Here are my detailed thoughts on the three shows I've seen so far.
1) 6/10 - Vishneva & Gomes
I've seen at least a dozen performances of "Romeo & Juliet" at ABT now, and by far, Monday's was probably the most completely enjoyable performance I've seen. And I think it was probably the most beautiful, passionate, and moving performance I've seen Vishneva & Gomes give (and I've seen four of them). (Either that or I'm just forgetting.) I feel like the Vishneva/Gomes partnership gets stronger and stronger the more they dance together, so they just keep getting better and better.
To me, what helped make this performance the best I've seen was the strength of the supporting cast. Craig Salstein is by far my favorite Mercutio. He absolutely nailed the comic moments and danced with such panache even though the steps seemed slightly taxing for him. His performance of Mercutio's death scene was masterful. He was such a clown for most of the ballet that his despair when he realizes he's dying was truly heartbreaking.
I also enjoyed seeing Daniil Simkin as Benvolio. He seemed perfectly cast as the bratty teenager who goes around the ball interrupting the couples. And the three boys-Gomes, Salstein and Simkin-seemed like they were having a great time together.
Sascha Radetsky was a wonderfully boorish and vicious Tybalt. He was clearly drunk and itching for a fight in Act II, and his duel with Gomes' Romeo was particularly thrilling-it truly looked like they were fighting; it did not look staged. And after Romeo stabbed him and he fell to the ground, he leapt up and lunged at Romeo with incredible force. His death was brutal.
And what a treat to have the gorgeous Stella Abrera as Lady Capulet! Her agony upon seeing Tybalt's dead body was palpable, and her dance of despair perfectly evoked Prokofiev's intense score.
As for our leads: Personally, I did not notice anything wrong with Marcelo's dancing. But perhaps it was that he simply seemed subdued compared to Vishneva's gale-force Juliet. In past seasons I had worried that perhaps she was starting to lose some of her spectacular technique and flexibility, but last night she seemed to be dancing more freely than ever!
Where do I begin? The incredible pliancy of her spine, the quicksilver bourrees across the stage that make it look like her feet have a mind of their own, the way she can simply whip her leg up to her ear and around-not simply to hit the 180 degree mark, but to create a magnificent arc through the air. The way she'd balance on pointe and slowly developpe the other leg, presenting the foot so beautifully. The reckless abandon, the sense of spontaneity, the sheer beauty of her movement. And the incredible sense of freedom and weightlessness-I didn't fully realize how much this impressed me until I saw Semionova on Tuesday, who was certainly beautiful but felt so much more earthbound and corporeal.
I felt that Vishneva's Act I Juliet was the most convincingly girlish I've seen from her. There is something about her character that always strikes me as mature/knowing, and perhaps the very self-possessed and luscious quality of her dancing generally makes it hard for me to believe her as an innocent, slightly awkward teenager. This time, however, she was able to transform her natural tendency to overflow with emotion into an expression of youthful exuberance and excitement.
I will admit that her Act III Juliet tends to veer a little into the "Mad Giselle" territory for me, with all the flailing of limbs and messed-up hair, but she certainly clearly conveys Juliet's agony and desperation. In some respects, the almost-crazed way in which she clings to Romeo and pleads with her parents fits the story-clearly this Juliet is crazy enough to kill herself out of love!
I also loved the way she performed the final dance with Paris (Grant DeLong). I've never seen another ballerina look so deflated and depressed as Vishneva does here. The contrast between her fluid, lighter-than-air dancing in Act I and her stiff, lifeless body in Act III was particularly striking. It was like she wasn't even trying to move, and poor Paris had to do all the work to manipulate her body.
At the end of the ballet-I agree with onxmyxtoes-Vishneva's final gesture was so moving. And the image of her arching her back over the side of the bed was simply stunning. Reyes and Semionova had only their upper back over the side of the bed, but Vishneva arched from the middle/lower back, producing an exceptionally gorgeous curve.
