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Christopher Hampson to choreograph Romeo and Juliet for RNZB

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This press release just in from RNZB: (note the interesting company history of this ballet at the end)

10 March 2003


The romance and tragedy of the world's most famous 'star-cross'd' lovers takes centre stage in the Royal New Zealand Ballet's major new commission for 2003, The Meridian Energy Season of Romeo and Juliet.

In a stunning new interpretation by one of international ballet's hottest properties, UK choreographer Christopher Hampson brings a fresh look and perspective to this classic story.

The work's themes of life and death have added significance this year: 2003 marks the Royal New Zealand's 50th birthday, and it is also 50 years since composer Sergei Prokofiev died.

Set to Prokofiev's celebrated score, this classical ballet resonates with passion and dramatic intensity. With their families locked in a bitter feud, Romeo and Juliet's fate is sealed from their first encounter. The two fall madly in love and with the impetuousness of youth marry in secret. As the power play between the rival Montague and Capulet houses reaches fever pitch, any hope the star-crossed lovers have of happiness is forever shattered.

From ballroom to balcony, this new production has the look of La Dolce Vita era Italy. The sophisticated and sumptuous designs by Aucklander Tracy Grant and evocative lighting design by Australian John Rayment are set off by bold brushstrokes of the richest and bloodiest red.

Hampson's work has been hailed as a triumph of imagination and energy. In writing about the 29-year-old's choreographic style, many critics have noted his gentle blend of classicism and invention. In 2001 his work Saltarello toured New Zealand on the Ballet's Nationwide Road Tour to rave reviews. Hampson's work for English National Ballet, Double Concerto (with design by Royal New Zealand Ballet Artistic Director Gary Harris), scooped two of the UK's most prestigious dance honours: the 2002 Barclays Theatre Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance and the 2002 Critics Circle National Dance Award for Best Choreography (Classical).

Hampson says the new work honours tradition while exploring the creative potential of classical ballet. Says Hampson: "there is still a town square, a ballroom, a balcony, and lots of dancing.

"I have worked together with designer Tracy Grant to produce a relevant and fresh look to the ballet. We have set the ballet in a timeless age. It is of interest that many of the buildings in Shakespeare's Verona are still there today and they remain in Tracy's setting for the ballet. The costumes and characters, however, come from a more recent time. A time encapsulated by films such as La Dolce Vita, mixed with the avant-garde setting in Baz Luhrmann's recent film Romeo and Juliet."

Keith Turner, Chief Executive of Meridian Energy, says: "Romeo and Juliet represents something of a departure for Meridian Energy in our partnership with the Ballet. Previously we've gone into relatively unknown territory with the likes of Dracula or Ihi FrENZy - with no small element of risk attached to it. But even though we are on more traditional ground, we know the ballet will take its typically daring and fresh approach to what will be another runaway success."

The Meridian Energy Season of Romeo and Juliet premieres in Wellington on 6 June. Regional orchestras, conducted by Gavin Sutherland, will accompany the production in the capital, Christchurch, Auckland and Dunedin. In all other centres, the company will be performing to a recording of the NGC Wellington Sinfonia.


Choreography: Christopher Hampson

Design: Tracy Grant

Lighting design: John Rayment

Music: Romeo and Juliet by Sergei Prokofiev. These performances of Romeo and Juliet by Prokofiev (reduced orchestration by John Longstaff) are by permission of Boosey & Hawkes Music Pty Ltd.

Conductor: Gavin Sutherland

Wellington, Westpac St James Theatre: 6-8 and 11-14 June, featuring the NGC Wellington Sinfonia Napier, Municipal Theatre: 19-21 June Auckland, Aotea Centre: 25-29 June Featuring the Auckland Philharmonia

Hamilton, Founders Theatre: 1-2 July

Palmerston North, Regent on Broadway: 5-6 July

Dunedin, Regent Theatre: 11-13 July, Featuring the Southern Sinfonia Christchurch, Theatre Royal: 17-21 July, Featuring the Christchurch Symphony. The Meridian Energy Season of Romeo and Juliet opens the Christchurch Arts Festival.

To book, contact your nearest Ticketek outlet (Response Ticketing for Christchurch).

www.nzballet.org.nz http://www.nzballet.org.nz>


1953: Sergei Prokofiev, Romeo and Juliet composer, dies in Moscow on 5 March. The New Zealand Ballet's first performance takes place at Auckland's Playhouse Theatre (later the Mercury) on 30 June.

1954: Poul Gnatt, founder and first Director, choreographs a pas de deux (dance for two), entitled Romeo and Juliet to music by Tchaikovsky. The piece appears in a mixed-bill programme and Gnatt performs the role of Romeo.

1977: the company performs its first full-length production of Romeo and Juliet, choreographed by Malcolm Burn. Romeo is danced alternately by Burn, Peter Edwards, John Shields and Jon Trimmer. The role of Juliet is shared between Yvonne Parnell, Fay Hyan, Liane Lurie, and Pauline Tronson.

1988: the astonishing Ou Lu first comes to the attention of New Zealand audiences with a guest appearance in the company's season of Romeo and Juliet. Lu says the production will always have a special place in his heart. "Romeo and Juliet is one of my favourite ballets - it's romantic, it's tragic, it's wonderful!" Jon Trimmer and Jacqui Trimmer perform Lord and Lady Capulet.

1994: principal dancer Kerry-Anne Gilberd retires from the company with a celebrated performance as Juliet in Ashley Killar's production.

1995: the company restages the previous year's production with Sonya Behrnes, Anne Anderson and Amy Hollingsworth sharing the role of Juliet; and Eric Languet, Ou Lu and Vivencio Samblaceno as Romeo.

2002: work begins on this production. Christopher Hampson writes about the challenges of working halfway across the world in his diaries published by UK's Ballet.co. Read the May 2002 entry on www.ballet.co.uk/contexts/hampson.htm

http://www.ballet.co.uk/contexts/hampson.htm> .

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