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Romeo and Juliet


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Twitter about Hallberg Osipova performance, but from Hallberg himself, so I assume it is ok to post :) and it comes with a backstage photo

My sigh of a seasons end! I will never forget yesterdays show. Once in a career. Osipova and I were one. http://twitpic.com/245y8l

That's truly what it felt like. It's very rare and precious, but let's hope it's not "once in a career" for O&H, perhaps just the first time for Hallberg!

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Hallberg's tweet conveys how special yesterday's matinee was.

The NY Times article from a little while ago about Osipova contains the following excerpt, which gives a bit of background:

"I am a very emotional person, and those emotions have to go somewhere,” she said. “So I am always happy when I have a role where my feelings can come into play. Of course sometimes I scare people. They say, Natasha” — Ms. Osipova’s nickname — “you’re crazy. But I have to go out onstage and give everything I have.” Mr. Hallberg, who has danced with Ms. Osipova at the Bolshoi as well as in New York, said their performances together had been among the greatest experiences of his career. “She doesn’t care what people think,” he said. “She is so artistically involved in each role that she is continually questioning, validating every moment. She taught me to release a lot of my inhibitions, just through our physical communication.”"

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I attended the Romeo and Juliet "Super Saturday". It seems like I am in a minority here, but I feel that the matinee was extraordinary, but the evening performance was even better. This 2010 Spring Season of ABT has been phenomenal, but the back to back Romeo and Juliets were like a fantastic dessert after a gourmet meal.

To see Osipova and Vishneva in back to back performances on the same day? WOW!! - I feel so lucky to have seen that.

Last night's Balcony Pas de deux with Vishneva and Gomes was probably one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in ballet. I was in tears when they were done! This is one of the reasons why I have to give the nod to the evening performance over the matinee.

Why did I prefer Vishneva to Osipova? Osipova is a beautiful ballerina and one would never know that this was her first time dancing the role of Juliet. However, I noticed that when things got a little tricky in the dancing, Osipova dropped her emotions and put on a look of concentration. She did the same thing when she danced Aurora a few weeks ago. Sometimes, this makes everything look careful and rehearsed. I felt that as the ballet went on, Natalia let herself go more and more. Diana never dropped the emotions and everything looked spontaneous and in the moment. But again, I will treasure both of these performances for years to come. To put it simple, Osipova was excellent, but I feel that Vishneva was even better!

I preferred the Hallberg/Matthews/Hoven trio over the Gomes/Salstein/Simkin. I assumed that Simkin would play Mercutio in the evening performance. (For me THE Mercutio will always be Cornejo.) Also the corps looked a little tighter in the matinee.

Thank you ABT for a fantastic season. And thank you Natalia and David and Diana and Marcelo!

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I can't let the R&J thread end without giving kudos to Irina for her Friday evening performance. I had originally bought this ticket when Marcelo and Paloma were scheduled. I knew I was seeing the Sat mat with Hallberg/Osipova so I left the Fri evening unexchanged. I haven't seen much of Irina and I was very very impressed with her Juliet. She's of course very beautiful and I thought her interpretation was just right and movingly danced. I have to admit that for Cory's performance, through no fault of his own, (I've seen him several times now due to re-casting and have enjoyed watching his progress)I kept comparing him to David knowing I would see him the next day. I also agree with earlier posters who thought the mat Hallberg/Matthews/Hoven trio the best. An improvement over the Fri evening Stearns/Lopez/Simkin trio.I especially enjoyed Hoven. I think he showed much improvement this season and is due for a promotion. However, I also agree that Matthews was lacking in energy in his solos and thought Lopez did an excellent job as Mercutio. Again, the Hallberg/Osipova performance was transformative and something I will never forget.

It's been a wonderful season and today I'm having Met withdrawal. None of my friends are as passionate about ballet as I am (or really care about it at all) so reading the posts here feel like sharing with friends and I thank you for all your articulate reviews. I'm disappointed there is no fall season to look forward to but there is the new Nutcracker....

On the food topic - my daughter and I enjoy O'Neals and go for drinks and/or dinner a few times each season. Earlier this week I couldn't get through on their phone line to make a reservation and when we stopped by on Friday evening were surprised and disappointed to see the windows covered and a closed sign posted. No mention on their website about closing. I'm going to send an email and try to find out what happened. Also, tried Bar Boulud for brunch prior to the Sat matinee. Wonderful light omelette with sparkling wine. Will definitely return.

