Romeo and Juliet, with McRae and Obraztsova, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, October 2013Posted on 23 October 2013
For dancing and characterisation of the roles this second performance in the current run was close to perfection. Steven McRae and Evgenia Obraztsova, guest principal from the Bolshoi Ballet, took us to an ethereal world beyond technique. When we first encounter her with her nurse she charmed us with her airy grace, and her sweetness at the party scene, all lightness and joy as he lifts her. His Romeo was sensitive yet full of youthful ardour, and such naiveté in both of them one rarely sees, suggesting already in Act I that their love is not of this world and cannot last.
Gary Avis as her father showed gentle indulgence at the start, with an effortless grace at the party scene, and easy command in restraining his nephew Tybalt. In the Act III bedroom scene when Juliet will not respond to Paris there is a mixture of concern and exasperation, which Avis plays to perfection, without the brutal insensitivity of some other Capulets.
Other dancers gave fine portrayals, including Genesia Rosato as a restrained yet suddenly emotional Lady Capulet, Fumi Kaneko charming in the small role of Rosaline, Akane Takada notable for her grace and musicality as one of Juliet’s friends, and Deidre Chapman, Camille Bracher and Olivia Cowley all excellently provocative as the three whores. Among the men, Thomas Whitehead was suitably aggressive but not over the top as Tybalt, Alexander Campbell showed fine precision and robustness as Mercutio, and Johannes Stepanek a charming ineffectuality as Paris.
The vivacity of the crowd scenes in Kenneth MacMillan’s production offsets the ethereal nature of the lovers, and it was McRae and Obraztsova who turned a fine company performance into something sublime. Her frustration in dealing with Paris and her family in the Act III bedroom scene came over with utter naturalness, and her pas-de-deux with McRae showed that they were made for each other.
For me the only fly in the ointment was a lack of subtlety in Barry Wordsworth’s conducting, particularly during the loud moments in Act I when Prokofiev’s music lost all nuance.
If you can find tickets for a later performance with McRae and Obraztsova, grab them at any price, though performances with all casts in the present run, up to December 7, are now sold out — for details click here.