Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet has long been one of the greatest successes in The Royal Ballet repertoire, winning worldwide acclaim as an impassioned and thrilling view of Shakespeare's tragedy and of Prokofiev'... more »s glorious score. His sensual choreography poignantly captures the conflict between blossoming love and cankerous revenge. Romeo and Juliet calls upon the full forces of a great company of dance-actors to present the street fights of the feuding Capulets and Montagues in renaissance Verona, and also to convey the splendour of such scenes as the Capulet ball. It also requires a ballerina and a premier danseur able to express the raptures and despair that mark the young lovers' tragedy. In Alessandra Ferri and Wayne Eagling the roles are lived with tremendous intensity, whether soaring during the balcony pas de deux or caught in the last agonizing moments in the Capulet vault.« less
"This DVD was recorded relatively early in Ferri's career. Superb technique solidly grounds youth and passion. Here she is truly a dream Juliet (I haven't seen her later version from La Scala with Angel Corella.... but that's over a decade after this). She does not have to create youth: unlike Ulanova and Fonteyn she has it. It propels her dancing whether in joy or tragedy.
Wayne Eagling, the fine, elegant Canadian dancer whom I have admired elsewhere, makes a rather self-effacing, earth-bound, withdrawn Romeo, coming accross, contrary to the play, much older than Juliet (indeed Eagling is 13 years older than Ferri); surprising how Fonteyn and Ulanova through their artistry, narrowed the age-gap with their partners, but perhaps it doesn't work as well from male to female. As I watched this revival, I could not help but feel that the fine Benvolio, Mark Freeman, or the Mercutio, Stephen Jeffries, would have been better at Romeo than Eagling, who would probably have made an effective Mercutio. These three male parts at the Royal have always been cast from strength. When I first saw the piece, in Chicago way back in 1965 when the Royal first brought it over, Nureyev was the Romeo, with David Blair as Mercutio and Anthony Dowell as Benvolio (Fonteyn was the Juliet). Ironically, Ferri-Corella in the La Scala performance reverts to older-Juliet, younger-Romeo pairing.
I never saw the dancers on whom and for whom Macmillan created the Ballet: Lynn Seymour and the late Christopher Gable. By all accounts he was inspired by their chemistry. They were evenly paired. They embodied the youth, the passion of the love story, and Macmillan choreographed their roles from their strengths as dancers and their commanding histrionic powers. Much to everybody's chagrin, Covent Garden intervened and forced Nureyev and Fonteyn on Macmillan for the premiere. Seymour and Gable became the second cast and the third, Sibley and Dowell. Riches like that do not exist anymore. One could go to first cast for star-power, to the second for dramatic truth, poetry and originality, to the third for youthful love, and to all of them for magnificent dancing. Unfortunately, the CG political shenanigans that provoked such last minute changes eventually led to the departure of Macmillan, Seymour and Gable (who went on to make movies with Ken Russell). In later years I saw Sibley and Dowell, a truly romantic pair, as well as Nureyev now tenderly pairing the magnificent if not sufficiently acknowledged, Merle Park. When ABT bought the production, Makarova and Mackenzie were quite effective in it. All of this points to a rather distinguished performance history for this ballet that this DVD's overall ensemble does not live up to.
Part of the problem is that I don't think the Macmillan choreography was really outstanding in the first place and has not aged well, notwithstanding wonderful inspired sequences such as the balcony scene. There are stretches, particularly in the market-place, when one can close eyes, listen to Prokofiev's masterful score, and not miss much of anything. Productions and choreographies tend to become "classic" when ballet companies don't want to spend money on something else.
With the Royal and ABT having invested so much on this product, we never get to see the alternatives, while their marketeers try to make us believe there is not much else out there. Well, frankly, there are quite worthy ones out there: Cranko did an outstanding one, Lavrovsky and Grigorivich (sp) did very different but, in their own terms, splendid ones in the old USSR. Ashton did one for the Royal Danish Ballet (of which I have seen some highly lyrical excerpts). And, of course, Nureyev did a superb production for the Paris Opera Ballet, which, if forced to pick, would be my favourite (it is a reworking of a version he first staged for the London Festival Ballet). The Paris R&J is a DVD worth getting. The choreography fits the tumultous, passionately poetic nature of the play. Characters such as Paris become flesh and blood, as opposed to the store-mannequin Macmillan gives us. There is much more dancing, interesting dancing, than in Macmillan, with greater technical demands on all protagonists and corps. All the virtuosity is for one purpose only: to serve the needs of the drama. It has been said by others that the Nureyev version is the most Shakesperean of all. As true as that may be, it is also the most balletic: the dances are many, are beautiful, and exhilarate. I am told by experienced sources who have danced Macmillan and Cranko as well as Nureyev that Nureyev's is the hardest: it makes the most technical and emotional demands of any version around. The production, on DVD from the Palais Garnier, is sumptuous, as all those Paris Opera Ballet productions tend to be (get their versions of "Paquita", "La Bayadere", and "Don Quixote"). Sets and costumes of the Paris Romeo make all other productions look dowdy.
So where does that leave us? The Ferri/Eagling version is worthy for the joy of "early Ferri" but be weary that other than Stephen Jeffries and Mark Freeman, she is dancing in a vaccuum. Even the corps is dull. The Ulanova film of the Lavrovsky choreography (a film, not a stage performance) is definitely worth getting not only for her artistry and the radically different, emotive approach, but also for proximity to the source, after all she was the first Juliet (in 1940, when she was 30; the film was made I guess about a decade later). I know of no films of Cranko, or Ashton (the Cranko was done often enough by the Stuttgart in New York, but that was years ago). I think no version captures more accurately and thrillingly the ardour and tragedy of Romeo and Juliet than Nureyev's at the Paris Opera. Manuel Legris is a Romeo for the ages. And so is the Juliet of Monique Loudiers.