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Barbara, O'Neals Restaurant has closed for good. I believe the property was bought out by a new landlord.

I also saw Irina's performance on Friday. Her dancing is exquisite. She has a supple, pliant back, long beautiful extensions, and a gorgeous line. The problem I have with her in this role is that she overacts, to the point where the acting becomes distracting and takes you right out of the story. Cory, on the other hand, tends to be blank much of the time as Romeo. I thought it was his least effective role of the season. (He also had difficulty in the lift in the balcony scene, in which he is on his knees and must hoist Juliet above him in a press lift.)

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Abatt, thanks for the info re O'Neals. Very disappointing.

From the Dress Circle where I sit I didn't notice overacting from Irina. I hope next year I can get closer and be able to notice some of the nuances others post about. But so far the Dress Circle is in my budget :wink:

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My only opportunity to see any of the New York spring season of ballet was this past weekend. Thus no chance to see NYCB, just ABT in a production of Romeo and Juliet that I had long since given up on. (I believe Alexandra once wrote that the only thing that could get her to sit through it again would be the opportunity to see Kirkland and Dowell dance the leads. That was pretty much my feeling.)

However, you play the cards you're dealt. If I want to see top-tier ballet, then I have to take the opportunities I can get and after last year's Giselle with Osipova and Hallberg, I had come to feel, in any case, that these are dancers not to be missed.

Still, I have been reluctant to join this thread because I hesitate to sound a sour note. In fact, I believe Osipova and Hallberg deserve every accolade--she was wonderful: an impetuous and utterly believable Juliet, dancing with physical and emotional daring. Something about her seems to "charge" Hallberg almost electrically. I would say that for the first time in my (very limited) experience of his dancing he gave a performance worthy of his extraordinarily beautiful form. Indeed, I would say this was the finest male dancing and the finest male performance I have seen in decades. Her edgy energetic impetuousness and his silky impassioned elegance somehow work to a terrific blend. I really feel privileged to have seen these dancers in this performance.

Yet none of this could really erase for me the longeurs of the ballet aggravated to interminability by the very weak performances of the entire matinee cast. I realize others have had positive things to say about some of these performances, but I respectfully disagree. Dancing "together" is not the sum total of what makes the male trios in this ballet work. Mercutio should be a "star" role--full of charisma and energy and brilliantly danced. At the Royal, major male principals (Dowell and Wall) would sometimes alternate in the roles of Romeo and Mercutio. And let's not forget that Dowell was the original Benvolio. Romeo should, as a dancer, be first among equals of course, but the whole sense of a ballet company's masculine strength should be on display. That's the real 'aristocracy' at stake. The other secondary roles (with the exception of the nurse) were likewise very below par all afternoon--no weight or sense of threat behind any of the pantomime and no particular edge to the harlot (or any other) dancing. Honestly, I'm not a fan of the ballet even when these secondary roles are done well, but to see them done so lamely simply drags it down close to unbearably.

I agree with some of the analyses offered above about the differences between Vishneva and Osipova. Vishneva seemed a little more grown up from the very start, but both ballerinas in different ways suggested the shifts and development in Juliet's emotions. (Osipova seemed to grow emotionally second by second). In the first act solo Vishneva showed a sophisticated use of the upper body that gave the choreography a depth and hint of wit that it did not have in Ospiva's more 'girlish' performance--it just plain looked better, as if Macmillan had actually learned something from Ashton--and Vishneva's dancing with Gomez in the balcony scene pas de deux had a silkier, more elegant quality. (I am tempted to describe it as the difference between a Kirov version of Macmillan and a Bolshoi version.) In Act III, I thought her great experience showed and she took real command of the stage--when she first returned to Juliet's room with the potion she seemed hypnotised by it even as she was running across the stage, her eyes totally fixated on the bottle.

I can see prefering the more lyrically elegant and emotionally mature Vishneva--though I too found Osipova's performance just extraordinarily exciting and thus hard to get over. One felt the power of discovery in her dancing and Hallberg's. At one point in the male solo dancing of the balcony scene pas de deux, Hallberg's classical beauty woven together with a pure, dancerly flow and infused with deep feeling achieved an almost dizzying expressiveness; I was briefly taken entirely out of myself--an experience that does not much happen to me in the theater anymore.

