Nureyev's Romeo and Juliet
Posted 07 January 2005 - 05:15 PM
Posted 07 January 2005 - 08:31 PM
Rudolf Nureyev contributed so much to ballet that it seems ungrateful to criticize his ballet stagings (mostly at the Paris Opera Ballet). Indeed, his La Bayadere staging remains one of the best. But this Romeo and Juliet is simply misguided in so many respects.
For one, Nureyev's staging is way too long, with too many intermittent scenes. The video runs to 150 minutes. MacMillan understood how to juxtapose crowd scenes, character-setting dances, and pas de deux. He overall keeps the ballet moving at an astonishingly fast clip, even though the ballet is very long (about 2 hours). Nureyev's Act 3 has SEVEN scene changes.
Nureyev also does not seem to trust the story itself, and adds a lot of heavyhanded imagery and symbolism. A skeleton is prominently displayed on the scrim before one act, then there is a bit with a grim reaper. Juliet has a dream with the "ghosts" of Tybalt and Mercutio. Because GET IT??? THEYRE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!!!! Towards the end Romeo has a "pas de deux" with Paris, which is also something nowhere in the MacMillan version. All this symbolism and fatalism not only comes across as heavyhanded, but it also changes the very nature of Shakespeare's play, which despite the "star-crossed lovers" bit is really about the senselessness and miscues and poor timing that cause such pain and tragedy.
I am no prude, but I thought Nureyev was WAY too eager to emphasize the violent aspects of the story. Things do not get very unconventional until Tybalt's death. In this staging it does not seem like an impulsive act of rage on Romeo's part. Instead, there is a very prolonged fight scene, replete with choke holds and dropped swords, and the final death seems like cold-blooded murder. From then on things get more violent. Even the Bedroom Scene between Romeo and Juliet has little intimacy, and a lot of rolling around and grinding. But there's a totally pointless scene on the road to Mantua where the messenger is brutally murdered. It's very graphic and gratuitous. Granted, Renaissance Italy was a very violent time, but all the graphic violence IMO not only pushed the limits of classical ballet but made Romeo and Juliet seem much more unappealing as people, and also are confusions and distractions to the storyline.
As for the dancing, the etoiles of the POB are Manuel Legris and Monique Loudieres. They have absolutely perfect technique, with not a bent leg or misplaced foot in the entire ballet. Their precision is jaw-dropping. But in the end, I feel as if they are unable to convey the youth and romance of these teenaged lovers. They are too mature, too serious, more SEXUAL than SEXY (there's a difference). The POB corps is as usual probably the most uniform and well-trained in the world.
But Romeo and Juliet IMO requires more than accurate footwork and well-placed arabesques. This production by Nureyev simply failed to understand the timeless appeal of the story.
Posted 07 January 2005 - 08:38 PM
Posted 07 January 2005 - 10:39 PM
What I hated the most about the POB R&J was the coldness of it all. Despite the gore, sex, and violence, there was none of the impetuosity and tenderness that can make R&J so moving. Plus, R&J has been exceptionally lucky on video: there's the Fonteyn/Nureyev (still my standard), Ferri/Eagling, Ferri/Corella, and the old Bolshoi film with Ulanova. Legris/Loudieres were by far the least moving and well-cast star-crossed lovers.
Posted 08 January 2005 - 10:46 AM
Posted 08 January 2005 - 11:51 AM
A nice documentary.
Posted 08 January 2005 - 12:45 PM
Posted 08 January 2005 - 02:53 PM
By the way, there isn't actually many available videos of Maurin, as far I know (and it's likely there won't be much, as she's going to retire at the end of this season): she was filmed in 1988 in Nureyev's "Nutcracker" (the role in which she was promoted to principal), and as far as I know that's all. Pity...
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