Jump to content


This site uses cookies. By using this site, you agree to accept cookies, unless you've opted out. (US government web page with instructions to opt out: http://www.usa.gov/optout-instructions.shtml)

A happy return of Neumeier's Romeo and Juliet


  • Please log in to reply
6 replies to this topic

#1 Anne

Anne

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 231 posts

Posted 03 April 2013 - 11:27 AM

Neumeier staged his version of Romeo and Juliet with the RDB back in 1974, and last Wednesday this still immensely popular production had its 306th performance, as always with a full house.

Two debutants as Romeo and Juilet
I felt happy to be in the theatre to see a new Juliet fold out her wings and fly: Ida Praetorius, 19, has only recently made the step from apprentice to corps de ballet dancer, but she has already been trusted with various solo parts, most recently and most prominently as the pupil in Flindt’s The Lesson opposite Thomas Lund at his farewell perfomance last September. And she rises to the challenges with bravura, still a girlish figure but in full control of her long and slender limbs. This evening was her second performance as Juliet, and I must say that it was much more than just promising. She is absolutely convincing in her portrayal of Juliet’s development from playful and spontaneous teenager to prematurely grown-up woman, who in the end sees no way out but to kill herself.Happyness, curiosity, incredulity, grief, rage, desperation, everything she communicates with her large eyes, set in a fresh and charming little face. I’m sure we will see more of her in the years to come. She was trained at the Royal Danish Ballet School, and it is great to see, how many good dancers they have produced lately.

Her Romeo was Gregory Dean, 29, equally new to his role. Since he was appointed soloist in 2011 he has danced many important parts, mostly in the abstract ballets or in the princely line of the story ballets, the latter probably due to his hight, noble bearings and handsome looks. He is a dancer of great flexibility and long, natural lines, only slightly marred by a certain looseness in arms and hands. The only real acting part he has had so far was to my knowledge in Neumeier’s Midsummer Nights Dream a couple of years ago, where he was a naïve and wonderfully youthful and buoyant Lysander. His Romeo was somewhat in the same line, and in that respect he was a fine match to Praetorius’ Juliet: None of them are sophisticated, neither in their way of dancing nor in their way of acting. Their approach has a freshness and simplicity which suits this version perfectly. Neumeier’s two protagonists are actually very young, especially Juliet is clearly characterized as being on the border between child and woman, and this version has therefore been a perfect vehicle for talented young dancers during time (the first couple in 1974 were 19 year old Mette-Ida Kirk and 20 year old Ib Andersen!). Also he has freed his R&J of the traditional heavy renaissance look by transferring the story 100 years back to the 15th century, where both clothes and architecture were less oppulent.

The rest of the cast
The cast was in general a strong one. I had been looking forward very much to seeing Alban Lendorf as Mercutio. Every time I have seen him, he has surpassed himself, a case of permanent growth towards stardom. This was the first time I was slightly disappointed. Not that he was dancing badly, not at all, the choreography just didn’t seem to suit him. I think it calls for a more slender, less compact type of dancer. But he was the sexiest Mercutio I have ever seen – maybe that was what he tried to obtain by being more “chunky” and less elegant than he normally is. And his stare, as he realises that he has been deadly wounded, this stare which he shares only with us, the audience, was a shattering one.
Mads Blangstrup was a really mean Thybalt, oozing menace wherever he went and very, very drunk in the crucial fencing scene, and Gitte Lindstrøm a beautiful but icy Lady Capulet. But also some of the minor parts were cast very luxurious: Juliet’s cousins were danced by Caroline Baldwin (still a corps de ballet dancer but she made her debut as Aurora last autumn, so maybe we haven’t seen the last of her), J’aime Crandall (principal) and Alexandra Lo Sardo (soloist). The first two were utterly charming and did their best to create real, living characters, the latter just danced the steps. Lo Sardo might be a good and very capable dancer, but mentally she never seems to be a part of what is going on. In that way she has, in my opinion, chosen the wrong sort of company.
As a contrast I would like to mention two dancers of the corps de ballet who never fail to fill out their roles, may they be big or small: Alba Nadal and Maria Bernholdt. Corps de ballet dancers like those two are the true gold of the company. In this performance Alba Nadal was a member of the group of street entertainers. She is able to transmit joy to the farest corner of theater, and her despair later, when Mercutio dies, has an equally emotional impact. It is not that she upstages herself or steals the scene from the leading roles, it’s just that dancers like her make the ambience of the protagonists a living one. Neumeier is very conscious of detail and takes care to give all the smaller parts a stagepersonality (hence many of them have names in the programme), but he can only succeed when he has the right material. And that is, and hopefully will always be, the strength of the RDB. Kizzy Matiakis and Lena-Maria Gruber, both soloists, were the other two female street entertainers and made equally fine portraits - apart from dancing extremely well. Maria Bernholdt was the prostitute in Mantua, a role which I have often seen Sorella Englund do back in the eighties and early nineties. She is alone on the stage when the curtain raises and in the beginning she actually hardly moves, just sways a little, but the look in her eyes conveys all the abysmal misery of an ageing alcoholic prostitute, whom nobody wants anymore – a realistic comment to the cheerfulness of the prostitutes in the earlier scenes and a sinister foreboding of what is to come. She simply kept the whole theatre with that look in her eyes. Her appearance in the beginning of this scene is close to be the most unforgettable moment of the entire evening. A shame that her name isn’t mentioned in the printed programme!

