Romeo and Juliet, with McRae and Lamb, Royal Ballet, ROH, Covent Garden, September 2015Posted on 20 September 2015
Things are looking up at the Royal Ballet with new music director Koen Kessels. From the first bars it was clear that a new hand was at work, and his conducting on the opening night of the Company’s new season put recent musical performances deservedly into the shadows.
At the end of the first Act the playing of Prokofiev’s music well reflected the wildness and thrill of the young lovers, and the two deaths in Act II brought out a subtlety and emotional pull that is too easily lost in many performances. The brass was superb, particularly the tuba playing for the entrance of the Prince of Verona in Act I, and Juliet’s emotional turmoil in early Act III.
As Juliet herself, Sarah Lamb reached ethereal perfection, partnered by the wonderfully talented Steven McRae. Her pretty naiveté in the Act I pas-de-deux with Paris before she encounters Romeo, her attraction, love and anguish after meeting him, and her silent screams at the end of Act III, eloquently expressed by the orchestra, produced moments of drama complementing her wonderful lightness of being.
Terrific supporting roles by Alexander Campbell and Tristan Dyer as Mercutio and Benvolio, Ryoichi Hirano as Paris, Genesia Rosato as Juliet’s nurse, the stylishly dramatic Elizabeth McGorian as her mother, and Christopher Saunders as a loving but strict father. But none better than the remarkable Tybalt of Gary Avis. His initial arrogance in Act I, his charm in welcoming the party guests and the superb elegance of his dancing at the Capulet ball mark out a young man of substance who is proud of his own worth, setting him up beautifully for the horror of uninvited guests and the worse horror of a man who looks set to seduce his sister. His actions thereafter become entirely believable, particularly when fuelled by a bottle of wine in Act II.
Wonderful attention to detail and fine performances all round, after a slightly shaky start that vanished as soon as the three harlots started dancing, though I have mixed feelings about the lighting changes.
If the 2015/16 Season continues like this, with such marvellously sympathetic and emotional conducting from Koen Kessels, we shall be fortunate indeed.
Performances with various casts continue until December 2, with a live cinema relay featuring this cast on September 22 — for details click here.