Nureyev and Fonteyn

March 20, 2010 at 9:09 pm (Film Adaptations, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , , , , )

I loved, loved, loved Rudolf Nureyev’s choreography and the entirely spectacular 1995 Paris production of Romeo and Juliet. Loved it so much that I thought the version with Nureyev himself dancing with Margot Fonteyn must be even better. I think I built it up too much in my mind. I like the other version better.

Maybe I’m showing myself for what I am… just a casual viewer, not a ballet aficionado. At all. I don’t know anything about ballet except whether I enjoy it. I’m pretty much the same with wine. Anyway, this version, danced with the Royal Ballet in London in 1966, does not feel nearly as sumptuous and dramatic to me as the 1995 production.

One thing I like about the 1995 version is you get a real feel for the spectacle of it—they show the crowds entering the hall, the orchestra warming up, you get a real feel that this is an event. The 1966 version lacks that aspect completely.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s lovely. The Prokofiev score is the same as in the other version. The sets are nice, many of the costumes are pretty. But it just doesn’t measure up to the other version for me.

The choreography feels sluggish to me compared to the 1995 version. There is much walking around, especially early on. Costumes with long trains don’t lend themselves to a lot of fast dancing, I guess. I just found it slow-going and not as fun to watch.

I was put off right from the start. The dance begins with a scene in the marketplace that reminds me of a square dance. The costumes are odd and the ballerinas have long, loose hair. There are a couple similar scenes later in the production. They always seem out of place to me. There’s also an odd scene of a wedding (not Romeo and Juliet’s wedding!) in the marketplace.

The dancing generally doesn’t seem as good to me. Not to be too brutal, but Fonteyn is in her mid-40s and she doesn’t dance a believable teenage Juliet for me. I’m sure Nureyev’s dancing is spectacular, but for me it didn’t feel as exciting or honest as Manuel Legris’s Romeo in the 1995 version. There seems to be less chemistry (and why the blue eyeshadow on Nureyev?).

I don’t find this Mercutio (David Blair) nearly as endearing and humorous as Lionel Delanoe’s in the 1995 production. This Tybalt (Desmond Doyle) looks devilish to me in his bright red costume.

My kids came in late, but were quite interested in it. They loved the swordplay and were interested in the story line at the end with the sleeping potion and poison and stabbing. They were quite mesmerized, really. All in all, worth a watch, but I like the 1995 ballet version better.

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  1. David said,

    I think the version with Makarova and McKenzie is one the best. It’s funny you mentioned that your kids like the sword play. Rome and Juliet was the first ballet I saw when I was a kid and the sword fighting is the only thing I remember about it. It’s what got me interested in ballet. I always tell parents to forget about the Nutcracker as a first ballet experience, R&J is much better.

    • orwhatyouwill said,

      Hard to beat sword fights for my boys. Light sabers, I guess, but that would be hard to pull into a ballet. I’ll have to look for the Makarova/McKenzie version. I have to admit, I’m a bit OD’d on R&J at this point and may just have to move on for a while! Thanks though!

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