Dedicated to the 125th Anniversary of Sergei Prokofiev

Choreography: Kenneth MacMillan
Libretto: Sergei Prokofiev and Sergei Radlov, based on Shakespeare’s tragedy

Alexandrinsky Theatre

April 18-19, 2016

Romeo and Juliet, the most famous lovers on the planet, live and die on stage, in music, in cinema for more than 400 years. They are immortal, just like love and like hatred that lied between their families are.

No one counted the number of versions of this story, there must be more than dozens of hundreds of them with more than a hundred in choreography only.

Then why have we decided to include the Romeo and Juliet in our Anniversary Season in which we aim to surprise?

Because in the year of 125th anniversary of Sergei Prokofiev our festival programme will not be full without his mystical music.

Because Kenneth MacMillan is the legend of the world ballet, but it is almost impossible to see his choreography in Russia for various reasons.

Because by adding to the marvelous Perm Ballet and magnificent Renaissance costumes created by the Italian designers brilliant dancers from Royal Ballet and Dutch National we are creating a unique version of Macmillan iconic ballet.

And, finally, we believe in love. We believe in that it has the power over absolutely everything in this life and even death means not an end of love but its transition to another dimension…

Kenneth thought the Prokofiev score was one of the very best ballet scores ever written.

Lady Deborah MacMillan, widow of Kenneth MacMillan

MacMillan’s particular feature is the abundance of dance. Compared to all other versions of Romeo and Juliet that were staged in our country from the times of the Soviet Union this one is the most difficult.

The costumes in the performance are truly amazing, not only thanks to the impressive quality of the fabrics and designer solutions, but also because of the adherence to the Renaissance traditions.

The Perm Ballet Company produced a Romeo and Juliet that fizzed and crackled with energy.

A spectacular asset to the repertoire . . . altogether a milestone for MacMillan

Observer, 1965

Kenneth MacMillan takes his place as one of the world’s leading choreographers

Daily Mail

Romeo and Juliet is the first full-length ballet of Kenneth MacMillan created by him on the poignant music of Sergey Prokofiev to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of Willliam Shakespeare. However the ballet was eventually premiered one year later, in 1965.

MacMillan originally staged Romeo and Juliet, for his muse Lynn Seymour and Christopher Gable, who were the Royal Ballet Principals at that time. Nevertheless, the honour of the first performance had gone to Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn who were a bigger draw for the upcoming Royal Ballet Tour to the USA and who were imposed in the ballet just a few days before the premiere. Fonteyn and Nureyev’s performance on the opening night was received with 43 curtain calls and almost forty minutes of applause.

This production has been at the heart of the Royal Ballet repertoire ever since and it has been toured around the globe with various ballet companies. The Perm Ballet’s artistic director Alexey Miroshnichenko was the first one to bring classic MacMillan production on the Russian soil. It was premiered in 2013 at the Diaghilev Festival in Perm. Perm Ballet has done a great job in recreating lavish decorations and costumes from the original MacMillan production. According to the company’s artistic director Aleksey Miroshnichenko “this is a vivid performance, it hardly has any pantomimes. Of course it is complicated, but the spectators feel enrolled in it. And the most important thing is that it is more positive than the Lavrovsky’s version”.

Now the audience of the 15th Anniversary DANCE OPEN International Ballet Festival will get an opportunity to see the legendary Romeo and Juliet in MacMillan’c choreography performed by the Perm Ballet.



Interview with Lady Deborah MacMillan, a choreographer’s wife, 
a copyright holder of his ballet Romeo and Juliet

— What is the history of creation of this ballet? There are different versions of what inspired Sir MacMillan to choreograph Romeo and Juliet. Some say that it was the ballet of the same name by Leonid Lavrovsky, which the Bolshoi Theatre showed on tour in London in 1956, with legendary Galina Ulanova dancing Juliet. Others say that John Cranko’s performance in Stuttgarter Ballett was the impulse. How did it all actually happen?
— Kenneth was inspired to create his own Romeo and Juliet after seeing the Bolshoi perform the Lavrovsky version with Galina Ulanova in London in 1956. He particularly responded to Ulanova's dramatic expressivity with the classical language: she reinforced his belief that ballet could also express human drama as well as the fairy tales of classical ballet. Cranko who was a good friend had done a version and there was certainly friendly rivalry between them. Kenneth thought the Prokofiev score was one of the very best ballet scores ever written and when Frederick Ashton who was then Artistic Director of the Royal Ballet asked him to choreograph a full length ballet he immediately chose Romeo and Juliet. He choreographed it for Lynne Seymour and Christopher Gable.

