Monday, January 14, 2008

New York City Ballet – Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, January 13. 2008.

New York State Theater at Lincoln Center – Orchestra, Seat Q103 ($86).

Conductor – Faycal Karoui; Juliet – Erica Pereira, Romeo – Allen Peiffer, Mercutio – Adam Hendrickson, Benvolio – Antonio Carmena, Tybalt – Giovanni Villalobos, Nurse – Gwyneth Muller, Lady Capulet – Darci Kistler, Lord Capulet – Jock Soto, Paris – Christian Tworzyanski.

Story: The Montagues and Capulets are involved in a feud with people on both sides killed in fights. Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet, however, fall in love and are secretly married. After Romeo is exiled for killing Tybalt, Juliet's parents try to force her to marry Paris. Juliet drinks a sleeping potion given to her by her priest which makes her appear to be dead. Romeo, not having gotten the priest's message, thinks Juliet is dead and visits her tomb. He finds Paris there, kills him, and drinks a vial of (real) poison and dies. Juliet awakes and stabs herself, dying by Romeo's side.

Ballet is an art form I still yet to have to learn to enjoy. Prior to this, I had seen a couple of performances of The Nutcracker at Christmas time. At Anne's “urging”, we went to this “can't miss” one. Prokofiev's R&J is considered the heir apparent to Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty. I am familiar with only a couple of the numbers, vaguely at that. The conductor did his job with great energy.

The performance was quite enjoyable. A couple of the scenes were actually moving. I don't know if it was the dancers, the music, or the fact that the story was well known, so one could guess what is happening even without a “blow-by-blow” account of the choreography – and the program notes did a good job of that. The staging was a bit disappointing, although there was clever use of curtains and moving parts.

The dancers all seem quite young. Anne heard while waiting in line for the ladies' room that this is the “trademark” of the chief choreographer (Martins). I couldn't even find Erica Periera (Juliet) listed under the principal dancers section. There is no reference to the conductor anywhere I could find either (which brings to my mind the question: how much is the conductor of a ballet involved with the actual stage acting and choreography?). Periera is quite young looking; and her small size probably made Romeo's job easier, although you could still see quite a bit of sweat on his forehead. There wasn't any of this precision group movement associated with group ballet, and I don't know enough to appreciate the techniques or levels of difficulties involved.

While some of the dances were elegant, I can't help but wonder if the performance would be equally gripping if the dancers actually just mimed the play. This is more a remark about my lack of appreciation of ballet as an art form than the art form itself. The nurse actually had real shoes with heels on. Her character is quite comical and enjoyable. The young mandolin dancers provided additional comic relief, and I am sure one of them tripped (but recovered). They didn't share in the curtain call, though.

The ballet is quite long at a bit over 2 hours, with a rather short 15 or so minute intermission. I had thought, what with all the running around, that the dancers would have needed more rest. It was also amazing how soft the dancers landings sounded. These must be great athletes.

Our seats were quite close to the stage and had a good view of it, but we couldn't see much of the orchestra in the pit. Also, if a tall person sits in front of you (as in this case), then you get only a partial view that can be remedied sometimes with moving your head from side to side.

I am not sure I will start scouring the calendars to see what other ballets are on, but won't mind seeing another one if it is interesting enough.

Lately we have quite a bit of Prokofiev (War & Peace and this ballet) and Shakespeare (Macbeth and this ballet). More happenstance than planning, we enjoyed them, though.

The New York Times review of the ballet is quite brutal. It also laments the frequent change of dancers for this season's performances.

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