Romeo & Juliet:
The Drama That Created The Drama
Giulietta e Romeo
The creation of the ballet Romeo and Juliet as we know it today was in itself a dramatic story. We all know that the tale was written by Shakespeare but did you know that its original title was Giulietta e Romeo? Perhaps we could consider changing the order of the names back again? But I am digressing...
Furthermore, Prokofiev planned a happy ending! We can imagine it similar to Swan Lake and due to a favoured optimism in the communist Soviet Union. But herein may lay the strength of Shakespeare's writing, for it did not succumb to this alteration as Swan Lake did with its more dubious plot.
The intended scenario had Friar Laurence interfere before Romeo could stab himself, which in turn allowed time for Juliet to awake. The original score also featured a Victory Day parade midway through the story, and divertissements after Juliet drunk the potion.
If this is not enough, Prokofiev's music was deemed unsuitable to tell a ballet drama and was considerably altered by Kirov's conductor Lavrosky, in spite of Prokofiev's objections. Yet, the choreographies and staging change according to the current time, Prokofiev's eventual powerful music prevails.
Galina Ulanova and Konstantin Sergeyev as Romeo & Julia
Despite its dramatic birth, Romeo and Juliet remains one of the most popular ballets. It resonates with us so deeply that artists of all genres continue to create their take on the most tragic love story of all times.
Well-Known Ballet Productions:
• 1955, Frederick Ashton, Royal Danish Ballet.
• 1962, John Cranko, Stuttgart Ballet
• 1965, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Royal Ballet
• 1971, John Neumeier, partly inspired by John Cranko, ballet in Frankfurt and 1974 Hamburger Ballett
• 1977, Rudolf Nureyev, London Festival Ballet, today's English National Ballet
• 1979, Yuri Grigorovich, Bolshoi
• 1985, László Seregi, Hungarian National Ballet
• 1996 Jean-Christophe Maillot, Les Ballets de Monte Carlo.
• 2007, Peter Martins, New York City Ballet
• 2011, Alexei Ratmansky, National Ballet of Canada
• 2014 Krzysztof Pastor, Polish National
• 2018 Matthew Bourne, New Adventures
Sergei Prokofiev, credit: Choumoff/Roger Viollet, via Getty Images