— Why did Sir Kenneth MacMillan decide to finish the plot of the ballet with the death of Veronese lovers? Why didn’t he give a chance to Montague and Capulet to reconcile? 
How does it correlate with the main idea of the ballet, in choreographer’s point of view? — As I was not in London at the time and indeed did not meet him until 1970, I can only assume that Kenneth ended the ballet with the death of the lovers and not with a reconciliation between the two families — as in Shakespeare — because of the drama of their deaths: he was a man of the theatre and a dramatic ending was always his preference. On the other hand, from what I can discover, Prokofiev did not write any music for a 'reconciliation', The happy ending he did for the Kirov' premiere was not his original intention.

— In terms of his relations with Russia, Russian culture, Sir Kenneth MacMillan can be called “Tom Stoppard of ballet”. Would you agree with such a definition? 
— Both Tom Stoppard and Kenneth MacMillan are men of the theatre, Stoppard's language is obviously words and a fascination with their many meanings. Kenneth's language is classical ballet and he felt that by choreographing in this language he could give insights into the human condition, to relationships between human beings and above all to the telling of stories. This language transcends words, indeed complicated stories in ballet can be performed in many different countries and if the work is successful, an audience will connect with it without the need for words.

— What was your husband’s attitude to Russia, its history and culture?
— Kenneth was fascinated with Russia, its history its literature and its ballet companies. He first saw Russian dancers when he was a very young dancer himself. The Royal Ballet company was started by Ninette de Valois who had performed in the Diaghilev company: De Valois brought the Diaghilev ethos to the Royal Ballet — good music, good design and good choreography. Kenneth did several works with a Russian theme: Winter dreams, based on Chekov's Three Sisters; Anastasia, referencing the claim of Anna Andersen who claimed she was the Tsar's surviving daughter: and Isadora, the modern dancer (you have a photograph of her in your excellent staff canteen), who spent a lot of time in Russia and who married the Russian poet Esenin. Sadly Kenneth never visited Russia but it would have given him enormous pleasure to have seen the Perm Ballet perform his Romeo and Juliet and he would have considered it as a huge compliment.

— In Russia, for the ballets which tell the story through dance and pantomime, they have a special term — “dram-ballet” (short for “dramatic ballet”). Examples of this genre are Lavrovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, Zakharov’s The Fountain of Bakhchisarai. Because of its relation to soviet realm, the term gradually received negative connotation: something similar to “ballet for peasantry”, “ballet for simple people”. Which was the attitude to dramatic ballet in England? Would you agree that this term is applicable to Romeo and Juliet?
— Kenneth said that he wanted to make ballets 'real', about real people with real lives with whom the audience could identify. He was very much a man of the theatre, and was very influenced by the new kind of drama which came to the fore in England in the 1950s with playwrights like John Osborne and his famous Look Back in Anger... Kenneth always felt that he could use the steps of classical ballet to tell this kind of story. Romeo and Juliet is certainly a dramatic ballet as you term it — and the audience is required to engage with the story and the whole stage picture — not just the dancing. As you know it was an immediate success with Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev, but the ballet was created (as I said before) on the astonishing dramatic and expressive ballerina Lynne Seymour and Christopher Gable (who became a very fine actor after his dancing career was over.)

Interviewed by Natalia Ovchinnikova
Interpreted by Sonya Permyakova

Based on materials provided by Perm Ballett

Now the audience of the 15th Anniversary DANCE OPEN International Ballet Festival will get an opportunity to see the legendary Romeo and Juliet in MacMillan’c choreography performed by the Perm Ballet.



dedicated to the 125th Anniversary of the composer

The relations between Sergei Prokofiev and ballet were not easy. His ballet music received controversial reviews from critics; in this area he experienced both thunderous defeats and breathtaking success, and he was often misunderstood. Nevertheless it did not stop him from coming back to ballet again and again, he left us incredible masterpieces and immortal Romeo and Juliet

He first saw the ballet in 1900, when he was 9 years old. It was The Sleeping Beauty by Tchaikovsky and his impression was somehow mixed. By that time the young musician had already composed the opera called Giant, but he had not thought that writing music for ballet would become his fate.

Diaghilev ballets became the turning point for Prokofiev, he was mesmerized by Daphnis and Chloe by Ravel and The Firebird and Petrushka by Stravinsky. In conversations with Diaghilev first appear vague outlines of Scythian Suite, a ballet on Russian prehistoric theme where the atmosphere of the Scythian "barbarism" is recreated. The ballet was initiated by Diaghilev who had The Rite of Spring on his mind. Prokofiev’s first steps in ballet were made under the influence of the brilliant music of Stravinsky. One of his first successful attempts in ballet was The Tale of the Buffoon (between 1915 and 1920). Bearing in mind a cruel joke that played with him the weakness of the libretto of his previous work, this time Prokofiev himself creates the libretto and borrows a plot for the ballet from Russian fairy tales retold by Afanasyev. This vivid and witty ballet was filled with funny episodes in Russian folklore style. 