In the evening, I thought Gomez was very good, and individually all of the solo and pantomime parts were stronger than at the afernoon's performance: harlots, priests, bad guys, good guys, in-between guys all danced more skillfully and mimed more convincingly--though as rightly pointed out above Salstein and Simkin kept getting out of sync which somewhat undermined the male trios. But it was not a "great" performance from the company as a whole--just far more respectable than the afternoon.

I cannot help but be delighted that ABT brings its audience very high quality guest stars and, even better, tries to build relations with them, but the whole standard of the company needs to rise consistently with its leads whether they are guest stars or indeed their own regular principals (such as Murphy or Cornejo). From the reports that have been given all season, I infer there has been some terrific dancing. I wish I had seen more of it. What I saw left me thrilled but also a little worried about the state of the company.

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Dancing "together" is not the sum total of what makes the male trios in this ballet work. Mercutio should be a "star" role--full of charisma and energy and brilliantly danced.... The other secondary roles (with the exception of the nurse) were likewise very below par all afternoon--no weight or sense of threat behind any of the pantomime and no particular edge to the harlot (or any other) dancing.

R&J is at heart a story about the name characters. As much as Mercutio and Benvolio are important to the Montague trio in certain parts of the ballet, the ballet is essentially about Romeo and Juliet, and not Romeo/Mercutio/Benvolio and Romeo/Juliet. So, while I understand that Mercutio *can* be a star role and has been that in certain other situations for other companies, I don't think it's materially detrimental to yesterday's matinee performance that Matthews was not that good.

I imagine it's a politically interesting situation at ABT for the casting of Mercutio. First, as discussed above, Romeo is a somewhat physically challenging role with the lifts, etc., that tends to be danced more by the ABT danseur principals who are in their prime or have not reached their prime (ie the younger principals). Take a Gomes or Hallberg as Romeo. The more "established"/senior in rank, danseurs (Max B, Corella, Stiefel, Bolle) will obviously not want to play second fiddle to either of those Romeos. So, that leaves only Cornejo who can dance Mercutio as what you might consider to be a "star" principal. And he danced well on Monday to Gomes' Romeo. But Cornejo had his own Romeo performance that he had to attend to. And, if I were Cornejo, I would be pursuing trying to get more lead danseur roles next year instead of dancing more of the Mercutios and Pucks of the world (not that there is anything wrong with the latter two roles, esp the Puck role for Cornejo). What about Cory Stearns? Well, he had his own two Romeos for which he had to practice, etc. So, at ABT, who does that leave as the Mercutios that will be available? Largely the male soloists who are a bit more experienced. That is who we have been getting: Matthews, Lopez, and Salstein.

I think we got a particularly weak version of Mercutio from Matthews on Saturday. In his solos, it seemed like he couldn't even move quickly enough to even keep up with the music at times and he had no height to anything. Even though I didn't like Mathhews' Mercutio on Tuesday (again with Hallberg and Hoven), Matthews was better Tuesday. At least he could jump a bit, even though his jumps were sitll not high and not vigorous enough. I thought that Matthews' death scene was decent, and his factial expressions were passable.

In some ways, one's dissatisfaction with Matthews' portrayal Saturday may reflect some artistic choices Matthews and/or his company made. Matthews' Mercutio is more of an easy-going friend to Hallberg who is a follower (of Hallberg) than a joint leader of the trio. Matthews' choices with respect to his "loose" and ungelled hair and his mannerisms make his Mercutio look young, which some audience members might mistaken for lack of sufficient stage presence. I think those choices are not inappropriate, given that Hallberg's Romeo is somewhat young too.

I was surprised by the lack of quality in Matthews' portrayal of Mercutio. Disregarding this one role, Matthews made improvements in many of his performances this season, although I didn't think he was good last season. I didn't think his jumps during the Met '10 season were bad, other than when he played Mercutio. I never thought his strength was his jumps, but his jumps did not previously detract from his overall perforamnce during the rest of this season. Maybe Matthews was tired from having also played Benvolio in another performance last week, as reported by other members?

I don't disagree that the harlots' dancing in the four versions of R&J I saw this season could have been improved upon. The only harlot I thought was pretty good, and who conveyed "wildness", was Misty Copeland. She danced with more abandon than the other harlots. I also found her portrayal effective when she stood over Tybalt's dead body, with her legs straddling his body in a rough stance and her having to be pushed aside by Lady Capulet.