Of course, the passionate Gomes was the perfect partner for Vishneva, allowing her to soar freely and seemingly weightlessly. What an unbelievably beautiful and thrilling balcony scene! And in the final crypt scene, Romeo throwing around Juliet's body was particularly heartwrenching-what a complete contrast from that silky, soaring beauty in the balcony scene and the limp bag of bones in Act III! The image of an anguished Gomes slowly dragging Vishneva on the ground by the arm-it seems so wrong!!-is seared in my mind.
I agree with others that the audience seemed surprisingly subdued-but then again, I think we were all a bit spellbound at the end of Act I and emotionally exhausted at the end of Act III. Bravo!
2) 6/11 - Semionova & Hallberg
One of my first thoughts after the show on Tuesday is that Joey Gorak deserves to be Romeo! I personally thought his dancing was even finer than Hallberg's-it's just so effortless for him. Every time he did a grand jete I gasped. Even though his legs are not as long as Hallberg, the way that they explode away from center and hold the extended position (with those beautiful feet) is really striking to me! If he can polish his partnering skills, I think he would make a wonderful Romeo!
Aside from Gorak, I thought most of Tuesday's cast paled in comparison to Monday's. Had I not seen Monday's show, I probably would've thought Tuesday's was great, but in comparison to Monday it was only good.
On Monday night, Gomes/Salstein/Simkin seemed like the three class clowns who are the most popular guys in town, while Hallberg/Matthews/Gorak seemed like the pretty rich boys who aren't particularly bright or amusing, but are popular because they are taller, better-looking, and more privileged than everyone else.
Matthews danced fine, but he lacks the sharp comic timing that Salstein naturally possesses. To me, personally, his Mercutio seemed kind of like a happy-go-lucky, ditzy guy who thinks he's very funny, rather than a clever, witty comedian. As a result, I found his death scene to be less moving-he didn't make the most of the music-and Kristi Boone was also less extravagant in her grief compared to Stella Abrera.
Patrick Ogle's Tybalt seemed almost mild-mannered compared to Radetsky's menacing Tybalt.
As for Hallberg-initially I was slightly put off by his characterization. I might be overly critical here, but like Matthews, he struck me as being kind of empty-headed in the opening scene, whereas I like to feel that there is something more going on behind the pretty face-Romeo dreaming of the unknown which he seeks. However, once Hallberg's Romeo met Juliet, he acquired the gravitas I was looking for. He seemed genuinely infatuated with her, and then more serious/mature in Act II.
However, his partnering definitely left something to be desired. As abatt mentioned, it looked like he was really struggling with some of the lifts, which took away from some of the magic of the balcony scene. In Act III, however, his struggles with lifting Semionova actually magnified the gut-wrenching quality of this scene, since he genuinely looked like he was suffering.
I like Semionova quite a bit, and I thought her more subtle interpretation was fine. I felt it was really Hallberg who was preventing her from being a very expressive and passionate Juliet. If she had a stronger partner, I think she could dance with more abandon.
3) 6/12 - Reyes & Cornejo
I have to admit that I considered skipping this show initially, since Monday's show was so great and Tuesday's paled in comparison. I was worried that Wednesday's casts would not fare so well either, but I was pleasantly surprised! I thought Reyes & Cornejo delivered a lovely, heartfelt and very moving performance. Certainly, it was not as thrilling or mind-blowing as Monday night, but it was definitely enjoyable.
I think Cornejo brings an innate nobleness to Romeo, which I liked, and Reyes was convincingly girlish as Juliet. They have good chemistry together, or at least they are very comfortable together, so their scenes together were quite satisfying.
I also quite liked Arron Scott's Mercutio. He's not quite as hammy as Salstein, but definitely funny. And I actually found myself almost tearing up when he died at the end of Act II.
I also really appreciated Alexei Agoudine as the Prince/Friar on Wednesday night. This is a very minor role, but it does make a difference to the overall ballet. Clinton Luckett was not particularly imposing as the Prince or convincing as the Friar, but I thought Agoudine did good job.
All in all, it was a solid performance.
Three down, two more to go!!