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St. Petersburg Ballet: Petukhov's Romeo & Juliet

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..... well........

Let me start by telling you the audience loved it; they gave it a roaring standing ovation. And way above & beyond the rest, they adored Queen Mab.

And also let me say....

If you were hoping for some good sword play, you need to understand up front:

There's only one sword and Queen Mab's got it.

Apropro another popular thread on this forum, there were a lot of men in the audience, all ages, and they seemed to quite enjoy the performance… particularly the femme fatale.

Perhaps it would help if I were more familiar with the story or the music or the historical ballet, or if I had arrived in time for the prologue (I wandered in after class)… I came in with the hamster wheels (has someone been telling them about ABT?) for the relatively crowded balcony scene. Instead, I was more like the children in the audience (for some reason this production was listed in all the local children’s events listings). Their faces, when I made eye contact, appeared saturated with bewilderment.

IS RUSSIA IN A TIME WARP???? Barbarella could have drifted through this ballet and felt perfectly at home. Maybe Bejart as well. There was something very teenage in it’s point of view… I don’t know… was it the tortured souls? Was it Queen Mab’s costume? Was it the love that never seemed to be consummated? Who were all those bodysuits in the love scenes? Isn’t there enough housing available yet for young couples? I’ve never seen such a populated bedroom. I don’t remember a Greek chorus in Romeo & Juliet.

And then there was that Nikolais/Doris Humphrey thing with the sheets.

But can I please please please please PLEASE see Alexander Akulov dance again? He was beautiful… such graceful line in his leaps… I’d come see anything he’s in. Bring him back, please!!!

And Ilya Zabotin was tremendous as Spiderman (Tybalt). I'd come see anything he's in too.

But I get the sense Petukhov doesn’t like women much, because he doesn’t give us much chance to enjoy Anna Borodulina's dancing. She looks like she might be quite pretty, in an Allesandra Ferri sort of way, but it’s hard to tell. And then there's Queen Mab.

I don’t quite understand how this can be, but I think this ballet might look really really fascinating on video. Jorgensen is an awful venue, so it’s not really fair to consider the live experience, but I’m not sure the choreography suffers the proscenium well.

The Nurse is a boffo part. Ilya Mironov got to pull off quite a few fouettes or were they tours a la seconde… well… at any rate, from what I saw, he had more fun than Mercutio.

And Tybalt was so stricken with grief for having killed Mercutio, it was touching. Where the prince or the friar were, I’m not sure.

Prokofiev got a little help from Vladimir Artimyev.

I thought Queen Mab was some sort Arthurian queen of the Faeries… I’m not sure how she found her way into Italy, but whatever… here she’s some sort of Fossee-esque necrophiliac… though they did seem to tie into her fairy past when she blew her fairy dust on Juliet to wake her up. A lot of her part bore an uncanny resemblence… well… you know that part in Giselle’s mad scene where she drags the sword around? But I should be struck dead; the audience absolutely adored her. Anyway, my being basically illiterate when it comes to classic literature shouldn’t slow the rest of you down, you probably know about Mercutio’s reference to her: http://shakespeare.about.com/blmab.htm It was Anastasia Filipcheva as the Femme, and she is to be commended for taking her part seriously.

Oh, and occasionally the dancers shout out.

I think experimentation is good and should be encouraged. This is like a learning experience. And it’s kind of fun collecting different productions of Shakespeare. The DVD should be a cult classic. I’m waiting for the commentary.

No, really.... go see it... take someone who needs their idea of ballet shaken up a little... sit REALLY CLOSE.

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Here's Chris Pickett's review of the same performance in U-Conn's "The Daily Campus" 'Romeo and Juliet' at the Jorgensen

At the end of the ballet, the players rose once again for the curtain call. Elena Grineva, the dancer who performed as Queen Mab received a standing ovation for her performance. The addition of her character proved to be the most outstanding element of this portrayal of Romeo and Juliet aside from the skilled dancing.

I thought the audio engineer indicated that it was Anastasia Filipcheva who played Queen Mab, but most likely the student reporter got it right. This was one of those programs where the the potential cast is listed rather than the actual cast. Perhaps there was an announcement at curtain time about who was dancing that evening, if so I missed that part.

Did I mention there was beaucoup de smoke? Sunny Italy this was not.