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At the outset, let me say that I will long look back upon this past Saturday as a day when I was privileged to witness a historical and momentous event--the first performance by Osipova in Romeo and Juliet. It was historical firstly because it was her debut in the role, and secondly because I believe the day will go down in history as the beginning of a great partnership between Osipova and Hallberg, as important in the history of ballet as the Fonteyn-Nureyev partnership of decades past. I like to think that on my death bed (okay, it was R&J, after all) I will be able to look back and remember how beautiful was the budding of this partnership, and that I was witness to it.

Like many others, I, too, saw both performances on Saturday. Although it has been suggested in the various postings, I would like to spell out what in my view was the most significant difference between the two interpretations of the lovers. I felt that in the characters of Romeo and Juliet as played by Hallberg and Osipova, the protagonists, upon seeing each other for the first time, were stunned, overcome by feelings they had never before experienced, hardly knowing what to make of them but understanding their enormous significance without being able to put words to them. They did not know this was "love at first sight," they knew only that something extraordinary and previously unknown had just happened to them. The attraction to each other was palpable, and with this attraction each of them became the characters in the drama for the entire ballet. During the curtain calls they both looked, at first, shaken, as if they had gone through a rite of passage together, an intense experience for them both that went beyond the drama of the performance and extended into real life. Hallberg had become Romeo and had initiated Osipova into the role of Juliet, for which she would be eternally grateful to him and which he felt honored to have done for her. An enormous bond between them had been strengthened.

Whereas in the Vishneva-Gomes performance, I felt that the moment Romeo and Juliet saw each other they knew that they had each found true love. They seemed more experienced with these feelings, they weren't stunned by them, but rather, were overjoyed. Vishneva danced with joy and abandon, which was different from Osipova's sense that something new and special had just happened to her. Both Vishneva and Gomes danced magnificently, but it was a different sense of communication that took place between them, a more knowing understanding of what had transpired.

As for the scene with the doll and the nurse, perhaps I'm taking this too literally, but I think that when the nurse touched Juliet's breasts and then Juliet touched them herself, registering surprise, it was the nurse's way of saying "You are becoming a woman, my dear child, you are developing womanly breasts," and when Juliet touched them herself, it was as if realizing for the first time that she was, indeed, becoming a woman, and all that that awakening meant for her.

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Rosa Mexicano is a wonderful upscale Mexican-inspired restaurant right across the street from Lincoln Center on (I believe) Columbus Avenue, and a great way to spend time between the two performances. But I'd advise you to make reservations in advance. Two weeks before Super Saturday I went online to Open Table to make a reservation for two, and the only time available was 5:30. It was already booked for 6:00 and later. But it worked out very well.

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...secondly because I believe the day will go down in history as the beginning of a great partnership between Osipova and Hallberg, as important in the history of ballet as the Fonteyn-Nureyev partnership of decades past. I like to think that on my death bed (okay, it was R&J, after all) I will be able to look back and remember how beautiful was the budding of this partnership, and that I was witness to it.

Actually, their partnership began last year with Giselle.

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...secondly because I believe the day will go down in history as the beginning of a great partnership between Osipova and Hallberg, as important in the history of ballet as the Fonteyn-Nureyev partnership of decades past. I like to think that on my death bed (okay, it was R&J, after all) I will be able to look back and remember how beautiful was the budding of this partnership, and that I was witness to it.

Actually, their partnership began last year with Giselle.

Yes it did, and that Giselle was great. But I know exactly what Angelica means. This R&J was on another plane completely. It may not have been the first time Osipova and Hallberg danced together, but it felt like it could be the beginning of a legendary partnership. And, as with Angelica, it was a performance of R&J that I will remember forever along with Fonteyn/Nureyev and Ferri/Bocca.

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In one of the town scenes, Romeo sits in the street. Would he really do that? Wouldn't the street have been filthy with all sorts of refuse?

Aha! You've just made me have an epiphany! I kept wondering to myself why all those townswomen are sweeping the ground in the beginning of Act I, but now I understand! It must be so that Romeo can sit on the ground and not soil his lovely costume! :cool:

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Thanks to everyone for all the reports on “Super Saturday” so far! They’ve been fascinating to read!

I have somewhat delayed posting about Saturday night’s performance because to post would be to admit that the season is over, and acknowledge that I have to wait 10 months for it to start again. Like Barbara, I’m already suffering from ABT-withdrawal!

