Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Prokofiev
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Romeo and Juliet
PERFORMER: Tamara Rojo, Carlos Acosta, José Martín Thiago Soares, Sandra Conley, Christopher Saunders, Elizabeth McGorian, David Pickering, Yohei Sasaki; Royal Ballet Sinfonia/Boris Gruzin; chor. Kenneth MacMillan (London, 2007)
CATALOGUE NO: 074 3337 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format)

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Is there anyone out there who doesn’t love Kenneth MacMillan’s immortal choreography of Romeo and Juliet, or the near-complete Prokofiev score it so closely mirrors? There are now at least four DVDs of what is arguably the world’s most popular ballet staging; but why look beyond Fonteyn and Nureyev?

Partly because each new Romeo and Juliet will have different things to offer – I begin to understand those balletomanes who go to see each fresh partnership – and also because the Royal Ballet’s 2007 presentation surely represents a high watermark of detailed, engaging work from both the company and the orchestra, inflecting the score so lovingly under Boris Gruzin that this would be a top recommendation just on CD.

As for the star-crossed lovers, I’d be hard pressed to choose between the inspirational Carlos Acosta and the facially so expressive Tamara Rojo for the Royal Ballet, and the Angel Corella/Alessandra Ferri partnership at La Scala. Like Fonteyn, Ferri was no teenager when this film was made in 2000 – she also appears in a 1984 London-based DVD – but she conveys girlishness maturing into agonising tragedy with total commitment.

Spaniard Corella is young Romeo to the life, all boyish broad smiles in the first two Acts, all torment in a vault (here still bedroom) denouement where his extraordinary tossing around of Ferri’s inert body isn’t even surpassed by the Covent Garden duo.

Where the latest Royal Ballet version, with its more abstract designs by Georgiadis, less obviously handsome than the Scala ones by Ezio Frigerio, excels is in Act II. It’s galvanisingly conducted by Gruzin – much better than the half-cock, unattractively recorded Scala orchestra under David Garforth – and all flaming testosterone thanks not only to Acosta and his Mercutio, José Martín, but also to the brutal Tybalt of Thiago Soares.Like all the character dancers here, he fills the role with life and energy.

The final duel practically flies off the stage, the corps’ reaction seems genuine and Elizabeth MacGorian’s Lady Capulet makes the mother’s-grieving curtain truly hair-raising for once. Brilliant camera close-ups reveal no weak links. The Italian company is good and natural, but at the Royal Ballet a classic is raised to an unsurpassable level. David Nice

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