Okay Shakespeare scholars, here's something else you could enlighten me about... there was a repetitive motif in the balcony scene of wiping one's own skin... what was that about? And in the bedroom scene instead of romance there was a great deal of references to blindness with hands covering the eyes...

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Tresca Weinstein in Albany's Times Union about a performance in Schenectady

New life for a classic tragedy

The powerful second act, marred only by a surplus of dry ice, manages to inject real emotion into the tragic ending. Watching Romeo and Juliet's poignant attempts, in turn, to re-create their earlier duets with the other's limp body makes you wish, once again, that this love story had a happy ending.


Nathalie Winans in City Pulse

Russian dancers mix it up

Most notable among Petukhov’s alterations is the promotion of Queen Mab, the devious Celtic faerie queen mentioned in passing by Mercutio in Shakespeare’s play, as a driving force in the plot. Like the serpent in the garden or a deus ex machina with a sadistic streak, Elena Grineva’s excellent Queen — clad in a slinky black catsuit — slithered among the players, prodding them toward the sad dénouement. It was she who nudged Mercutio to play a prank on Tybalt that ended in the demise of both men; furnished Juliet with the vial of poison that would put her to sleep; gave Romeo the deadly kiss that would spur Juliet to suicide; and supplied the rapier that would pierce the hearts of Mercutio, Tybalt and Juliet.
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This was here on Tuesday at the USNA.......all I have to say is that the costumes were beautifully conceived and constructed and that the audience absolutely loved, loved, loved it.

Lots of young people and those who had never attended a ballet before.

Go figure.

The dancers were very, very, very young (except for the man who gamboled as Nurse.)They gave it their all.

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It's so interesting to hear that audiences are loving this. Not that they shouldn't, but both of you have suggested that the audiences are young and naive.

I wonder if people are flocking to this because 1) the company brings ballet to novel places, e.g. dance-starved college campuses, and/or 2) because it SOUNDS like it's a big-deal Russian company, and/or 3) it's classical ballet for budget-priced tickets.

That is, do the audiences love it because of what it is, or in spite of it? And does this suggest anything about ballet marketing in the future? Can we get the masses to appreciate ballet more if smaller companies send out budget tours (shades of the original Joffrey)?

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It wasn't budget-priced in Annapolis. (Not much in Annapolis is budget priced!!!)

It was relatively simple (yep, hamster wheels.....), lots of unitards as bases and suggestion rather than miles of handwork in the costuming, Queen Mab seen as Figure of Discord/Evil by those who did not recognize her as Mab, strong and lithe bodies and beautiful music----what's not to like?

Naivete and youth are good things in an audience, especially for R & J---a great introduction for many, I think.

in any case, it was certainly successful!

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I was trying to see what the tickets cost at Jorgensen, but now that the event has passed, it doesn't seem to be possible. I would be surprised if they were $30 or more. The ticket I was handed was a student ticket at $7.

Here's the blurb the theater had on the ballet:

One of Russia's most distinguished dance companies performs Shakespeare's tale about two young, star-crossed lovers caught between feuding families. Premiered in the Soviet Union in the 1940s, this ballet masterwork features extraordinary dancers, gorgeous music by composer Sergei Prokofiev and dreamy sets.

I find this somewhat misleading... wouldn't you think you were going to be shown the 1940 production?

Actually, studying the program, I'm curious about some of the parts I missed, such as in Scene 2 with the Nurse:

The old woman tells her that the young girl will grow up soon and turn men's heads".
Juliet, was this memorable?

And at the ball:

"[Mercutio] puts on a woman's dress and begins to flirt with Tybalt."

Considering Mab's strutting & preening, I'm now curious how these two incidents were fleshed out.

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"Naivete and youth are good things in anaudience, especially for R and J" (Juliet)

A lovely thought, which makes me wistful for the very feelings which hooked me at a performance of the Balanchine Swan Lake, Act II, long ago. And, as you say, especially for Romeo and Juliet.

Maybe it is possible to observe too critically and analyse too much. Not to mention the way that immediate experience gets corrupted by the effort to apply thoughts and words to employ in discussion -- or even reviews -- later on.

West Palm Beach has something called the Russian National Ballet Theatre arriving soon in Sleeping Beauty. I plan on cultivating the "naivete and youth" approach, and leave the pencil at home.

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