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Lavrovsky's "Romeo and Juliet": classic or museum piece?


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 06 August 2009 - 11:55 AM

The London critics seem quite unhappy with the Lavrovsky "Romeo and Juliet" writing -- oh, so kindly -- that the audience must remember it is a museum piece. I'd call it a timeless classic :off topic: When the company brought it to DC a copule of years ago it was not in good shape -- even seeing it for the first time, one had the sense that Lavrovsky would have had more than 12 townspeople, and in the 1940s, they would have been, well, heartier, the men capable of doing battle. But still.

I wonder what others who've seen the ballet think. And if there are any Londoners around who've seen the ballet this run, are people hating it? Or just the critics.

#2 Hans

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Posted 06 August 2009 - 12:51 PM

I have the Ulanova tape, and I'd say it's certainly no worse, and probably quite a bit better, than the MacMillan version, which people swoon over.

#3 Paul Parish

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Posted 06 August 2009 - 05:50 PM

It's awesomely great.

I saw it when the Kirov brought it to SF in 1990 or so, with Ayupova and Liepa and a cast of thousands.

I thought I knew it from the Ulanova film but was astonished by the magnificence of the stage-craft, and the presence in it of the great old Shakespearean way of staging huge crowd movements. I'd read about it in my Shakespeare studies -- and what else could have made plays like King John and Henry 6th so popular as they were except huge, thrilling battle scenes and turbulent mob scenes, which also would have been needed in Julius Caesar. I'd seen something like it in the movies of Cecil B de Mille and DW Griffiths -- but I'd never seen the complexity of it in live theater.

The tops of people's heads become in effect a tree-line --and into the empty space overhead Lavrovsky was constantly elevating Juliet -- it was like a close-up in a movie, all those lifts -- and of couse, it was like the Catholic Mass, where the elevation of the host is the most holy moment in hte whole ritual -- it actually happens several times in the mass, but it's always showing you THE thing that matters -- and it's just the same in Lavrovsky's ROmeo and juliet. His love for her is something worth smashing the state to protect.

#4 Lynette H

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Posted 07 August 2009 - 04:53 AM

It's awesomely great.

I saw it when the Kirov brought it to SF in 1990 or so, with Ayupova and Liepa and a cast of thousands.

I thought I knew it from the Ulanova film but was astonished by the magnificence of the stage-craft, and the presence in it of the great old Shakespearean way of staging huge crowd movements. I'd read about it in my Shakespeare studies -- and what else could have made plays like King John and Henry 6th so popular as they were except huge, thrilling battle scenes and turbulent mob scenes, which also would have been needed in Julius Caesar. I'd seen something like it in the movies of Cecil B de Mille and DW Griffiths -- but I'd never seen the complexity of it in live theater.

The tops of people's heads become in effect a tree-line --and into the empty space overhead Lavrovsky was constantly elevating Juliet -- it was like a close-up in a movie, all those lifts -- and of couse, it was like the Catholic Mass, where the elevation of the host is the most holy moment in hte whole ritual -- it actually happens several times in the mass, but it's always showing you THE thing that matters -- and it's just the same in Lavrovsky's ROmeo and juliet. His love for her is something worth smashing the state to protect.


I was at the performance on Thurs 6th. I wish I could say that the company made a case for this work to be a masterpiece, but they didn't, at least not for me. I didn't feel that all the performers really believed in it, and that it was real for them. Coherence of purpose seemed to be lacking: the performers seemed to be in different ballets. I last saw this in London in 2000 with Asylmuratova and Zelensky, and I admit I remember far more about her glorious performance than the work itself. She outshone everything. The critics at that time were certainly not so dismissive of the work (there is a review from 2000 available on Ismene Brown's web site).

But I did come away last night wondering how a production where some performances in the past had been so revered could prove such an unrewarding evening in the theatre. It makes you gloomy about the fragility of the art form.

#5 Mashinka

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Posted 07 August 2009 - 06:31 AM

Coherence of purpose seemed to be lacking: the performers seemed to be in different ballets.


Although I went on a different night, I came away with the same feeling. I last saw the Kirov dance this ballet in London in 2005 and seem to remember enjoying it far more than I did this week, frankly it was a shambles and even the companyís most ardent supporters are expressing disappointment at the current run of performances. Personally I found the standard on a level with the Royal Balletís R&J which has been blighted by poor ensemble work for years now, but I expected more care from the Kirov and canít help wondering if this traffic accident isnít the result of indifferent coaching.

This doesnít show Fateevís directorship in a very good light Iím afraid as heís brought to London a seriously flawed Ďproductí. I hope for everyoneís sakes that things get better.

#6 kathaP

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 05:44 AM

Sorry to drag up an old topic, but I just got the DVD with Maximova and Vasiliev dancing Lavrovsky's version for Christmas. Speaking only as a ballet fan and no sort of expert on anything, I love it. Of course the two leads are divine. :( But as far as I can see the choreography is beautiful as well, certainly more coherent than MacMillan's (which is the only other version I know). What I noticed is that the choreography for the corps is more detailed and contributes to the "setting" of the narrative while for me the "happy harlots" sequences in the MacMillan piece always seem totally disconnected from the rest. And I like the formality and "heaviness" of the patterns he creates to the music, it really lets the Prokoviev score shine. So I would say it's a classic, a stunning one at that. :)

But it is a very theatrical choreography, with much acting and mime required. Perhaps the latest Kirov production had problems with that? And I think that all the crowd scenes and choreography for the corps must be done with precision and conviction, otherwise it might seem dated. The reviewers in London are also used to MacMillan's R+J and may have been disappointed that it's not as "naturalistic" as the one they know?

#7 bart

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 07:47 AM

Perhaps the latest Kirov production had problems with that? And I think that all the crowd scenes and choreography for the corps must be done with precision and conviction, otherwise it might seem dated. The reviewers in London are also used to MacMillan's R+J and may have been disappointed that it's not as "naturalistic" as the one they know?

Two great points.

Like a few posters, I've seen the Ulanova video. I've often wished to see this side by side with the much more familiar MacMillan's and the Cranko as well. Paul's post is testimony to how wonderfully the danced this just 20 or so years ago. He certainly makes me wish for a production and stage direction that could this piece the treatment it deserves.

My own rule of thumb: If a company can't be bothered to perform something with conviction ... don't ask people to pay for their tickets. :(

Welcome to Ballet Talk, kathaP, and thanks for reviving this thread.

#8 Jack Reed

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 08:31 AM

Yeah, wow, welcome, from me too, kathaP!

Sorry to drag up an old topic...

... I like the formality and "heaviness" of the patterns he creates to the music, it really lets the Prokoviev score shine. So I would say it's a classic, a stunning one at that. ...


I've not seen the old film of the Lavrovsky R&J, but I want to, because of its reputation. Just listening to the music, I've always felt it unchoreographably heavy, and the MacMillan I find so unpersuasive, I've never ventured into the theatre to see it, instead looking at the Czinner film of it once in a while, mainly for them (Margot and Rudi) as well as for Czinner's technique. So now, thanks to you, I can look forward to it, and you are not excused for giving me that! Welcome among us! And Happy New Year!

#9 rg

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 10:17 AM

coincidental to the re-surfacing of this thread, the attached photocard (see scan), from Lavrovsky's ROMEO AND JULIET, came to my attention; it documents a dramatic moment between Tybalt (A. Yermolaev) and Romeo (Y. Zhdanov), dated 1956.
i've seen a number of such cards this production during this time but most are more static and usually show only solo dancers.

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