Kenneth MacMillan’s 1965 Romeo and Juliet premiered at Covent Garden and has enjoyed enormous popularity ever since; so much so that it’s now bursting out from the four walls of the Royal Opera House and into a live cinema screening, for this season’s closing night. Where we lose the live element, we gain unparalleled close-ups of this world-class company, and flawless tech throughout still ensures a great-looking and great-sounding piece.
Romeo (Matthew Ball) and Juliet (Yasmine Naghdi) had a slightly frosty opening to their romance, but by the ballet’s tragic finale they had us hook, line and sinker. Naghdi has a particular flair for playing up the youth of the character, made all the clearer by MacMillan’s staging, including having Juliet play with a doll.
Outside of the star-cross’d lovers, there are a great many public scenes, rife with harlots and mandolin dancers. Although these non-Shakespearean scenes could detract, each member of the company brings their own unique flair, even to background roles: something the camera picks up beautifully.
Pavel Sorokin conducts Prokofiev’s mighty neo-classical score with aplomb. The now iconic music to Dance of the Knights is not so much bombastic as heavy-laden, perfectly matched to MacMillan’s chilling choreography of Capulet’s men slowly, formally advancing towards the audience. Amazing that such a classic of the repertoire can be made so accessible.
Romeo and Juliet has now finished for the season. Check out the upcoming live cinema screenings online.