The Royal Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet 50th Anniversary

“… mind-boggling was the clarity with which Naghdi painted her Juliet.”

The Royal Ballet will commence it’s 2015/16 season tomorrow, 19th September , with Kenneth Macmillan’s revolutionary 20th-century ballet, Romeo and Juliet.  The production first saw the stage in 1965 and celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.  In celebration the Royal Ballet has cast a number of new dancers to make their debuts as the star-crossed lovers.

As a friend of the Royal Opera House I have the privilege of attending dress rehearsals and the first of the season saw a very youthful cast portraying the characters of Shakespeare’s renowned play. Newly-promoted First Artist Matthew Ball danced the role of Romeo, with Soloist Yasmine Naghdi as his Juliet.  Romeo’s friends Mercutio and Benvolio were portrayed by Luca Acri and Benjamin Ella respectively with Soloist Nicol Edmonds as the ill-fated Paris.

Noticing such a young cast might encourage doubt in the minds of some avid ballet-goers and those who understand the demanding characters and artistry behind a MacMillan ballet; rest assured, these dancers are all wise beyond their years.

Although it was clear that nerves got the better of the troublesome trio of Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio during the first act, Ball, Acri and Ella pulled of convincing characters.  The Masked Dance of Act I was a bit scrappy, with off-beat jumps and unsynchronised turns, but as the ballet progressed to its second act, their dancing and synchronisation improved dramatically.

Of particular note were the sword fighting scenes throughout the ballet, which were all perfectly timed.  Both Mercutio’s and Tybalt’s (portrayed by Bennet Gartside) death scenes were well acted.

Especially mind-boggling was the clarity with which Naghdi painted her Juliet.  It was clear from beginning to end that Naghdi had devoted a generous amount of time to thinking about her portrayal – from her giddy, impish entrance and gorgeously timed variation to her distaste of Paris and love for Romeo.  Many times dancers fail to allow their emotions to reach the back of the theatre, but Naghdi found no problem in this.  Pore-raising was the realisation that her beloved Romeo had killed himself and her suicide was uncannily realistic.

The phenomenal choreography of MacMillan and his show-stopping pas de deux are a welcomed sight on the Royal Opera House’s main stage.  Some of the expected Juliet debuts that I am most looking forward to this season are those of newly-promoted First Soloist Francesca Hayward and Guest Artist Iana Salenko.

The Royal Ballet will have a live-cinema relay of Romeo and Juliet on Tuesday 22nd September, 2015 starring Principal dancers Steven McRae and Sarah Lamb as the titular characters.

Performances will run from 19 September – 2 December, 2015.  For tickets and further details visit the website of the Royal Opera House.

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