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Review: Romeo & Juliet by The Stuttgart Ballet

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If there’s one performance that’s bound to make you believe in eternal love, it’s Romeo and Juliet. And what better way to experience the timeless story of star crossed lovers than with the Stuttgart Ballet’s production of John Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet?

John Cranko was artistic director of the Stuttgart Ballet when he choreographed what is now considered the definitive ballet version of the Bard’s tragic love story, which first premiered in 1962. The Stuttgart Ballet, one of the world’s leading ballet companies, have performed this countless times over the last 50 odd years, and it’s no wonder that they’ve now perfected the art to a T. With music composed by Sergei Prokofiev, the score was performed by the Singapore Lyric Orchestra, and it was wonderful to see our local musicians performing on such a professional level, leading a world class ballet.

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Romeo and Juliet seethes with life and transforms Shakespeare’s play into an absolute spectacle, thanks particularly to Jurgen Rose’s incredibly intricate and detailed set and costume designs. In the opening scene, audiences are immediately transported to a world of romance in Verona, Italy with a bustling marketplace, with townspeople pushing around wooden carts and hawking their wares from various stalls all around the stage, all of them committing completely to creating the illusion of an actual place being created on the Esplanade stage. Later on, the equally impressive ballroom scene dazzled with sheer magnificence, lined with chandeliers and the guests bedecked in glorious black and gold suits and dresses. Here, Rose fully utilizes the Esplanade stage’s full length, breadth and depth to create multiple layers and rows of dancers, as they filled the space, some hidden behind curtains way in the back, while those at the front moved gracefully, the very image of grandeur and drama.

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Of course, at the forefront of every Romeo and Juliet are its unforgettable lovers, and on our night, Elisa Badenes and David Moore did a spectacular job of bringing to life the doomed teenage lovebirds, possessing incredible onstage chemistry and an almost telepathic connection with each other. In the iconic balcony scene, Badenes and Moore are the sole dancers onstage, and as all eyes fell on them, the two look deep into each other’s eyes and were completely in sync, such that they could practically predict the next move. Moore in particular, had perfect poise as he leapt across the stage to woo Badenes’ Juliet, and showed off pure power and precision in his moves. Badenes on the other hand, played up the coy aspects of her character, an image of virtuosity and innocence as she danced in glee upon receiving a new dress from her mother, while sharing a tender moment showing how close she was to her nurse (Daniela Lanzetti).

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Romeo and Juliet is impressively well-rehearsed, and not a moment went by that didn’t seem pre-rehearsed and well thought through. As Romeo and Tybalt (Roman Novitzky) clash swords near the beginning of the show, even the sounds were synchronized, while at the beginning of Act 3, the Esplanade curtains opened slowly and deliberately to reveal Juliet asleep in bed, as if to create a sense of foreboding and suspense knowing the brutal bloodshed that had passed the night before. Speaking of which, said fight scene was played up just as well, dramatized as Romeo and Tybalt clashed swords in the wake of poor Mercutio’s death, epic yet classy in its portrayal. Finally, we were greatly impressed by the technical capabilities of the Esplanade and planning that went into this production, especially at Juliet’s burial, believable as she was seemingly lowered beneath the stage and testament to the incredible design of this multifaceted set.

In addition, even the ‘side’ characters impressed with their choreography. Romeo and his best friends Benvolio (Matteo Miccini) and Mercutio (Louis Steins) get a chance to show off their moves and experience in a solo act, where all three executed pirouettes perfectly, bringing wows to the audience as they twirled on endlessly. In the carnival scene in Act two, the charismatic company of jesters and dancers (Alexander McGowan, Aurora de Mori, Alisa Seetinina, Alessandrio Giaquinto and Timoor Afshar) provided some much needed entertainment and comic relief.

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In pirouettes, lifts and drama delivered with poise and finesse, the Stuttgart Ballet has waltzed right into our hearts with this definitive performance of John Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet, and with the support of the Esplanade, we’re lucky to have been able to have a chance to catch this incredible production, easily proving they’re deserving of the many accolades and praise lauded upon them, as they add yet another fantastic rendition of the timeless, star-crossed classic into the Shakespearean canon.

Photos Courtesy of Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

Performance attended 13/10/17

Romeo and Juliet plays at the Esplanade Theatre from 12th – 14th October. Tickets available from the Esplanade

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