"Romeo and Juliet "
American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera House
New York, NY
June 20 , 2007 (evening)

by Mary Cargill
copyright © 2007 by Mary Cargill             

Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s "Romeo and Juliet", though it has enough padding to furnish a good-sized living room, offers a number of meaty roles for actors—the actual steps are generally incidental to the heart of the action. Irina Dvorovenko is not generally considered an Actress, in the way Ferri or Lynn Seymour were, but she was an especially touching Juliet. ABT’s run of bad luck in the injury and illness department continued, and her usual partner, and husband, Maxim Beloserkovsky, was out, replaced by Jose Manuel Carreño, partner extraordinaire.

Dvorovenko, a true beauty, looked like a Renaissance painting in the very flattering hairstyles and headpieces that the production uses, though beauty alone cannot carry the ballet. She, like almost everyone else I have seen, did look a bit goofy carrying on with that silly doll in the opening scene, but once she got to the ball, her character bloomed. Her first sight of Romeo was filled with a shy wonder, and a growing confidence as she watched him dance. This was no “look and love, bam bam” approach, the audience could see her feelings develop.

It is clear that, as long as that surging, powerful balcony music of Prokofiev’s plays while Juliet runs down some stairs in a white nightgown, the audience will react, even if the choreographer has the dancers play tiddlywinks, but MacMillan’s scene, despite some “feel my breasts, passionate kissing” moves that he uses instead of actually choreographing the feelings, does have a more emotional arc than most. Dvorovenko was especially lovely in the little staccato running steps, which she made more of a buoyant skip, as if propelled by joy.

The heart of MacMillan’s Juliet is the sitting on the bed, growing as a person, moment, and as yet she hasn’t quite internalized it. Dvorovenko sat quietly, with her feet pointed correctly, listening to the music. Her death scene was stunning. She managed to be both absolutely limp and heartbreaking. The scream of despair when she realized that Romeo was dead was almost shocking in its power.

Carreño’s Romeo was a happy, go-lucky guy, completely caught off guard by his feelings. During the wedding scene at the market place, some Romeo’s sit on the stairs, lost in thought, but he was just too happy to stay still, and joined in all the fun. Carreño has the ability to fill out any movement he makes, and his phrasing was wonderfully ardent.

The supporting roles were also very well done. The current practice is to cast Mercutio as an adorable moppet, so totally at odds with Shakespeare’s (or MacMillan’s for that matter) original conception, but there are few more appealing dancers at ABT than Craig Salstein. He seemed to ad lib a bit in the mandolin dance, passing on some of the leap frog jumps, but his death scene was especially detailed, saying goodbye to everything he had loved in life, and pretending it was all a joke.

Gennadi Saveliev was Tybalt, his killer, and he gave him a smoldering elegance that was completely believable and thoroughly menacing. Saveliev is a very fine mime, and every detail showed, from his swaggering walk to the instinctive way he held his back arm while dueling; this was someone who had spent much of his life with a rapier in his hand and a chip on his shoulder. Veronika Part was Lady Capulet, and she had a warm dignity, even in the funny hats she had to wear. She was fairly restrained in the chest-beating scene, but even she could not completely ignore the MacMillan moves; it is just too hard to imagine that an aristocrat would role around in the dirt in front of the townspeople, even if she is Italian.

Volume 5, No. 25
June 25, 2007

copyright ©2007 by Mary Cargill

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