I can’t comment on the Osipova/Hallberg performance, but for me, the Vishneva/Gomes performance was by far the best of the four I’ve seen this season, and even better than their outing last year.

Seeing Vishneva last allowed me to marvel anew at her ability to command your attention, how she employs small details to make her character appear real and three-dimensional, and how she makes you feel what she is feeling physically. At the end of Act I, my friend commented, “She’s so transparent. You can tell exactly what she [Juliet] is feeling.” As with “Lady of the Camellias,” I felt that the others had given great performances, but when I saw Vishneva, it was like the difference between seeing a pretty postcard and being there yourself.

And of course, as others have mentioned already, there is the sheer beauty of her dancing--luxurious, silky, luminescent.

**

In Act I Scene 2, Vishneva was adorably playful and affectionate with her Nurse. When Paris arrived, you could see her feeling both flattered by the attention and a bit flustered. She looked to her Nurse for approval and encouragement when trying those first few steps with him. At the end of the scene, when her Nurse places her hands on her chest, Vishneva let them linger there for a moment, then moved them up towards her neck, as if taken aback—it made this moment not only about comprehension, but tinged with fear/anxiety as well—“Oh dear, I’m growing up! What does THAT mean?!”

At the Capulet ball, I actually saw Juliet enter at the top of the stairs for the first time all week. I’m not sure if this had to do with where I was sitting (further back, but in the center), but I suspect this has to do with Vishneva’s ability to draw your eye and animate her character. Even if the audience is supposed to be focusing on the dancing guests below, she shows us Juliet excitedly taking in the scene, talking to her Nurse, noticing Benvolio and Mercutio at the top of the stairs. My eyes couldn’t help but be drawn to her.

And when she danced with Paris: well, I was wrong about Reyes being the most musical Juliet I’ve seen—Vishneva matched her ability to carry the movement through each phrase, and she embellished it with her beautiful, graceful arms.

Of course Romeo was smitten! Yes, as others have commented, Gomes did look a tad tired in the first few scenes, but when Juliet appeared, he was revitalized.

Last year, I remember being somewhat disappointed by Vishneva & Gomes portrayal of the moment where Romeo and Juliet meet face-to-face. I didn’t feel the chemistry, and as a result, much of Act I was a bit of a letdown for me last year.

This year, however, the moment totally worked for me. After seeing Romeo, Vishneva’s Juliet was dazed and confused; she didn’t know what had hit her. Aside from one very funny moment when Vishneva’s Juliet was bent at the waist, forcefully pushing her Nurse out of the room, she was positively lovesick, constantly on the verge of swooning.

When Romeo was discovered by Tybalt, again I saw something that I had missed all week! Previously I had read Juliet’s reaction as her simply being upset that her Romeo is being accosted so violently by Tybalt, but last night, Vishneva showed me that it’s the moment where she finds out that Romeo is a Montague; she showed me Juliet’s (momentary) despair.

The balcony pas de deux was simply breathtaking. It may have been the single most beautiful pas de deux I’ve seen all season. After the long, passionate kiss, Vishneva just stood there as if dumbstruck, and the audience exploded into applause. A second later, she recovered herself and staggered backwards before rushing up the stairs, but the vigorous clapping had already drowned out the music. (That was the first time I’ve seen people applaud BEFORE the pas de deux ended!)

**

Just a few comments on Act II:

At the end of the Mandolin dance, when Mercutio leapfrogs the mandolin players, Gomes substituted for the last mandolin player, crouching down at the end of the line. I, nor Salstein, it seemed, was expecting this, and they seemed to have a good laugh about it.

The swordfighting in Act II was very impassioned, especially between Gomes and Radetsky. It really felt violent. And Radetsky did not die gracefully—you felt every bit of his struggle and you heard him fall hard.

**

In the beginning of Act III, Gomes really took his time getting out of the bed. He rearranged Juliet’s arms, he lay back down to kiss her, and he only made it to the window just before Juliet wakes up.

The image that I keep recalling from the bedroom pas de deux is when Romeo and Juliet were stretched in opposite directions—he in a deep lunge and she in an arabesque—then Vishneva arched her back and fell forward so languorously before Gomes caught her and lifted her up. It was like the inverse of those slow and heartbreakingly beautiful backbends in the White Swan pas de deux. It was like seeing the air let out of a balloon and then filling it up again.