My general impression
It is great to see the company in such a fine shape. It is a little miracle that a production after close to 40 years can still have that freshness. It seems to bring back the joy of dancing and performing to the company, which is sometimes missing, especially in the Bournonville repertoire. R&J is a true ensemble piece with meaty parts for a lot of dancers, but also the minor parts are extremely important if the performance shall be brought to life. In that respect Neumeier's R&J reminds me of Napoli, where you have thousand stories going on at the same time, and you have to see it a hundred times before you can say you have seen them all – and then they improvise something new for you, scoundrels!

Some minor things have changed during time, and not all for the best. I think they shall be carefull not to overdo things: There has for example been put extra emphasis on Juliet’s youthfulness und lack of experience by making her more clumsy than necessary. When she enters the ball, she falls down the stairs in stead of just dropping her flowers as she used to do. I also think the love affair between Thybalt and Lady Capulet is more out in the open now than it has been before. They are constantly eyeing each other, and at a point she calls him up to her on the balcony by waving a finger, discreetly but nevertheless... I really can’t remember having seen that before! (But as I said before, it is impossible to get hold of all the details in this ballet, so I might be wrong). I think it takes some of the air out of the shock effect of her sudden explosion of rage and despair, when she discovers Thybalt’s dead body later.

But the main impression was of an evening where the company showed all its best qualities!

#2 sandik

sandik

    Rubies Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,824 posts

Posted 03 April 2013 - 03:44 PM

Thanks so much for such a lovingly detailed review -- I don't see this company live, so all my experience is through other people's eyes.

Your comments about Tybalt (as it's spelled in the productions I know here) raised some questions I've been thinking about -- I know that it's possible to read that relationship between Tybalt and Lady Capulet into Shakespeare's text, but I've seen plenty of productions of the play that don't include it. Are there ballet productions that don't include that twist?

#3 Helene

Helene

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 11,460 posts

Posted 03 April 2013 - 07:44 PM

Anne, thank you so much for this wonderful, detailed review! I wish I had been there to see Praetorius especially: she is clearly a major talent. Gregory Dean was one of the Princes in Ratmansky's "The Golden Cockerel," but I wouldn't count that as a dramatic acting role. Maria Bernholdt sounds unforgettable.

As a contrast I would like to mention two dancers of the corps de ballet who never fail to fill out their roles, may they be big or small: Alba Nadal and Maria Bernholdt. Corps de ballet dancers like those two are the true gold of the company.

Amen to that. It's always so frustrating to see a new company and to have dancers who catch my eye and won't let me let go, and the photos in the programs and websites are usually no help in identifying them. I hope they somehow know that they are being recognized.

#4 Anne

Anne

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 231 posts

Posted 03 April 2013 - 10:32 PM

Your comments about Tybalt (as it's spelled in the productions I know here) raised some questions I've been thinking about -- I know that it's possible to read that relationship between Tybalt and Lady Capulet into Shakespeare's text, but I've seen plenty of productions of the play that don't include it. Are there ballet productions that don't include that twist?


I don't think there are other R&J ballets with this heavy emphasis on the relationship between Tybalt (oops, you are right about the spelling of Tybalt - no h!) and lady Capulet, but I can't say for sure if it is not an issue in any other versions. I'm rather sure, that Nureyev hasn't included it in his Paris version, and I don't think either does Cranko in his. But it wouldn't be alien to MacMillan's universe to include this kind of extra drama, but his I have only seen on video.

Maybe somebody else can help out here?

#5 JMcN

JMcN

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 374 posts

Posted 04 April 2013 - 06:56 AM

The ballroom scene in Massimo Morricone's version for Northern Ballet leaves no doubt that there is "something" between Tybalt and Lady Capulet, if you notice what is going on at the time! There is the hint of a suggestion that Lord Capulet knows what is going on too!

#6 Helene

Helene

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 11,460 posts

Posted 04 April 2013 - 07:37 AM

The only thing I found discordant in Ib Anderson's wonderful version was Lady Tybalt's reaction to Tybalt's death, but it's built into the music. How could a choreographer ignore that when using Prokofiev's score?

For versions that use other music -- Tchaikovsky in "The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet" or Delius -- does this change the relationship? I am embarassed not to remember how Kent Stowell handled the relationship.

In Maillot's "Romeo et Juliette" there's no Lord Capulet and te relationship is more central from the beginning, but different dancers put different marks on what the relationship is. The most impressive to me was Seth Orza's with Maria Chapman's, where the social/political relationship was stronger than the erotic one.

#7 sandik

sandik

    Rubies Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,824 posts

Posted 04 April 2013 - 03:42 PM

The only thing I found discordant in Ib Anderson's wonderful version was Lady Tybalt's reaction to Tybalt's death, but it's built into the music. How could a choreographer ignore that when using Prokofiev's score?


That's a big part of it, I'm sure -- the score really does tell you what to do there.

For versions that use other music -- Tchaikovsky in "The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet" or Delius -- does this change the relationship? I am embarassed not to remember how Kent Stowell handled the relationship.


As I remember it, there's a certain amount of thrashing and hair-tearing in Stowell's choreography, though not as much as we get in most Prokofiev-based productions.

In Maillot's "Romeo et Juliette" there's no Lord Capulet and te relationship is more central from the beginning, but different dancers put different marks on what the relationship is. The most impressive to me was Seth Orza's with Maria Chapman's, where the social/political relationship was stronger than the erotic one.


I agree, Tybalt and Lady C seem more like co-conspirators than lovers in the Maillot. And then there's the ambiguous thing going on with Paris and Lady C -- she seems to turn to him at several key moments (in the ball scene and in the public square). The character is often a cypher in other productions, but I don't know of anyone else who suggests that Paris is attached to Lady C while he is pursuing Juliet.


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):