Romeo and Juliet - World première NdB (Národni divadlo Brno): March 8th, 2019
It is surely not an easy task to restage „Romeo and Juliet“. Neither choreographically because of eventual comparisons to „masterpieces“ by Kenneth MacMillan and especially, John Cranko nor historically nor emotionally. One cannot forget the world première took also place in Brno, exactly on March 15th, 1938 (81 years ago to be quite precise) on the very day when Nazi troops occupied the country. One year later, the world got into a very peculiar state of mind: even though 1939 is referred to as a fabulous year for the arts (especially for the cinema, I must say), the world was still reading and starting to watch „Gone with the Wind“, a novel from the U.S.A., “the land of democracy”, also much concerned with War, greed, social climbing and prejudices that gives seriously stereotyped portraits of the black race – even referring to them as „darkies“. The world was listening to ugly German Nazi threats, Austria had been just annexed to Germany the year before and „disappeared“ from the world maps, Prokofieff, after many „international years“ was living again, since 1936 in Russia, the attack on Pearl Harbor was just 2 ½ years away, New York's World fair would take place in December, the cinema market would be nearly completely closed to Hollywood and Roosevelt's „good Neighbour policy“ and his visions of „Panamericana“ would isolate Europe even more from the rest of the world.
How tragic, far more real and sad the story of two lovers confronted with threats, hate and betrayal must have „sounded“ to the audience... And how „fitting“ that exactly 80 years after that, we – in the same world as Trump's, Erdoğan's, Bolssonaro's, Maduro's and Mrs Theresa May's arrogance just to name a few.
Nowadays the world is again in a big turmoil – and probably our comprehension of Shakespeare's work and tragedy may be a similar one to the one of 80 years ago. Just a thought.
During the first half of the first act I was quite surprised by a very repetitious choreography culminating on the „Dance of the Capulets“ in which the very dramatic Ivona Jeličová, a very expressive dancer (Mrs Capulet) repeats three times a very uninspired combination of tendues with one arm on the second and the other on the third position, which reminded me extremely of a ballet-class combination and did not do justice to the music's dramatic posture (also to be mentioned is that during the – originally called– „Dance of Juliet and Paris“, the orchestra was too quick and the „mood“ of this singular piece was somehow lost) but, as time passed, the work became (slowlier) more and more dynamic – making me wonder if it had been choreographed chronologically – which it wasn't (I asked that!).
Beautifully, the combinations for Romeo, sensitively interpreted by Arthur Abram lost completely the repetitiveness of the first act's first half, giving more and more room for the dramaturgy.
It is very interesting to observe a choreographer's work and development. About two years ago I witnessed Mário Radačovsky's „West Side Story“ and was quite impressed for his inventiveness during one of those scenes which you can only describe as „what would have been if... „ (in which the already dead Bernardo and Riff dance with Maria and Toni). Last Friday I could see this „idea“ again, when Tybald danced a pas de trois with Juliet and Romeo. Magnificent. And yes, it is wonderful to stick to an idea, especially such a great one as this!
Special mention to Martin Svobodník's GREAT Tybald and Peter Lerant's Mercutio. Great dancers with great stamina. Their final confrontation scene was amazing. There is a clear mention of the sexual „drive“ that goes along in their relationship and is completely unmentioned in the play. Many actors have worked on that.
Ivan Popov, who has obviously still a huge following in Brno, now adapting to more mature roles – but that is a fact of life.
Shoma Ogasawara in the less „glamorous“ role/choreography of Benvolio did an excellent job. A tallented dancer.
I felt that some character work should still be done with the six friends of Juliet when they find her dead. There was no emotional reaction to that terribly sad situation and they looked quite lost on stage. No interpretation at all.
The „rapport“ of the main couple was extremely good even though Klaudia Radačovská's Juliet is still missing a certain detail on her performance. Her Juliet lacks somehow „youth“ - and this has nothing to do with age (although Juliet was only 13!): Fonteyn and Haydée were dancing Juliets well into her forties, Gelsey Kirkland played her best Juliets with Anthony Dowell after 30, and not long ago Alessandra Ferri danced her with more than 50! What I mean as „youth“ is this girl's purity, lack of malice and evil, her naÍvete, her transparency to Romeo – and to the audience. Miss Radačovská was technically excellent but as I said: there is still something missing in her interpretation.
Pavel Šnajdr led us through the special Prokofiev's musical world with extreme certainty. Just the tenor saxophone seemed sometimes to overshadow the rest of the Orchestra. It should be brought down a little.
A most enjoyable and recommendable evening in connection with a visit to Brno – a destiny not only beautiful and culturally interesting but also with great gastronomy.
Next performances: March 9th, 10th, 15th and 16th, April 3rd, 27th and 29th.
Special Thanks to Mrs Yvette Polasek Head of the Czech Tourism in Vienna for arranging my visit to Brno and to this performance with Miss Barbora Hniličková/ Marketing & PR Ballet at NdB – Národní divadlo Brno