Romeo and Juliet, with Cuthbertson and Bonelli, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, March 2012Posted on 23 March 2012
This was the evening of a live cinema relay, though I was seated in the Royal Opera House itself.
Kenneth MacMillan’s version of Romeo and Juliet with its wonderful choreography is what the Royal Ballet performs, and this jewel has been taken up by some other ballet companies such as American Ballet Theatre. There is no comparison with the Mariinsky’s old Soviet version, and I prefer it to the one by Nureyev for the English National Ballet. The designs by Nicholas Giorgiadis evoke just the right atmosphere, and the whole thing is perennially fresh.
In this performance, Lauren Cuthbertson danced a beautiful Juliet, interacting superbly with the Romeo of Federico Bonelli. Their chemistry was excellent and their pas-de-deux work glorious. Of course the eponymous characters are vital, but this was a brilliant team effort. Romeo’s friends Mercutio and Benvolio were exceptionally well portrayed by Alexander Campbell and Dawid Trzensimiech, Campbell performing some superb coupé jetés. The three friends were all very much in tune with one another, and the three harlots were excellent, red-headed Itziar Mendizabal in particular.
On the Capulet side, Bennett Gartside made a very effective Tybalt, never quite losing it, but determined and furious until it’s his turn to die. In the second sword fight, with Romeo after he has killed Mercutio, he cleverly showed himself to be exhausted, and at this point it’s all over for him. Christina Arestis then portrayed a desperately emotive Lady Capulet, and Act II ends. In Act III, Cristopher Saunders came through as a brutally determined Capulet, and Valeri Hristov made a suitably wimpish Paris, rather too eager to win his Juliet.
In smaller roles, Kristen McNally made a charmingly fussy nurse, interacting very well with the three young men when she delivers Juliet’s letter, and after the big fight between Montagues and Capulets, Gary Avis showed fine stage presence as the Prince of Verona, condemning both sides and ordering them to keep the peace.
Prokofiev’s wonderful music drives everything, and the orchestra warmed up after a very shaky start under the baton of Barry Wordsworth. By the end of Act I they were playing much better, producing some real musical tension to impel the drama forward from scene to scene until finally Paris, Romeo and Juliet all lie dead in the tomb.
Performances at the Royal Opera House with various casts continue until March 31 — for details click here.