By Peggy Taylor
On Monday evening, as I joined New Yorkers aged 19 to 90 and walked up the stairs of Lincoln Center, past the rushing waters of the Plaza Fountain, I heard a young woman in a mini dress and sneakers say that she “was looking forward to seeing Romeo and Juliet.”
I too was looking forward to seeing it. After all, it is one of Shakespeare’s best-known plays. the choreography is by the famous Sir Kenneth MacMillan, and the music by Sergei Prokofiev, who charmed me during my childhood with Pierre and the Wolf and whose pungent dissonances juxtaposed with hummable melodies still fascinate me.
Approaching the Metropolitan Opera House, I gazed in awe at its soaring arches framed by the vibrant murals (“The Joy of Music” and “The Sources of Music”) by painter Marc Chagall. In the lobby, I saw the dazzling star-shaped chandeliers hanging four stories high and illuminating the cantilevered white staircase.
Viennese-made chandeliers followed me into the 3,800-seat burgundy-and-gold auditorium, and when the ballet was about to begin and the lights went out, twelve of them slowly rose to en join nine others in petal-shaped gold. ceiling.
Just as the chandeliers twinkled, the dancers twinkled on stage. Only superlatives can describe South Korean Hee Seo’s Juliet, who brilliantly captured the fourteen-year-old girl in all her femininity, femininity, joy, defiance, angst and pain. Her duets (pas de deux) with Romeo and her unwanted suitor, Paris, were breathtaking, as she embodied Juliet with her elongated fingertips and danced with extraordinary lyricism, musicality and grace.
Romeo, the Brazilian Daniel Camargo, was equally convincing and led us on his determined quest to reunite with his beloved. Seo and Camargo aren’t just ballet dancers, they’re dramatic ballet dancers and tell their stories not just with their steps, but with their whole bodies and hearts.
Mercutio (American Gabe Stone Shayer) was excellent as the hot-headed friend of Romeo whose murder by Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt, escalates the story into a tragedy. He was brimming with boyish bravado and technical virtuosity as he staggered to death across the stage. The other roles, Benvolio, the Prince, the Nurse, Lord and Lady Capulet, Lord and Lady Montague, were perfectly filled.
Only praise here for the ensemble numbers (folk dances and the gavotte) which were executed to perfection, especially the sword fights and bare-knuckle street brawls which kept me on the edge of my seat. (One misstep and those swords and daggers could have flown into the orchestra pit, as happened once with another ballet company.)
The Capulet ballroom was beautifully evoked with a majestic staircase flanked by vaulted alcoves and candelabra. And the orchestra shone at every turn as conductor David LaMarche unveiled all the kaleidoscopic colors of Prokofiev’s brilliant orchestration.
If you are a first-time ballet lover, Romeo and Juliet is the ballet for you. When the curtain fell, the audience and the orchestra rose to their feet and gave the dancers a long, well-deserved standing ovation.
Welcome back, American Ballet Theatre, after your long absence of three years. We missed you!
Romeo and Juliet until Saturday July 16, every evening at 7.30 p.m. except Saturday at 8 p.m. Matinee performances take place on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2:00 p.m.