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Rojo/Acosta 10th January

 

Oh, how good it is to see Romeo & Juliet again! I will never, ever get tired of this.

 

I was in the amphitheatre last night, and have never seen R&J from there before (have always managed SCS in the past). On the whole, I still think it's better to be closer and be able to see facial expressions, but it was lovely to be able to see the whole stage at all times and there were certain parts that I thought benefitted from viewing from above - the Capulets' ball, for example, seemed more powerful (and more brightly lit?). It's a testament to Tamara Rojo and Carlos Acosta's acting skills that none of the emotion was lost - there is so much expression in the way they perform MacMillan's wonderful choreography that I was just as caught up in the characters as I always am when watching from closer to the stage. I didn't think I would cry watching from so far away, but that fists-on-the-knees "No! It's not fair!" moment when Juliet realises Romeo's dead gets me every time. The other thing enhanced by being further away and seeing the whole stage was how small and alone Juliet seemed at the very end. Part of what I find so sad about this story, especially in this version, is that Juliet dies completely alone. And that had never seemed so desperately sad to me as it did last night.

 

Wonderful, wonderful performance. Bring on McRae/Marquez in March!

 

Jane

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Romeo and Juliet, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, Tues 10 January 2012

 

Kenneth MacMillian’s sprawling blockbuster of a ballet has never been long out of the repertory here at Covent Garden since its creation in 1965. Its continued popularity at the box office has ensured that. Sometimes in recent years it has seemed that the Royal’s willingness to profit from this popularity has meant that that repeated exposure has dented the freshness and vibrancy required on stage. But there are no complaints on that particular score in terms of this opening performance of the current run. This is due to the committed and compelling performances of Carlos Acosta as Romeo and Tamara Rojo as his Juliet.

 

These young lovers are portrayed by mature performers. There may not be many Romeos left for Acosta, who is 40 next year, and now looking to develop a dance career in more contemporary pieces. His turns may not be so fast or his jumps quite as high as they once were at their dizzying best: but what a charismatic performer he remains, an entirely believable larky lad about town in Verona, and what a strong and sympathetic partner to Rojo.

 

We have been lucky to have Acosta here at the Royal since 1998. He will leave us with many happy memories. Some of my own particular favourites include his Siegfried with Rojo as Odette, and an outrageously virtuosic and fun Diana and Actaeon pas de deux with Nunez at Sadler’s Wells. Here as Romeo he looks as dazed by love after encountering Juliet at the ball as if he had been hit over the head with a brick. His teasing interactions with a lively José Martin as Mercutio do look make the pair look like familiar old mates.

 

Rojo gave a remarkable performance of compelling clarity of exposition, where each step and movement told the audience of the character’s inner life. She charts the progress of the adolescent girl to the woman clearly: from the first the first childish fumbles with the doll in Act 1 she progresses to a grown woman with no choices left in Act 3. In the scene in act 3 where she finally accepts Paris as a husband each changing thought registers. The very act of stepping shakily forward on pointe to grasp his hand becomes a statement of acceptance of fate. She passes through a last flash of adolescent stroppiness and hysteria and then comes to the cold assessment of adulthood as she accepts the future.

 

Rojo and Acosta together are a remarkable team, each feeding the other. The thought of any technical difficulties doesn’t occur while watching them. What we see in the balcony pas de deux is what we all want to feel when in the first heady flush of love: how you run to your lover and he flings you in the air, spins you round and round, and holds you aloft because love makes you feel as if you can fly. At the very end the dying Juliet struggles to reach Romeo across the tomb: on this occasion, Rojo permitted herself to reach his hand for one last time.

 

Among the rest of the cast, I’d like to mention Christopher Saunders as Juliet’s father, who he makes a much more rounded and nuanced character than we often see. At the ball he is an urbane and charming host, and he has evidently taken the Prince’s warning to mind when trying to keep Gary Avis’s twitchily aggressive Tylbalt in check. Juliet is obviously a Daddy’s girl: but Daddy’s indulgence very clearly has its limits.

