Romeo and Juliet – Czech National Ballet come to Liege

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Roméo & Juliette - Ballet National Tchèque (c) J Berger

Classical dance was missing from the programme of the Royal Opera of Wallonia-Liège (ORW) for many years. Eager to offer its public a high-level performance,  Director General and Artistic Director Stefano Pace chose to call on the Czech National Ballet of Prague, one of the companies authorized to perform the choreography of John Cranko. It is the first time they have visited ORW.

Cranko was famous for his work with the Stuttgart Ballet, the South African dancer and choreographer revolutionized the world of dance with anthology versions of timeless works. His versions of Romeo and Juliet and of Onegin (ballet to music by Tchaikovsky, inspired by the short story by Alexander Pushkin) elevated classical ballet to new heights of emotion and expression. His ingenious choreography, combined with his ability to tell captivating stories through movement, made him one of the most influential choreographers of his time. Despite his premature death in 1973, Cranko leaves behind a legacy that continues to inspire and delight.

The Orchestra of the Royal Opera of Wallonia-Liège performs under the baton of the Maestro Václav Zahradník, Musical Director of the Czech National Ballet.  

Romeo and Juliet illustrates a fascinating page from the history of ballet. Composed by Sergei Prokofiev in 1935, shortly after his return to the Soviet Union. The initiative of Prokofiev to stage the tragic story lovers from Verona first met obstacles, notably the initial refusal by the Kirov from Leningrad and similar criticism at the Bolshoi, dancers expressing reservations about the possibility of dancing the work, due to its rhythmic complexity and certain passages considered inaudible. This reaction pushed Prokofiev to rework his score, leading to the creation of two suites for orchestra and a transcription for piano, before the production of a third sequel in 1946.

The premiere of the ballet took place on December 30, 1938 at the Mahen Theater in Brno, Czechoslovakia, so it is appropriate that the audience of the Opera Royal de Wallonie will enjoy this Czech-led performance. It soon became a standard piece in the Russian repertoire.

The melodic richness, rhythmic diversity and liveliness of the main themes, including the famous Dance of the knights, Juliette’s theme, and the love scenes and the marketplace, made of Romeo and Juliet one of the most famous works popular works of Prokofiev, brilliant testimony of his ability to capture emotional depth and the complexity of Shakespeare’s story through music and dance.

Performances will take place on the 21 – 24 March, with two performances on 23 March.