"I’m convinced that Renaissance Verona and Elizabethan London had sex and violence in common which truly links them to our times."
- Rudolf Noureev
Elevated to legendary status, William Shakespeare's most performed play – along with Hamlet – had to wait until the 20th century to be adapted into a ballet. Sergei Prokofiev first had the idea of composing a score which was choreographed by Leonid Lavrovsky in 1935. His magnificent Romeo & Juliette would go on to inspire numerous other versions, including that of Kenneth MacMillan, first performed in 1965 with Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn in the leading roles.
Added to the Paris Opera Ballet’s repertoire in 1984, Rudolf Nureyev's version uses much of the ballet that he had premiered in London in 1977.
Scrupulously following Sergei Prokofiev’s score, itself faithful to Shakespeare’s play, the choreographer expanded the role of Romeo, whom he described as “a young boy who becomes a man”, opposite a passionate Juliette who, scarcely grown out of childhood, also finds herself tragically entering adulthood.
With Ezio Frigerio’s sumptuous Italian-Renaissance-inspired sets and costumes, he succeeds in recreating the sophistication and sensuousness of the Elizabethan drama, but also all its cruelty.
Death looms over the stage, ever present, keeping apart the two families whose mutual hatred will result in the sacrifice of these youthful and passionate lovers. Playing on the symbolism of colours and the different leitmotifs of the score, Nureyev transforms it into an impassioned historic tragedy.