The Royal Ballet

"Romeo and Juliet"

by Stuart Sweeney

June 7th, 2003 -- The Royal Opera House/ London

I attended this Saturday matinee especially to see Alessandra Ferri and Roberto Bolle. Ferri, returning to Covent Garden after many years, remains at the height of her powers and her dancing has an ease and grace that is very beguiling. An ex-dancer friend told me that she had beautiful feet twenty years ago and that remains the case.  However, what marks her out as an exceptional Juliet is the natural way that her acting blends with the expressive qualities of her performance in a seamless fashion. She uses the suppleness of her back not just for effect, but also to express emotion.

Roberto Bolle has the look of a danseur noble and his technique in double tours etc is impeccable. In addition he looked after Ferri assiduously in this performance. And yet…and yet. Somehow he does not set sparks flying, primarily because his acting has little flair or dramatic charge. In addition, he is a dancer whose photographs must look wonderful, but he is not a great mover. One friend suggested that it might be his height that makes MacMillan’s choreography tricky for him. In the pas de trois with Mercutio and Benvolio before the Ball, both Ricardo Cervera and Edward Watson had greater panache with the same steps.

Cervera was a sparky Mercutio throughout and Watson made the choreography look very beautiful, as he always does. The harlots – Zenaida Yanovsky, Laura Morera and Vanessa Palmer were wonderful and stole the second act. MacMillan has given them some of the best movement in the ballet outside of the duets. It is in the emotional range of these duets that the power of the ballet lies, from the first meeting, the balcony, the separation, the extraordinary duet with Paris as she struggles and then resigns herself to her fate and finally the short and devastating duet in the funeral vault. If I have one caveat with the ballet, the final tragedy always seems to rush by too quickly for me and I wish Prokofiev had provided more music for this scene. Nevertheless, the closing tableau with Ferri stretched backwards over the edge of the marble slab is heart breaking.

The force and innovation of MacMillan’s choreography and the wonderful score make this one of my favourite ballets and Alessandra Ferri and the supporting cast made this a memorable afternoon.


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