One of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies is the story of “Romeo and Juliet.” It has been produced countless times on stage, appeared on the big screen in one form or the other, and translated into dance by the world’s premier ballet companies.
On Feb. 17, not long after Valentine’s Day, Culture at the Cinema brings the Bolshoi Ballet’s extraordinary performance of this heartbreaking love story to the big screen. Fans of ballet and Shakespeare should not miss this opportunity to watch a recording of the live production from the best seat in the house.
In Verona, Romeo and Juliet fall madly in love while their respective families, the Montagues and the Capulets, are caught in a bitter rivalry. When the Capulets organize a masked ball in honor of their daughter Juliet, Romeo Montague and his friend Mercutio attend incognito because of the hatred that tears the two houses apart. This sets a series of events into motion that end in heart-wrenching tragedy.
The play is interesting from a generic point of view. Some critics have theorized that the young Shakespeare was still learning his tragic craft, and the play, with its neatly opposed noble houses, lyrical verse and overbearing concern with love, could easily turn into a comedy. Shakespeare tightens everything and ratchets up the tension using pretty much all of the available means: he makes the lovers even younger than they are in his primary source, (“The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet,” a 1562 poem by Arthur Brooke), he compresses the action of the play down to a few days, and kills off the play’s (and probably his) greatest comedian, Mercutio, at the start of the third act. In so doing, he creates an imperfect tragedy, but one that captures the essence of youth, and, indeed, first love. “Romeo and Juliet” is fast, furious, and a testament to the fragility of love in a volatile social sphere.
Cast and crew
Alexei Ratmansky, former artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet, stages the company’s premiere of his production with dramatic urgency and a fresh re-telling of Shakespeare’s beloved classic. His brilliant and detailed adaptation set to Prokofiev’s romantic and cinematic score reignites the story of literature’s most celebrated star-crossed lovers like no other classical ballet choreographer today.