In any event, thank you Prokofiev."
First among equals
ggagnon | Longmeadow, MA | 05/13/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When Wayne Eagling first took over the role of Romeo, a perfect collaboration of choreographer and dancer occurred. First known for his soaring "Bluebird", with Macmillan a dancer/actor was born. And as with Ferri some 10-15 years later, Macmillan had found a muse, or at least one of THE best interpreters of his choreography to come along since Lynn Seymour (sp?). So for dramatic interpretation this pairing of a young Ferri and more experienced Eagling is first class. Technically, Eagling won't match the brilliance of Angel Corella in the newer La Scala pairing with Ferri, but in some ways Eagling's maturity and intensity greatly compensates for any lack of perfection in placement or ballon. And the details are in the care and perfection of his partnering. Watch closely, and you will see how he calms, supports, and enhances Ferri's performance whether it's simply sqeezing her hand, or steadying her placement. That's a working partnership, and for the young dancer she was, it's breathtaking to watch the give and take both dramatically and technically. So even though the Fonteyn / Nureyev partnership in this ballet (and soon after Dowell/Sibling) is more celebrated, I still think Ferri/Eagling is the one that counts. Fonteyn and Nureyev, though skilled as always, are/were a little too old to play the teenage lovers, and of course Dowell/Sibling were never recorded on tape (except of a brief glimpse of Sibling in "Turning Point") for us masses. So, hopefully this DVD will enable us to watch a beautiful performance in glorious color, with enhanced sound, and the ability to see the details through the excellent camera direction preserved in the original broadcast. Thanks for finally releasing it on DVD. "
Romeo and Juliet Ferri/Eagling
Mrs. E. F. Massingham | England | 08/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The 1984 Royal Ballet recording is in my opinion the best of the recordings that are available. In the earlier recording with Fonteyn/Nureyev, Nureyev reminds me of an exotic flower, a Narcissus rather than Romeo who is in love with Juliet. The Ferri/Corelli version is embarrassing - Corelli grinning inanely causing Ferri to overdo the joy and understate the diffidence and vulnerability she showed in the earlier version, while the rest of the cast in the La Scala recording are simply not worth watching.
While Wayne Eagling was not always technically perfect his agility and his lifts were wonderful, and above all his acting ability made me really believe that he was in love with a quiet intensity that I have never seen in any other production - recorded or live. In contrast,his fury when Mercutio dies is explosive.
Ferri showed every emotion that would be felt by the young girl - shyness, naivety, ecstasy and finally despair.
There is a fine supporting cast in Stephen Jefferies as Mercutio, Mark Freeman as Benvolio, David Drew as Tybalt, Gerd Larsen as Nurse, Julian Hosking as Paris and Derek Rencher and Sandra Conley as Lord and Lady Capulet.
The filming of the ballet is excellent, using different angles and the effective use of close ups.
I highly recommend this recording of Romeo and Juliet."
The best Romeo & Juliet I've seen
Delaval | Ohio, USA | 02/02/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"While I've never seen the Ferri/Corella version, I have seen the Fonteyn/Nureyev one and I still find this version to be superior. Nureyev's favorite onstage lover was always...Nureyev. Which is tolerable for something like Don Quixote where Basilo is a flirty mischievous guy in love with a flirty mischevious girl anyway. But I personally don't want to see that in Romeo and Juliet.
Wayne Eagling on the other hand makes for a wonderful, if slightly unorthodox, Romeo. He plays the character as an older, wiser, street-smart guy who spends his days pranking with friends and hanging out with harlots...and still falls head over heels in love with a young naif anyway. It actually adds to the story, I think. Though his technique has nowhere near the level of prowess that Nureyev's had (precious few dancers can claim to have that), his acting and chemistry more than make up for it. His onstage relationship with Ferri is potent and loving, and you genuinely feel for their fate. This is Ferri's best performance of Juliet; from young and lively and girlish to loving and womanly to grief stricken, she manages to capture every ounce of the character in her acting and in the simple way she carries herself through the movements. One part of this performance that I don't feel gets enough credit is the partnering between Juliet and Paris. I confess I don't know the dancer's name who played Paris, but he did an admirable job; he shows just how perplexing Juliet's behavior was towards him. And Ferri's emotional range as expressed through the movement with him is brilliant.
Another part that I enjoyed was the crypt sequence (or as I and my Romeo called it: the dead doll pas de deux). I've danced this ballet before, and put simply: dancing this pas de deux sucks. No matter how gentle Romeo tries to be, Juliet still feels like a sack of coffee beans being chucked around on a truck to Starbucks. And when you add in the dangling upside down for a couple minutes before the final curtain fall, where you wonder if you'll have a brain embolism of some sort, it's downright painful. But you'd never guess any of that from Eagling and Ferri's performance, and that's the true beauty of it.
Sure, it looks dated, and the sound and video quality aren't what you'll find in say, a 2005 performance. But if you decide not to see this for those reasons alone, you'll be missing a brilliant and beautiful performance."
Vita A. Mcsherry | Ca.USA | 10/04/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Our small ballet company recently danced excerpts from Romeo and Juliet. I also recently saw it at the San Francisco Ballet a few years ago. I thought it was lovely. I decided to add it to my collection of works that I enjoy watching over and over again. But this DVD was wonderful. I loved Ferri and Eagling. They really seemed to BE Romeo and Juliet. They gave me goosebumps!!!!!"