British audiences expecting extended physically intimate pas de deux will be disappointed by all the clipped dance phrases in the Lavrovsky. Steps appear one by one, presaged only by their classroom sequence run-up – coupé, glissade, grand jété, or preparation, run, run, jété entrelacé – with no sense of carrying meaning through a longer musical or movement phrase. The compensation (this is not dance-by-numbers Chabukiani) comes in tableaux of genius: Romeo holding Juliet, arms outstretched, up to the dawn light from the window; Friar Lawrence in his bare cell contemplating a skull for all the world like a quattrocento fresco of St Jerome; mourners kneeling on the steps of Juliet’s tomb with their upcurved white arms briefly conjuring a graceful living pyramid.
It is, if one is honest, hard not to find fault with the Russian rendering. Its pas de deux have neither the subtlety, erotic charge nor reckless abandon of MacMillan’s, the fight scenes lack his venom, and the closing scene has an inappropriate dash of optimism. Pyotr William’s designs – elegant as they are – suffer by comparison with Nicholas Georgiadis’s sumptuous creations, and on Monday night the Mariinsky’s orchestra took a primary-coloured and often hasty approach to Prokofiev’s masterpiece of a score that tended to favour the more abrasive passages.