Jump to content
This Site Uses Cookies. If You Want to Disable Cookies, Please See Your Browser Documentation. ×

Romeo and Juliet on DVD - Leonid Lavrosky Version?

Recommended Posts

Is there any DVD release of the Leonid Lavrosky's "original" Romeo and Juliet out there on DVD, either from the Kirov or the Bolshoi? :huh: I know it's still in the Kirov repertoire, but a simple search for Kirov Romeo and Juliet brings up nothing on Amazon. On the other hand Bolshoi Romeo and Juliet brings up a lot of things. I already own the Ulanova film from the 50s--which is beautiful but I want a filmed on stage production without edits, and those huge original sets.

There are a few other Bolshoi productions but i'm worried they're the Grigorovich restaging--Amazon doesn't, of course, make it clear.

Thanks so much guys!

*edited Feb 5* I did some research on my own (I know, what a concept) and have decided the DVD I want is the Vasiliev/Maximova one from the 70s, out on VAI. I don't own anything with them dancing as a pair except in excerpts and it seems like a good choice for the original staging as well, despite some Amazon comments about it being too dark (something I've gotten used to for Bolshoi ballets of the 70s and 80s).

*However* there also is a Bolshoi production that seems to be the Lavrosky staging (not the later Grigorovich one) that's sold in N America only as part of a box set with Nutcracker and Giselle. The R&J doesn't seem to be sold on its own, and the only description is: Romeo and Juliet. the classic ballet in a perfect performance captured on the Bicentennial Anniversary of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, featuring two of Russia’s most legendary soloists, Natalia Bessmertnova and Mikhail Lavrovsky.


I was wondering if anyone had opinions on how this compared to the Vasiliev/Maximova?

Link to comment

I got the Bolshoi 1974 Romeo and Juliet DVD with Vasiliev and Maximova last week and have watche dit in full twice now, and some of my fave parts many more times, so thought I'd try to write a brief review since I haven't seen it reviewed on here yet.

First, here's a link to the DVD (it can be hard to find) on Amazon using Ballettalk's Amazon box to help support them:


I have to say I'm really impressed with VAI--they seem to have done some good work finding obscure Russian TV broadcasts of perfromances that other labels don't know about or have forgotten--already this release from last year and their earlier release of the Kirov's 1980 Ryamonda with Kolpakova are some of my fave ballet DVDs and I think essentials for any collection. That's high praise considering that the quality itself, on either tape, isn't all that good (another reason I'm please VAI went ahead and released them anyway--knowing their historical and artistic worth and importance).

So about those bad points... There are definetly some frustrating things about this recording, almost all due to it being a videotaped live performance on apparantly unsophisticated Soviet devices from 1974. The sound is mono, but it is pretty much great--Prokofiev sounds terrific, however the microphones seem to have been placed somewhere in the audience and there's more coughing on this tape, and during scene changes, talking than I've ever heard on a ballet or opera or concert DVD before. I guess it gives you a "you are there" feeling. ;)

When I first began watching the DVD I was really worried--older Bolshoi performances are notorious dark it seems anyway but this was ridiculous--the curtain opens up briefly in the Overture to show a tableux and it took me a lot of pausing to realize it was Friar Laurence's place that we were seeing--and then the opening scenes in the town square when the sun slowly rises are next impossible to see much of anything. This slowly improves, but really the first 15 minutes or so are pretty rough going. However--stick with it and the filmign vastly improves--there are a few more dark spots in night scenes that are a bit hard to see, but they seem to have improved the cameras and lightings as it went on and there's nothing as bad--and most of it looks, for the time it was shot, very good. (The one real tragedy is near the end when Romeo hears that Juliet is dead, his solo is done in largely darkness with a dark outfit and it's not as easy as I'd wish to see--particularly as it seems to be Vasiliev's biggest solo. Thankfully though the "Balcony Pas De Deux" is much easier to watch).

The actual filming is so so as well--it's not bad overall and we get a lot of full body and full stage shots which I appreciate but there are odd times when they focus on one person doing nothign and meanwhile you see that some poor guy is doing major leaps around her--because you see some bits of arms or legs. LOL I got the feeling the cameramen were told to focus on the ballerinas and not the male soloists so in duets often you don't see the man as well. But overall it's good...

But what makes this DVD a must, for me, are two things. First of all, I had only ever seen Vasiliev and Maximova dance before in the Bolshoi Nutcracker. I don't much like that production anyway and they don't get all that much dancing so I wasn't quite sure what to think. They both are absolute perfection in this Romeo and Juliet. Maximova *acts* the role with such sincerity and such commitment and looks wise she really does look like a young teenager--so it's both an ideal performance and ideal casting. Sometimes when performers are acting in those huge theatres, the close ups of filmed ballet can make it seem over the top, but Maximova never seems fake (neither does Vasiliev for that matter--no small feat considering Lavrosky's staging is filled with amplified hand gestures, etc). Her technique is flawless and for a ballet where the acting is so important it's a winnign combination.