And yes, as soon as Romeo left her, Vishneva’s Juliet was deflated. To me, it felt like she was already dead. This was especially striking in her dancing with Paris—she didn’t resist (dead people can’t resist), but it was like all the air and light had been taken out of her; her body was moving, but she was not moving it. I thought this was brilliant—her dancing contrasted marvelously with her dancing with Paris Act I and at the same time it foreshadowed the upcoming pas de deux with Romeo where she is truly lifeless.

Another moment I recall clearly is when Juliet rushes toward the door (through which her family exited) and then toward the window. With other ballerinas, I had read this as merely a sign of Juliet being overwhelmed and flustered, but in Vishneva’s portrayal, I understood that it was a sign of Juliet’s dilmena—she has to choose between her family and Romeo, and she loves both dearly. It was the first time all week that I felt Juliet seemed torn.

And then the moment where Juliet stands against the bed, considering what to do. Honestly, I was skeptical that anyone could convey Juliet’s thinking simply with the eyes, without moving—until I saw Vishneva do it last night. Through my binoculars, I watched carefully as Vishneva initially kept her eyes unfocused and slightly downcast. Then you could see her eyes focus, she seemed to see something straight out in the audience, and then you saw the rush of joy when she had her epiphany! Aha, I thought. So THAT’S what that moment is supposed to feel like!

The final scene of the ballet was heartbreaking in all the right ways. I will say that Kent looked a tad more convincingly lifeless—I never saw her move/jump—but perhaps after three R&J’s, Gomes needed a little help from Vishneva. But as I mentioned above, Vishneva really makes you feel something physically, and I couldn’t help but cringe slightly when she let her limbs thud against the floor.

When she discovered Romeo, she initially was overjoyed to see him, and she only realizes mid-kiss that something is not quite right. Her “scream” started before the musical cue and expanded into an arms-outstretched cry to the heavens.

As others have mentioned, her stabbing was particularly violent. When she raised the dagger high above her head and plunged it into her breast, you felt the impact. So forceful was her blow that she immediately fell forward onto the bed.

Yes, I thought Vishneva played this moment especially well. I had always found it contrived for Juliet to kind of stagger around for awhile, possibly fall down, then pick herself up and decide to climb back onto the bed. Why not just crawl over to where Romeo and lie down next to him?

With Vishneva’s portrayal, however, the last few moments played out completely rationally. She stabbed herself and immediately fell onto the far side of the bed. Then, the easiest option (the only option) was to inch across the bed—and you felt every inch—to Romeo’s side. Once there, she grabbed hold of one of Romeo’s hands. She brought her other hand to her lips, and then slowly placed her fingers onto Romeo’s lips. And then, on the last possible note, she expired.

**

Bravo, bravo, bravo! One for each of the curtain calls they received.

Thank you Diana and Marcelo for a marvelous end to a marvelous season!! I enjoyed myself thoroughly, as did my friends who’d never seen it.

But I will admit, that a small part of me wishes we could have done away with Romeo & Juliet altogether and had Vishneva & Gomes give us one last devastating performance of their superlative “Lady of the Camellias”! :wink:

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I was at the Osipova/Hallberg matinee, but as posted earlier could not attend the evening performance afterall (luckily a fellow BT person was able to use my ticket)and I've seen both Vishneva and Gomes last year and before. I agree with most of the BT posts regarding this performance, and it definately kept me on the edge of my seat. Visible throughout were Hallberg's immaculate line and beauty of form, Osipova's lightness, girlishness, impetuosity and fleetness of movement; there were many times she almost lunged towards Romeo. With the small binoculars I inherited from my late father, I was able to see (from the last row of Family Circle) the details of Osipova's quite detailed acting abilities, and Hallberg's too to a degree, and again I agree with BT posts above. I, too, thought Misty the best harlot; Stella seemed older and more elegant and Melanie too frivolous. Blaine Hoven was excellent as Benvolio, his form and elevation were quite impeccable. (I also noticed Matthews lack of elevation/energy as Mercutio. I have seen others do Mercutio, and agree Cornejo is the GOLD standard, but others have also had more energy than Matthews did Saturday. Was he tired? Injured? Perhaps a long week of performing for him?)

