Sunday, May 02, 2010

Romeo & Juliet Ballet

San Francisco Ballet
Program 8 Opening Night
Saturday, May 01, 2010, 8pm
Romeo & Juliet
Music: Sergei Prokofiev
Choreographer: Helgi Tomasson
Conductor: Martin West

Romeo: Pierre-François Vilanoba
Juliet: Sarah Van Patten
Mercutio: Pascal Molat
Benvolio: Hansuke Yamamoto
Tybalt: Damian Smith

I love the score for Prokofiev's Romeo & Juliet, but I had never seen the actual ballet before, so it was a treat for me be at the opening of the San Francisco Ballet's version. The production looks rich, with Renaissance-inspired costumes & settings in gold, orange & red. The set has lots of moving parts, making for efficient scene transitions. I really liked the well-proportioned & shapely conducting of Martin West, as well as the playing of the pit orchestra. One of the trumpets was having a bad night, though, especially during the second act.

I had no problem following the story, though I often did not know where to watch during the many crowd scenes. The opening of Act II had lots of leaps & turns for the company's athletic male dancers. Another street scene featured a fight between 2 women. There was a protracted death scene for Mercutio, who seemed groggy more than hurt. I found Tybalt's shorter death to be more violent & agonizing.

Sarah Van Patten gave Juliet many moods, from girlishness to crazed despair. In Act III, I was struck by a moment when Juliet seems disembodied when forced to dance with Paris. His slow-motion lifts made her look weightless. In the final scene, Romeo handled Juliet's supposedly lifeless body in a very desperate fashion, kissing it & trying to make its arms embrace him. There was no reconciliation of the families at the end, only a very sad ending with 3 dead bodies on stage.

The house was full, & there was a sense of anticipation from the people seated around me in the side orchestra. Amazingly, the Opera Tattler made a cameo appearance in upstairs standing room for the first act, despite having left Houston quite early that morning in order to attend an Orpheus Luncheon at noon.


David Lasson said...

Is this the 20th-century's greatest score? It certainly ranks very high: that Prokofiev was able to compose a ballet that can bear comparisons with those of Tchaikovsky is a great achievement.
Many years ago, also in the War Memorial, I saw a production mounted by ABT, the highlight of which was also Tybalt's death. That staging concentrated on the agony of Tybalt's mother, whose grief, anguish, and fury matched the intensity of Prokofiev's music. Last season here in NY, Gergiev used this music as his final encore for his series of Prokofiev programs.

Axel Feldheim said...

I certainly think it is one of the great scores of the 20th century. Not being a ballet person, I'm afraid that I was more affected by the music than the dancing. In Helgi Tomasson's choreography, Lady Capulet has a histrionic reaction to the death of Tybalt & lashes out at Romeo.