Gary Avis very clearly is still smarting from the humiliations of the ball scene when he emerges for a fight at the close of Act 2: you can feel the stoked up heat of his smouldering resentment. He isn’t just the straightforward bully that he can sometimes be portrayed as: he’s just been pushed too far.

 

The side stalls circle seats have been removed for this production and the effect here (at least from a seat in the stalls circle) is to make the surges of sound from the pit louder, more dramatic and enveloping, heightening the contrasts in the score.

 

The corps do their dancing , bickering and fighting in the marketplace with a will, though in this production there still seems at times to be far too much of this in Act 2 and not enough Juliet. The production stands or falls by the strength of the central performances, and on this occasion we were fortunate indeed.

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Dave Morgan Pictures - Sarah Lamb and Federico Bonelli cast

 

 

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Romeo shows off to Juliet (Federico Bonelli, Sarah Lamb)

© Dave Morgan

 

 

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An unlikely prayer meeting (Romany Pajdak, Sian Murphy, Claire Calvert)

© Dave Morgan

 

 

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Juliet mourns her dead Romeo (Srah Lamb, Federico Bonelli).

© Dave Morgan

 

Dave Morgan: Royal Ballet Romeo and Juliet – 30 pictures

 

Your thoughts on the show please...

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Thanks for the lovely review, Lynette. I don't know why I have a sort of feeling - and I really hope I'm wrong - that this may be the last chance to see the Rojo-Acosta R&J at Covent Garden. And thanks for the photographs, Dave. I've got so used to considering Federico Bonelli as Prince par excellence that it's a bit difficult to see him as a careless young lad!

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I don't know why I have a sort of feeling - and I really hope I'm wrong - that this may be the last chance to see the Rojo-Acosta R&J at Covent Garden.

I was rather assuming it would be. I just hope, on the basis of Tuesday's performance, that it's not the last time we see Rojo's Juliet.

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Brief thoughts on Bonelli/Lamb last night (I left at the 2nd interval). Bonelli: handsome, elegant, lovely line, liked his boyishly acted Romeo and his partnering was strong but his solo dancing was not the best, it looks like he is still coming back from injury. Lamb was exquisite although I didn't feel any magic between them, but this may have been me not them. Alexander Campbell was an excellent Mercutio. I thought he had a strong start when he joined the RB last Autumn: he was very good in Jewels but then I was really disappointed with his Bluebird. However, his last 2 performances (Hans-Peter/Nutcracker & Mercutio) have been very impressive indeed. Last night he showed clean, crisp dancing, great footwork and excellent characterisation - nicely young and larky but not too showy - AND he was spot on the music, what a pleasure. A breath of fresh air to see a new face in an old role. On the other hand I thought Jonathan Watkins was miscast as Benvolio - painful and equally painful was Kenta Kura as lead Mandolin. National treasure Gary Avis was his usual excellent self asTybalt. What was going on in the pit I don't know but there was some atrocious squawking from the brass section.

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Sadly I am not able to get to ROH to see any of the current run of R&J. It is something of which I never tire and I am looking forward to the cinema screening on 22 March. These reviews however prompted me to dig out a DVD of the Christmas Day showing in 2007 with Rojo and Acosta. I have watched it in detail over the last few evenings and I think it is a performance against which to measure all others. They were possibly at the height of their powers then and, as Lynette has already remarked, the possibility of technical difficulties does not seem to exist, so there is time and energy to concentrate on the characterisation. What a partnership and what chemistry between them. It is both joyous and heartbreaking. There were some other lovely performances too and Johnny Cope made such a wonderful introduction.

 

How sad to think that we are now probably seeing Acostas last performances in this role at least. He has great charisma and personality which I think will be sadly missed when he eventually takes his last bow at ROH. Are we now witnessing the end of an era at the Royal Ballet? . Monica Mason apart

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I saw Marianella and Thiago last Friday and it was truly magical. The depth of their performance has grown so much and they both looked wiped out at the end Special mention for Thomas Whitehead as Tybalt, who was superb. Gary Avis and Thiago are a hard act to follow in this role, but he really brought life and immense character to the part. Very show stopping and that's without Gary Avis as Juliet's father. So, a wonderful evening all round.

