Last night was fantastic evening at the ballet. The Royal Ballet were performing Romeo & Juliet at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and in part as an escort for Lily, I knew I was going to thoroughly enjoy myself in a somewhat more elegant fashion than usual. On that note, my attraction to this form of dance isn’t just elegance in the way most fans gush about (possibly due to the fact I serve at the Altar each week at Church and as such am expected to be able to switch elegance on and off) but rather I adore the fluidity of these complex and evocative movements.
On arrival we found there had been a change of principles due to injury, the discovery of which affected Lily a great deal more than me given that I wasn’t previously aware of the individual performers. The seats themselves were reasonbly priced and with a decent view provided you were willing to lean forward when the action moved to the front left of the stage.
I have always loved Prokofiev’s score; while not always subtle, it rarely loses its intrinsically majestic sound. MacMillan’s choreography is always stunning, filled with a continuous stream of lyrical movements that evoke both the joy and poignancy of Shakespeare’s tragedy. Indeed it is widely regarded as one of the great examples of clasically styled 20th century choreography. The performances were of a generally high standard, with reasonably acting to match their obvious dancing talent. Romeo seemed joyously excited as he showed Juliet’s letter to Friar Laurence and then torn with doubt over the fight and his later suicide, while Tybalt and Mercutio appeared to enjoy their roles in an almost frivolous rivalry with tragic consequences. The scenes between Galeazzi’s Juliet and Bonelli’s Romeo sparkled magically, with numerous complex pas de deux. The traditionally overplayed elongated death scenes that are a staple of ballet were – well – elongated and overplayed. Such things, along with the generally unconvincing displays of anguish, simply do not translate well for a modern audience’s sensibilities. Even some of the early choreography seemed almost clumsy, where in fact it was simply dated as MacMillan struggled to remain true to a more classic style of ballet.
Georgiadis’ set pieces were magnificent eliciting gasps from around the audience at the burnished gold of the Capulet ballroom, with a crowd of extravegantly robed medieval aristocrats. Reed’s lighting complemented everything wonderfully, with bright yellow bustling marketplaces (where amusingly the frizzy-haired harlots were enjoying themselves so much they managed to upstage the leads), haunting nighttime blues and even more so in the closing tomb scene. And since Lily grabbed the autographs she wanted afterwards (which was actually a great deal easier than I realised), there’s not much more you could ask for really.
A quick guide to sounding intelligent when discussing ballet:
do mention: pas de deux – a dance for two (literally “step for two” from the French), consisting of an entrée and adagio, a variation for each dancer, and a coda.
don’t mention: poncy men in tights.