Serge PROKOFIEV: Romeo and Juliet, Blu-ray

Serge PROKOFIEV: Romeo and Juliet, Blu-ray (2017)

Cast: San Francisco Ballet

Director and Principal Choreographer: Helgi Tomasson
Music: Orchestra of the San Francisco Ballet

Conductor: Martin West
Stage Director: Glenn McCoy
Studio: C Major, Blu-ray. [7/30/2017]

Video Director: Thomas Grimm
Run Time: 128 minutes
Video: 1.77:1  Color. 
Audio: Dolby, NTSC, Stereo
Extras: “Shakespeare Without Words”, “En Garde”, “Children of the San Francisco Ballet”
Rating: ***½

Very entertaining and traditional adaptation.

This is one of a very fine and promising set of videos from “Lincoln Center at the Movies”, a series of movie house showings of concerts of all genres as well as opera and ballet. I have attended one or two of these and, to be honest, the large screen is a nice experience if one cannot get to an actual live ballet, opera or what have you. However, the resolution and sound in a movie house is never quite as good as you could experience at home by getting a really good quality video such as this. The sight and sound of this very fine performance of the San Francisco Ballet’s 2015 live performance of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet is everything you would want.

I have enjoyed all of Prokofiev’s ballet scores over the years; even having had the good fortune to play one or two of them in concert format. However, ballet is a peculiar art form to try to experience in music only. Even if someone knows a very well known ballet score quite well, such as  Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, trying to visualize the danced action is difficult, all the more so if you have never seen the whole work. So, this performance of Romeo and Juliet and others like it is a valuable and rewarding experience. Prokofiev’s melodies and harmonies are often sweet and suggestive but occasionally a bit angular. The duets with the principal characters are beautiful and adequately depict young love. Similarly, the swordplay scenes and the kind of lightweight violence portrayed in ballet is well played and suggestive in music of a situation getting worse. Still, the best way to experience ballet—even more so than opera—is to see it whole.

All aspects of this very familiar story and one of Prokofiev’s better known scores are quite good in this rendition. The two protagonists are danced by Davit Karapetyan and Maria Kochetkova—they do a wonderful job. The dancers are both very attractive people of approximately the exact age group which Shakespeare’s play depicts. The orchestra under the baton of Martin West sounds superb—the SF Ballet Orchestra is, arguably, the greatest of its genre in the world.

One thing which should be pointed out. Prokofiev’s score is wonderful and evocative throughout; including moments of great beauty as well as great apprehension. Those who know the entire Shakespeare tragedy and who have seen one of the many very fine film adaptations may be used to more drama, more pathos and especially in that all so tragic ending. Ballet is a dance form and, certainly, we know what’s coming—while the music more than supports the mood, the film affords us more visceral and ‘over the top’ emotion than most ballets can. Still, this is a wonderful piece performed extremely well and captivating throughout. Well worth your while!

—Daniel Coombs

 

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