Romeo and Juliet, Maryinsky Ballet, Royal Opera House, August 2009Posted on 4 August 2009
If you love pantomime, you might like this, but to those of us brought up on Kenneth Macmillan’s wonderfully natural interpretation, this old Soviet version lacks dramatic coherence. Acts I and II are a mess, and even in Act III two dancers came into Juliet’s bedroom, after her apparent death, to do a pas-de-deux. Why? The final scene parts company with Shakespeare because Paris does not go to the tomb and get killed in a fight with Romeo, and the solitary nature of Macmillan’s ending is spoiled by the appearance of far too many people arriving on stage. And thinking of Shakespeare, where was the balcony scene? The love duet was just danced on a blank stage with no indication of how they got there. I suppose the Maryinsky is wedded to this old Kirov version, but if they can get rid of the Soviet name for their company — Kirov was a Bolshevik revolutionary — then maybe they can get rid of this ineffective staging. Rather than being a drama, it’s more a masque for dancing, with lots of bright costumes.
As to the dancing itself, the two principals, Alina Somova as Juliet and Vladimir Shklyarov as Romeo gave wonderful interpretations. She was delightful as a playful young girl caught up in events beyond her control, and he was a serious young man, dancing with great agility and panache, albeit not always on the music. I thought Alexander Sergeyev did very well as Mercutio, but found Ilya Kuznetsov quite irritating with his permanent silly smile as Tybalt, adding to the pantomime aspect, but detracting from the drama.
The music was excellently conducted by Covent Garden’s Boris Gruzin with the Maryinsky Theatre Orchestra, but that is not enough to compensate for staging that belongs in the dustbin of Soviet relics.