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How sad to think that we are now probably seeing Acostas last performances in this role at least. He has great charisma and personality which I think will be sadly missed when he eventually takes his last bow at ROH. Are we now witnessing the end of an era at the Royal Ballet? . Monica Mason apart

 

May be the end of one era, but surely another era will begin. Of Sergei Polunin for example. I'm sure someone will now be given the opportunity to step up to the challenge, which is possibly quite exciting. Of course it will be sad when Carlos finally does call it day, but life goes on. I felt the same when Miyako Yoshida left the Royal, but other dancers have now become favourites whilst never quite replacing her in my affections.

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Saw the Rojo/Acosta R&J last night. One's never sure if it's the last performance of a pairing or not but if it is they went out blazingly well.

 

I've actually got very tired of the MacMillan R&J, indeed I feel it would be nice if it could be rested from the RB rep for 10 or 15 years and a new R&J put in to bat. We would all come back to the MacMillan version far fresher, I'm sure. But last night was a cracking cast and the company as a whole have their eye well into it and painting the drama at every level. And for the first time in a few years I really looked at what MacMillan did with less jaundiced eyes and revelled in the clever way the scenes roll into each other and the harmonious way dancers are arranged on stage all the time. We love the pdd, rightfully so but last night I saw again the work I've lost. I still think it is too long but I'm buggered if I can see where I'd make substantive cuts! It was a good night indeed for the company - and for me.

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I should have added this link to my last post:

 

 

It is, of course, something of a brief mash of clips from across the ballet, but there is enough to indicate that it is substantially different in style and approach from the Cranko/MacMillan/Nureyev conceptions. I've looked at it a number of times to keep alive my memory of what a powerful night's theatre it was to witness, and seeing Paula (Julia/Juliet) with that glass shard at the end still makes me wince.

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Saw the Rojo/Acosta R&J last night. One's never sure if it's the last performance of a pairing or not but if it is they went out blazingly well.

 

It was a splendid performance, and one that I feel very privileged to have seen. To me Rojo is the quintessential Juliet, her performance on the DVD is so convincing that you think it simply couldn't be better - and then you see her live and it is.

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I've actually got very tired of the MacMillan R&J, indeed I feel it would be nice if it could be rested from the RB rep for 10 or 15 years and a new R&J put in to bat. We would all come back to the MacMillan version far fresher, I'm sure.

 

A provocative comment rather than a serious one, I hope. Such a gap would mean that my granddaughters would have to wait until well in their 20's to see the Royal do it, and there'd be a generation of dancers who'd not have the chance to put their own stamp on it.

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A provocative comment rather than a serious one, I hope.

 

I'm afraid it was a serious comment. National Ballet of Canada have just parked their Cranko R&J (not exactly a bad production or one without historical significance) and invested in a new one from Ratmansky. There is always room for another take on a famous piece. Part of the problem at the Royal is they have a number of apparently 'untouchable' productions and it stifles fresh art - witness the Wheeldon Alice being the first new full evening work the company has done in 17 years (or thereabouts). That's not right.

 

My 2p anyway!

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I agree with Bruce. English National Ballet rested their Nureyev production and brought it back. In between times we had the glorious Ashton production and an attractive one by Derek Deane. We were very lucky to see both and then be able to see the Nureyev one, which I first saw on its revival (the Ashton being my first Romeo). I've also seen three different productions at Scottish Ballet over the years. A change can be as good as a rest and then we can come back refreshed in the future.

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<<I'm afraid it was a serious comment. National Ballet of Canada have just parked their Cranko R&J (not exactly a bad production or one without historical significance) and invested in a new one from Ratmansky. There is always room for another take on a famous piece>>

 

And National Ballet of Canada can earn more money renting their Cranko staging to other companies than they do performing it themselves. The brief to Ratmansky and his production team was that their new R&J had to last 25 years to justify the investment.