However, there are some things in this matinee performance that quite surprised me--and not in a good way...(I know I am deeply in a minority)

1) The phrasing/timing of the two principals was very inconsistant: sometimes DH/NO were ahead, and sometimes so far behind the musical cues I almost fell out of my seat from unconsciously leaning forward to 'push' them along. (I don't know how many times I said "late" under my breath.) There were a lot of moments,too, when they were very far apart in the balcony pdd; it made for some very fast footwork to reach the other partner and keep time with the music. It was beautiful BUT scary to watch because it seemed so headlong. 'Emotionally' a good thing, 'technique-wise' I'm not so sure.

2) details, details, details in that technique. Overall it was fine: they both have beautiful feet, and legs, arms, and faces; he so elegantly classical, she so light, and fluid, melting one moment, rushing forward with such momentum the next. But the details I've seen before in others--epaulement, attention to line NOT of oneself but from one partner to the other, synchronization, was often not there and the lifts were not always so smooth--eg.Act1 ballroom pdd.

3) In Romeo's ActII solo, where were those scissor-like sissones?! I SO missed seeing Marcelo then. David leaped high but his beautiful legs barely hit 45 degrees, never near Corella's 180, or with the power of Marcelo. The slow attitude turns were rushed, no plush paused landings here, and while the carriage was high, I missed the epaulement--they just looked brushed over. Ditto as Romeo circles Juliet playing the mandolin/lute in Act1 variation.

Kudos for Jared Matthews doing all three frog leaps in the Mandolin dance. Who did the cartwheel?

SIDE NOTE: the list of lovely nuanced moves Ambonnay noticed in Acts 1 and 3, are part of the original choreography, but how one reacts/dances them is what changes.

There were also 3 slips on the center downstage floor, (sticky? or slippery?) nicely saved by both Hallberg and Osipova. Didn't I say "edge of my seat" already above?

CONCLUSION: Memorable, defintately. Priveleged to be there, YES. But details, (and people) I missed too.

VERY sad about O'Neal's. I specifically took my mother there to show her the mural, but as noted by others it was closed up, but a sign posted about being back after summer?

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Mercutio should be a "star" role--full of charisma and energy and brilliantly danced. At the Royal, major male principals (Dowell and Wall) would sometimes alternate in the roles of Romeo and Mercutio. And let's not forget that Dowell was the original Benvolio. Romeo should, as a dancer, be first among equals of course, but the whole sense of a ballet company's masculine strength should be on display.

What I saw left me thrilled but also a little worried about the state of the company.

I agree that the Mercutios at both Saturday performances were below par. I remember about 7 years ago when Cornejo and Joaquin de Luz would alternate in the role, lighting up the stage with their incredible technical skills and charisma. I agree that dancing "together" does not make a performance; it is simply the least an ensemble can do.

I ,too, am worried about the state of this company. With the exception of Gillian, I feel the ranks of female principals (excluding the guest stars such as Vishneva and Osipova) is very thin. (Alastair Macaulay lamented this in a NYT article about one month ago) Julie Kent is getting on (and showing it in her technical skills) while IMO there is also some dead weight at the top. Wiles is not capable of pulling off a R&J and Paloma only barely. Veronika has too much inconsistency (some good roles and good nights, other times not so.) Xiomara has improved but IMO doesn't have the technique or emotional depth for a Swan Lake. The male principals used to be the best but that generation is now either gone or aging (Bocca, Malakhov, Corella, Carreno, Stiefel). Only Cornejo, Hallberg and Gomes are living up to ABT's reputation as a bastion for excellent male principals. The soloist ranks of women are swelling but do we see any sign that any one of these women will be made a principal anytime soon?

ABT needs to be more proactive in promoting and cultivating their younger talent before these dancers get fed up and move on to other companies. And yes, more rehearsal/coaching time is needed; roles like Puck (in "The Dream") or the demi-soloist roles in ballets like Swan Lake and La Bayadere are not throw away roles and should not be given to just anyone. Mediocre performances should not be acceptable. ABT may never be the Kirov (or Bolshoi) but it needs to live up to a higher standard of performance than it currently seems to be satisfied with.

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ABT needs to be more proactive in promoting and cultivating their younger talent before these dancers get fed up and move on to other companies.

What young ballerina talent at the ABT now (leaving aside Seo) do you believe have the potential to become principals that have even the hope of one day performing like Osipova and Vishneva?

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...secondly because I believe the day will go down in history as the beginning of a great partnership between Osipova and Hallberg, as important in the history of ballet as the Fonteyn-Nureyev partnership of decades past. I like to think that on my death bed (okay, it was R&J, after all) I will be able to look back and remember how beautiful was the budding of this partnership, and that I was witness to it.

