ROMÉO ET JULIETTE OP. 64 (1935-36, rev.1940)
Ballet in 3 acts and epilogue by Serge Prokofiev, Sergeï Radlov, Adrian Piotrovsky and Leonid Lavrovski
© Première Music Group – Le Chant du Monde Catalogue
Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,
Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.
Romeo and Juliet’s Prologue, 1597
Original choreography by John Cranko
In Verona, the Montagues and Capulets have an ancient hatred for each other. Romeo Montaigue is in love with Rosaline. Capulet is preparing to hold a ball to allow Juliet, his daughter, to meet Paris who has asked for her hand in marriage. Believing that Rosaline will be there, Romeo goes to the ball, but it is Juliet who he falls in love with at first sight… and the feeling is mutual!
Prokofiev had long been fascinated by the tragic story of Romeo and Juliet. Consequently, when in 1934, the famous Kirov Theatre in Leningrad commissioned a ballet drawn from the works of Shakespeare, who was much appreciated in the USSR, he proposed his favourite theme which was immediately rejected. However, the Bolshoi Theatre was interested. The composer signed a contract and, in barely more than two months, he wrote most of the music in the bucolic setting of the Bolshoi members’ summer residence where his family joined him. Together with the directors, Prokofiev imagined a happy ending to achieve a brilliant finale for the dancers, but such a conclusion did not fit the plot at all.
Once the ballet was completed, the dancers and choreographer refused to dance it, finding it rhythmically impossible. The Bolshoi Theatre immediately tore up the contract. Prokofiev, though disappointed, did not however disavow his music. To bring it to life, he produced orchestral suites for symphony concerts and ten pieces for solo piano.Finally, it was far from the cities of Russia, in Brno, that the ballet was first performed in 1938. It was not until 1940 that the Kirov Theatre welcomed it and not before 1946 that the Bolshoi Theatre witnessed its first performance there, with great pomp and circumstance, meeting with enormous success this time, which has not faltered ever since.
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