 

So it is a difficult question.

 

This latest RB Romeo revival sounds to have come up fresh - but too many revivals over the years dulled the work into staleness. I recall I wrote to Anthony Dowell in 1996 complaining of a very predictable performance - and suggesting a change. So I'm not holding my breath.

 

How old does a piece have to be before it is revisited? Ballets from the 19th century are apparently faif game - but not apparently something that is 60 or 50 years old.

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I'm with Bruce on R & J - I'm also tired of it. Maybe I've seen it too often in recent years but I don't quite think that's entirely it. I think I'd be more interested if there were more interesting partnerships. Although I chose not to see Carlos and Tamara this time round I understood what Louise Levene in her review for the Telegraph meant when she said there was something slightly "married" about the great pdd and none of the "grabby desperation" you get in the early days of a partnership. I would like to have seen Tamara (IMO one of the greatest Juliet's I've seen and still utterly convincing as a teenage girl) with a different Romeo: Bonelli or, preferably, Polunin. It will be interesting to see whether Alina & Johan, another long established partnership, can inject some thrills for me into this old war horse of a ballet.

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Ninag, to be fair to Wheeldon, 'Alice' was untypical of him - maybe you're unfamiliar with his work ? He is nothing if not a classical choreographer - I think 'Alice' was commissioned with a firm eye on a suitable Christmas 'show' with children in mind.

 

A Wheeldon R & J woudl really be something to look forward to!

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Thank you for adding your thoughts Ann. If Wheeldon created it with children in mind, with an eye on a Christmas show (I shall conclude this justifies it...) then I can understand the hype. After a far-too-long Act 1 - with hardly any dancing in it - I found myself wondering if by mistake I'd gone to a West-End musical instead of the ROH to watch Ballet, and I was not the only one feeling so.

 

Kids loved it, great. Not me (except the fabulous Card Dance). As far as I am concerned it was "much ado about nothing".

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Thank you for adding your thoughts Ann. If Wheeldon created it with children in mind, with an eye on a Christmas show (I shall conclude this justifies it...) then I can understand the hype. After a far-too-long Act 1 - with hardly any dancing in it - I found myself wondering if by mistake I'd gone to a West-End musical instead of the ROH to watch Ballet, and I was not the only one feeling so.

 

Kids loved it, great. Not me (except the fabulous Card Dance). As far as I am concerned it was "much ado about nothing".

 

Just to mention that I understand the revived Alice will have 2 intervals and at least two more dance "items".

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Here's my "Twitter review" of R&J posted on Twitter the day after the first night:

 

First R&J of the season didn't disappoint. Whilst Acosta didn't convince me in acts 1 & 2 that he even vaguely fancied Rojo, by act 3 it was very different. Technically he was sound (even if he didn't blend with the Mercutio of Martin and Kura's Benvolio at all times) and his partnering with La Rojo defied their combined age; together they appeared frolicsome teenagers. Rojo was astounding in all aspects: her characterisation exquisite and her dancing impeccable with glorious fleetness of foot and luscious lines. Rosato's nurse was nimble and the comedy not overplayed. Avis's Tybalt was staggering and a clear example of why this ballet sits so popularly within the RoyalBallet canon. His character performance was excellent (I'm sure I saw a hint of remorse when he realised that Mercutio was really dead). Martin & Kura ably captured the freedom required for Romeo's friends although, unfortunately, Martin was sometimes ahead of the music in his fight with Tybalt and this resulted in the fight looking choreographed. Not so with Tybalt v Romeo which was truly frightening in its ferocity. Able performances from Chapman, Raine & McCullough as the harlots though I felt they weren't that well matched last night. As one expects, a great performance from the corps. This really is a core ballet for the RB & I thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

Also, a quick "tweet" re the (only public) Thianela performance: Very emotional R&J last night; in Soares I saw all the things I wanted in acts 1&2 that I didn't see in Acosta on Tuesday.

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