Saturday night I was in Glasgow just to see Scottish Ballet’s opening night of their not-so-classical Romeo and Juliet. They are one of my favorite companies, a must-see while in the UK. It is one of my favorite ballets, which I am set out to see as many different choreographer’s interpretations as possible.
Choreographer Krzysztof Pastor guides the audience through the couple’s love story over three eras in twentieth century Italy in his version of the love story. If it weren’t for the exuberant choreography and the excellence of the Scottish Ballet’s skill to execute it seamlessly, this version of the story would fall flat. There is hardly enough difference in setting and mood to determine the changing seasons, from staunch, dictatorial Italy in the 1930’s to post-war optimism in the 1950’s to modern day Italy in the 1990’s. Only the dress and the film running on the backdrop give the audience sure signs there is something not static about the setting for this story. It was, nevertheless, a challenge that Pastor took on to create something new without losing the magic of the original.
Principal dancers Sophie Martin and Erik Cavallari portrayed the type of connection and chemistry between them that one would expect two young lovers willing to kill themselves for each other to possess. I could watch Martin’s smooth transitions and elegance all night long; and it didn’t hurt that they are two of the most genuinely Italian (and good looking) Romeo and Juliets I have seen onstage. They certainly convinced me of their passion more than NBT’s Romeo and Juliet did last month.
As for the rest of the choreography, it was rather repetitive, especially with some of the jumps in the corps de ballet’s Montague and the Capulet families, and the two maids, Juliet’s friend. I suppose that sort of repetition create a sort of continuity throughout the ballet, and retains the families’ individuality over the 60 year gap. I liked Pastor’s choice to show off some of the very strong and captivating female dancers in the company with more supporting soloist dancing roles, among these tall, svelte and blonde Eve Mutso, who portrayed Juliet’s Mother with utmost power and understanding, contrasted that of her not-much-younger-looking and innocent Juliet. Paul Liburd earned his round of applause as the daunting, lighthearted Mercutio. His sing-songy playfulness could only work for a man so refined and brawny as he is. The friar was the most unbelievable character in the story; the sleeping potion somehow just can’t be pulled off as part of a 1990’s Venice story. Perhaps that is why Pastor chose to get over with the friar’s involvement with the couple as fast as possible. The end of the ballet came to a nonchalant ending, where each family stares at the body of their dead member, then picks up the body and walks off, oh, in 1990’s street clothes. Still, it was a satisfactory and creative ballet, not the best Romeo and Juliet I have seen, but not disappointing.