I'd expect after seeing Cranko's Taming of the Shrew.

I will definitely report in. However, our tickets are for the closing performance (Oct. 19), so I hope no one will wait for my review before deciding to attend!

BW, the ad that you mention IS stunning. It's a single, unadorned pointe shoe (no ribbons or elastics, very spare). The toe and ground around it are splattered with blood. The copy reads, "Love. Passion. Murder. Nightly."

#13 BW

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Posted 05 October 2003 - 02:00 PM

Treefrog, perhaps you can take a photo and email it to me? It actually sounds like a pretty smart ad to me. :yes:

#14 Treefrog

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Posted 05 October 2003 - 07:14 PM

BW, PM me your address and I'll send you a copy of the ad from the newspaper.


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