The growing interest of the Western world to the Bolsheviks country was not left unnoticed by Diaghilev. He commissioned Prokofiev to make the ballet about the Soviet life. This is how the production with an intriguing title Le Pas d'Acier staged by Léonide Massine appeared. It consisted of several unrelated episodes: a train with speculators, commissars and papirosniks. The dancers showed the movements of machinery, machine tools and the noise of steam hammers. Unfortunately the performance that did not have a single plot was not successful neither in Paris nor in London.

Prokofiev had got the chance to demonstrate his unconventional talent several years later in The Prodigal Son, staged in 1929. The contrast scenes: bacchanalia at the feast and the morning after a riotous night, and then a picture of the return of the son to his father's home, that is full of sorrow and humility, produce a very strong impression. The music in the ballet mesmerized by its simplicity, warmth and nobility. After The Prodigal Son Prokofiev created a sublime lyrical On the Dnieper that anticipated his three main works - Romeo and JulietCinderella and The Tale of the Stone Flower.

Soon after his return to the motherland in 1933, Prokofiev decided to create the ballet to Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet. The idea was given by Sergei Radlov, a prominent Shakespeare scholar and artistic director of Kirov Theatre. The composer started working on the score while creating the libretto with Radlov and Adrian Piltrovsky, a well-known St. Petersburg theatre critic and playwright. In 1936 the first version of the ballet, that had an unusual happy ending, was presented to the Direction of the Bolshoi Theatre. Although they had in generally a positive impression on the music, a happy final was put under question. For the final version approved by the Bolshoi a tragic ending was created. At the same time controversial articles criticizing the music of Shostakovich for ballet were published and the direction of the Bolshoi decided not to take the risk of staging Prokofiev’s work. The same decision was taken by the Leningrad Choreography Academy. The ballet was finally premiered in 1938 in Brno, Czechoslovakia. One-act ballet with choreography by Ivo Psota was very-well received by the audience. After that the Soviet Union decided to stage this production promptly in Kirov Theatre.

The choreography for the ballet was made by Leonid Lavrovsky who had to go through the heated debates with the composer. Prokofiev initially did not want to put any changes to the ballet that he had created 4 years ago. Finally, another version of the ballet with several new dances and dramatic episodes was created. It was this version that became a summit of the Soviet ballet.

The main roles were taken by Galina Ulanova and Konstantin Sergeev. The role of Juliet became a hallmark for Ulianova, she was quoted saying "I could not start preparing the role of the Juliet with none of my students for quite a while. Parting with it for me meant the same as parting with a living person". Despite that in the beginning the ballerina could not get used to Prokofiev’s music and after the premiere she even joked "For never was a story of more woe than the music of Prokofiev in the ballet".

Prokofiev’s success in ballet was firmed with Cinderella, an amazing fairy tale made in 1941-44, in the midst of the war. Its way to the stage was not easy either. Maya Plisetskaya remembered that "Before the premiere of Cinderella the theatre was literally on fire. The music that sounded for the first time on earth was unusual. The orchestra, either from the idleness or from the wrong following to the Marxist dogma that the art belongs to the people nearly rebelled against Prokofiev. His scores used to be simplified and modified before in the walls of our theatre. The most notorious example is the Romeo modified by Boris Pogrebov, a musician from the orchestra, for the sake of clumsy and deaf dancers. "Louder, louder, we cannot hear a thing" – they were shouting from the stage… Prokofiev, who visited all the rehearsals, kept silence politely while trembling from anger. I felt pity for him. It was not easy to bear this, I guess".

Today, 125 years from the birth of Prokofiev and 63 years after his death, his ballets are not just alive, they became classics of the world ballet.

In the Dance Open Anniversary Season Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet in the legendary production of Sir Kenneth MacMillan will be performed by the Perm Ballet.


Choreography: Kenneth MacMillan
Performed by:
Juliet – Sarah Lamb (Principal Dancer of the Royal Ballet Covent Garden)
Romeo – Matthew Golding (Principal Dancer of the Royal Ballet Covent Garden)
Tybalt – Gary Avis (Principal Character Artist of the Royal Ballet Covent Garden)
Musical Director and Conductor:  Teodor Currentzis
Artistic Director: Alexey Miroshnichenko
Conductor: Andrey Danilov
Ballet Master–Producer: Gary Harris (the UK)
Ballet Master–Producer: Karl Burnett (the UK/ France)
Set Designer: Mauro Carosi (Italy)
Associate Set Designer: Cinzia Lo Fazio (Italy)
Costume Designer: Odette Nicoletti (Italy)
Associate Costume Designer: Luigi Benedetti (Italy)
Costume Production Curator: Tatyana Noginova (Russia)
Lighting Designer: Sergey Martynov

The ballet is staged in collaboration with the Kenneth MacMillan Foundation in accordance with MacMillan’s style and technique

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