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Ashton's 'Romeo and Juliet'

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I was considering the sad fate of Antony Tudor's version of this ballet when I remembered that Ashton had choreographed one (for the Royal Danish Ballet, if memory serves). However, I've never heard of a performance of Ashton's 'R&J', either by the RDB or Royal Ballet or anyone else, aside from the following post here on BT:


Is Ashton's 'Romeo and Juliet' still in the repertoire? Is it really rarely performed, or have I just missed hearing about it?

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When Peter Schaufuss was director of London Festival Ballet, he revived Ashton's version. His emotional attachment to it was strong since his parents had danced Juliet and Mercutio in the original production. LFB brought it to the Met in 1989, which is when I saw it.

Anna Kisselgoff's review:


I think the work fell out of the repertoire after Schaufuss left the company. I would hope, though, for the existence of video footage and notes from the revival process, which took place under Ashton's supervision.

I hate to admit it, but what sticks out most strongly in my memory is how dreadful Schaufuss' Romeo was in his final confrontation with Paris in the Capulet vault, waving his hands back and forth, shaking his head and mouthing 'no' repeatedly. Yikes, I thought, aren't Danes supposed to be really good actors? It was so incongruous with the rest of his performance.

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Thanks for that review, volcanohunter.

But is it a masterpiece? There is no question that Ashton has created more inventive choreography elsewhere. There are, in fact, very few set pieces of dancing - which accounts, in fact, for the remarkably seamless and lyrical flow of the entire ballet.

[ ... ]

The real point about Ashton's ''Romeo and Juliet'' is that unlike so many other versions, it has no claim to realism or literalism. It uses classical steps for their own formal value, and it is this abtract power that is expressive in its own right.


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Peter Schaufuss' revival for LFB in 1985 was the first balletic Romeo and Juliet I ever saw, just as I was getting really interested in watching ballet; I've loved it ever since. I was fortunate to see many performances between 1985 and 1991 or 2. My first R&J were Matz Skoog and Lucia Truglia at a Saturday matinee performance at the London Coliseum. Trinidad Sevillano was one of my very favourite interpreters of Juliet with both Matz Skoog and Patrick Armand.

A friend of mine saw the original Danish cast at the Edinburgh Festival in 1956.

I love the simplicity of this production, where Ashton concentrates on the love story and the crowd scenes are not too crowded. I think R&Js duets are absolutely ravishing.

I would love to see a revival of this production.

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other than whatever Danish tv showed of the production in its day - I'm aware of kinescope excerpts that were shown in Denmark - the Met 100th anniversary gala of "presentations" - that is, of performances other than opera, included the Balcony Pas de Deux with Lis Jeppesen and Arne Villumsen - Ashton himself rehearsed them for this 'revival'.

i have no idea if this telecast is among the videos slated for release as part of Lincoln Center's 50th Anniv. celebrations.

below are the credits for the NYPL copy of the first of two reels of this program:

Celebration, Reel 1 (Videotape) 1984. 60 min. : sd. color

Taped in performance at the Metropolitan Opera House May 13, 1984. A WNET-TV and Metropolitan Opera presentation of a gala performance celebrating 100 years of performing arts at the Metropolitan Opera. Producer: Jane Hermann. Conductor: Kenneth Schermerhorn. Lighting: Gil Wechsler. Staging: Donald Saddler. Director: Brian Large. Script: Gerald Fitzgerald.

CONTENTS. - Diversion of angels. Choreography and costumes: Martha Graham. Music: Norman Dello Joio. Danced by the Martha Graham Dance Company. Dancers: Peggy Lyman, George White, Jr., Takako Asakawa, Peter Sparling, Thea Barnes, Steve Rooks, Larry White, and corps. - Five Brahms waltzes in the manner of Isadora Duncan. Choreography: Frederick Ashton. Music: Johannes Brahms. Pianist: Philip Gammon. Dancer: Lynn Seymour. - Le spectre de la rose. Choreography: Michel Fokine. Music: Carl Maria von Weber. Dancers: Patrick Dupond, Lillian Gish. - The nutcracker (Hoffmann's solo). Choreography: Roland Petit. Music: Tchaikovsky. Dancer: Jean-Charles Gil. - Romeo and Juliet (Balcony scene). Choreography: Frederick Ashton. Music: Sergei Prokofiev. Dancers: Lis Jeppesen, Arne Villumsen. - Cameo appearances: Alexandra Danilova; Frederic Franklin; Jerome Robbins.

the attached scan, which shows Mona Vangsaae (as Juliet) and Henning Kronstam (as Romeo), the Royal Danish Ballet dancers for whom Ashton created his ballet's title characters, probably dates from the premiere performances in 1955 and is perhaps posed for the camera.


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