Vasiliev is every bit the star I always read, from Arlene Croce and others, that he was. Effortless, athletic, a good actor, and of course handsome all add up to, again, perfect casting. And the charisma of the two of them is perfect (which helps because, without Shakespeare's words, even with Prokofiev's convincing music, you need some sort of instant charisma to believe the instant love between these two that even the best mime artists don't always have). The rest of the cast was good--I guess this was still at a very good period for the Bolshoi and Romeo and Juliet--even though the production was created for the Kirov--is a good ballet for them. In terms of the corps work it reminded me of how I imagien Gorsky's productions might have been as opposed to Petipa's--that's the only way I can explain it. The corps rarely danced or acted all the same, everyone clearly was given their very own character, and its this kinda energy that I think the Bolshoi thrives on (I wish there was a Kirov tape of this production to compare their style in it). The mime roles of the Queen and Nurse were especially strong as was the dance role of Mercutio (I felt Tybalt was maybe a bit too over the top melodrama villain--he needed a mustache to twirl--but wow Lavrosky give shim quite the death scene!)

Which lead sme to my second reason for loving this DVD. I'm sorta a stickler (as anyone reading my threads knows by now--and liek I said in my review of the Prokofiev/Bolshoi Cinderella) for knowing what the "original production" of a ballet was like. I think, for a variety of reasons, the Soviet productions of the Prokofiev ballets--Cinderella and R&J in particular as I know Stone Flower had more problems--aren't given their due in the info on ballet out there--Ashton's Cinderella (unfairly if you ask me) has became for many people in the West the definitive Cinderella and MacMillan's (or even Cranko's or Nureyev's) R&J the definitive Romeo.

I've seen two versions of MacMillan's R&J and it's a great ballet--but I have to say so much about Lavrosky's felt more authentic and right to me. I'm not sure if it's because I have a bias knowing this is the original Russian production (barring of course the different and pretty much unknown Czeck premier a few years before) and that influences me or what. What I most liked--and was surprised at--was how much mime was in the ballet. And this was early Soviet mime--NOT Imperial Russian code-ified mime. But "real natural" gestures. I know that shorly after the ballet premiered, both Sergeyev at the Kirov and Grigorovich at the Bolshoi (where he ultimately did his own R&J) started restaging ballets to almsot eliminate all mime--of any kind--but for a ballet like Romeo and Juliet Lavrosky's stryle feels dead on to me. The seperation of the intimate love scenes with the grand city and festival scenes is triking and works perfectly with Prokofiev's sometimes violent sometimes contemplative score.

I'd always seen pics of the main Ball scene with that massive set and painting and been blown away but see the production I was also amazed at how--even by Bolshoi standards--it was so MASSIVE. Nearly EVERY little scene had a different set--not just the standard 3 or 4 for one ballet, and they used a technique I had only seen done in Broadway musicals of the time to allow this--dropping the curtain between scenes while changing the set, or having a smaller "drop scene" acting as a curtain and playing a little scene there. I've never seen this in ballet before--and for the most part I thought it worked ingeniously. There were maybe one or two too many scene sof people simply crossing the front curtain to travel somewhere else but it did give a good sense of going to a new place. While the sets and costumes are, very 1940s (and when this was shot looked liek they could use a bit of touch up) I think the whole look is striking and I prefer it in its rich patterns to the heaviness of the often praised MacMillan designs. I don't think I've seen the Bolshoi look as grand as I have for some of those settings. Wonderful stuff.

It's too bad the Bolshoi seems to have dropped Romeo and Juliet from their repertoire (even the Grigorivich 1989 staging, which I'm curious to see on DVD to compare, seems to have been dropped as it's not on their website list) partly becauswe it's such a historical production but also becuase I think it's just a stunningly moving production with moments that feel like they work with Prokofiev's music better than any other version (maybe because Lavrosky got Prokofiev to edit and change some of his score--I don't think they got along...) Still, it's listed as part of the Kirov/Mariinsky's repertoire and I hope they keep it and in good shape--I'd love to be able to see it live at some point, I think the spectacle of the Market and Ball scenes ould be incredible. For me it's important to have a record of--the way I wish we did of the old Petipa ballet productions--and even with all the faults I'm so glad we have it with such genuinely awesome performers as Vasilieva nd Maximova. I've read some reviews that don't like how much mime is included and find the choreography technically dull--I always found it so appropriate and moving with the music and story that it never bothered me. (My one plot complaint is it felt like, if you didn't know the play, the part with Romeo not getting the Friar's message that Juliet wasn't really dead never came across).

Link to comment
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...