R O M E O and J U
L I E T
b y rP a t r i c i a
rB o c c a d o r o
Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris:
Romeo and Juliet
Music: Serguei Prokofiev;
Choreography: Rudolf Nureyev; Scenery: Ezio Frigerio; Costumes Ezio
Frigerio and Mauro Pagano
PARIS, 7 August 1998- In
its own way, Paris gave as much a rapturous reception to its
expatriate ballerina, Sylvie Guillem, as to its victorious world-cup
People queued in vain at the Opéra Bastille for places to see
one of the six performances of Guillem, who returned to Paris this
summer to dance in Manon (choreography Kenneth MacMillan), Don
Quixote (choreography Rudolf Nureyev), and Romeo and
Juliet (choreography Rudolf Nureyev).
Created in 1977 for London Festival Ballet, Nureyevs Romeo
and Juliet, a large-scale highly colourful fresco set in turbulent
Verona was re-worked for the French company in 1984.
With its exciting, innovative choreography, over-sumptuous decor,
the production was " up-dated"» in 1995, and a
supporting cast of some of the finest dancers in Europe, what better
setting could there have been for Sylvie Guillem, who left her home
company nearly ten years ago .
As far as technique was concerned, Guillems performance in the
role of Juliet on July 2nd was stupendous. Clad in a white floating
gown, her hair tumbling over her shoulders, she seemed to have sprung
out of a Botticelli painting and her pas de deux with Laurent Hilaire,
whose dancing was flawless, was of great lyrical beauty.
But alas, this was no spectacular gala evening but a full-length
dramatic work and I felt that there was a chill in her heart and a
coldness in her eyes at odds with the spontaneous, passionate and
trusting nature of the thirteen year old heroine . Guillems
exceptional gifts, so well suited to contemporary works, had little to
do with Juliet. She danced more with effrontery than wonder, too
worldly to be a fragile teenager on the threshold of a gigantic
love-affair. Frankly, she was too sure of herself.
Some time before, I had had the privilege of seeing Elisabeth Maurin
and Manuel Legris interpret the same roles. Chosen by Nureyev himself
to dance Romeo in the filmed version of the ballet, the boyish Legris,
whose impeccable technique is always at the service of his art, was
both romantic and dreamy, exactly as the choreographer intended him to
Maurin, like Lynn Seymour for whom MacMillan created the role of
Juliet in his 1965 ballet, is one of the greatest dramatic ballerinas
of the end of this century. As the curtain rose, she danced with the
gentleness and radiance of a young adolescent, becoming violent with
frustrated desire and increasingly tragic as the story unfolded.
She understood that Nureyev saw the willful, impetuous Juliet as the
motivator of the tragedy, and she gave a unique interpretation which
had the most hardened member of the audience in tears.
I am hard on Sylvie Guillem because the importance of such "complete "
classical works cannot be over-emphasised. As Rudolf Nureyev told me
many years ago : " I have given many romantic
ballets shape, content, substance, and visual effect ; they
are a school in themselves for the perpetuation of classical dance in
the future ".
His quick-moving version stays close to Shakespeares play
which he read and re-read incessantly. Convinced that Elizabethan
England and Renaissance Verona were both highly sexual and violent
times, as is the world today, he chose to emphasise the social
conflict of the feuding families. He developed the characters of the
spirited Mercutio, champion of the Montagues, and Tybalt, the
dangerous, vindictive, Mafioso leader of the Capulets as well as the rôle
of Paris which he created for the young Laurent Hilaire.
The crowd scenes, the Capulet ball, and the electrifying
sword-fights are magnificent, and demonstrate one of Nureyevs
main aims as director in Paris ; to give as many opportunities to
as many dancers as he could.
During rehearsals, he would show the dancers the video of Robbins
West Side Story, the influence of which can be seen if one
Elisabeth Maurin, the ballerina dearly loved by Nureyev, belongs to
that category of dancers who touch your heart and bring tears to your
soul, whereas with Guillem one marvels at her flawless dancing as she
soars through the air. But is so much physical perfection really a
Photo: Elisabeth Maurin et Manuel Legris
Icare / Moatti
Romeo and Juliet
(choreography Rudolf Nureyev) Paris Opéra Ballet 1995.
Monique Loudiéres, Manuel Legris, and Charles Jude (in the rôle
of Tybalt).A co-production Bel Air media and La Sept-Arte. N.V.C. Arts,
directed by Alexandre Tarta.
Beautifully filmed despite
unfortunate shots from the orchestra pit, and an opportunity to see the
unforgettable Loudieres in one of her greatest roles.
and Juliet (choreography Kenneth Macillan) The Royal Ballet
Covent Garden 1965.
With Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev (Desmond
Doyle as Tybalt), conducted by John Lanchbery.
the golden years of the British company, and with the immortal, timeless
decor and costumes of Nicholas Georgiadis. Not just a collectors
item, but a must for all who love dance. Fonteyn and Nureyev have given
strong personal twists to a brilliant work, originally created for two