Actually, their partnership began last year with Giselle.

Yes it did, and that Giselle was great. But I know exactly what Angelica means. This R&J was on another plane completely. It may not have been the first time Osipova and Hallberg danced together, but it felt like it could be the beginning of a legendary partnership. And, as with Angelica, it was a performance of R&J that I will remember forever along with Fonteyn/Nureyev and Ferri/Bocca.

Thank you, nysusan, that is exactly what I meant!

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In one of the town scenes, Romeo sits in the street. Would he really do that? Wouldn't the street have been filthy with all sorts of refuse?

Aha! You've just made me have an epiphany! I kept wondering to myself why all those townswomen are sweeping the ground in the beginning of Act I, but now I understand! It must be so that Romeo can sit on the ground and not soil his lovely costume! :cool:

Well no, actually. Renaissance Italy had no paved walkways or sidewalks. Except for paving blocks. In some of the larger towns the main squares were sometimes more elaborate, but mostly it was the hard "tufa" of the area that made up the streets. The streets (particularly the Market Squares) were swept by the residents. And in a time with open sewage trenches, a little dust and dirt on the ground would never have been an issue to any resident who wished to sit, be he noble or less so. There were no "benches". There is a wonderful town in South Eastern Tuscany called Sorano, which for me has always seemed more the model for "R&J" than what one would see today in Verona. The streets are so narrow they are barely passable on foot, and there are no autos allowed. Most homes have balconies and inner court yards and there is but one town square where all the "commerce" of the town takes place. High on the main hill is the one "castle" where a Capulet Ball could easily have taken place. It has a gated entrance so like the one seen in "R&J, and in order to get to the top one must climb by foot through narrow alleyways lit only by what were once torches, but now have been electrified It is a magical place and it is easy to imagine clan rivalries erupting here much as the Capulets and Montagues play out there inner conflict. When I last was here a few years back, I happened upon a wedding taking place at the town's only church. It seemed the entire town was in attendance! There are many Etruscan burial sites in the area where I always pictured Friar Lawrence taking up his hermitage. Whenever I see "R&J" I am taken back to this extraordinary place, still caught in time.

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I remember two instances where Romeo is sitting. The first is quite early on in Act I, in the market scene. Romeo sits near the front left part (from the audience's perspective) of the stage, quite close to the audience. In the case of Hallberg and Gomes, they each have one leg up and one arm draped leisurely over that leg, as though a bit bored or lost in thought. This pose to me contributed to communicating that, at that point, Romeo doesn't have much direction in life.

The following excerpt from "The Power ofPassion", by Hanna Rubin, April 26, 2007 (included in Playbill publication) is Hallberg's thoughts not on that particular seated scene, but on the initial situation with Romeo in general:

"'Romeo's like any other guy at the start,' says Principal Dancer David Hallberg.'He's roaming around Verona, lost and a little gloomy, shooting the breeze with his friends Mercutio and Benvolio. His life seems incomplete. Once he meets Juliet, he never questions it again.'"

Parts of this excerpt have already been quoted by other BT posters.

The second instance of Romeo sitting was, for Hallberg, where he sat at the top of one of the back set of stairs in the market scene later on (I forget which act). He is sort of resting while seated there while Mercutio and/or Benvolio dance.

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What I saw left me thrilled but also a little worried about the state of the company.

Ahmen to that. Sure, it is wonderful that ABT demonstrated a deep commitment and investment in Osipova by brining in Ferri. But is this same care and attention extended to the remainder of the company? The only tangible evidence is what happens onstage. One word - "demoralized" - summed up this season for me. The energy level overall seemed lackluster and unfocused. A performance is truly transcendent when all the parts coalese into a greater whole. I just hope that ABT as an entity still has the capacity to inspire heart and passion in the dancing of each and every person onstage.

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ABT needs to be more proactive in promoting and cultivating their younger talent before these dancers get fed up and move on to other companies.

What young ballerina talent at the ABT now (leaving aside Seo) do you believe have the potential to become principals that have even the hope of one day performing like Osipova and Vishneva?

Probably no one. However, IMO Maria Riccetto and Kristi Boone have the potential to be principals soon (I would include Stella Abrera except for her injuries, which might preclude a heavy performing schedule).

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