I don't expect to see a better version of Prokofieff's ballet than this one. Even if classical ballet normally leaves you cold, I think you'll be transfixed by this production, which was recorded "live" in January 2000 in Milan's La Scala Theater.
The choreography is by Kenneth MacMillan, although it has been "adapted" by Monica Parker, Georgina Parkinson, and Julie Lincoln, whatever that means. MacMillan's choreography blends a classical style with intense emotionality. Pantomime is very important, and gives the characters life. At times, MacMillan's work can seem a little over the top. For example, characters don't simply die – they keen and flop around like dying salmon. When Lady Capulet (here, the youngish Bruna Radice) mourns the fallen Tybalt, swearing revenge upon the Montagues, her gesturing and expressionistic poses evoke silent movies. Still, even at its most extreme, the choreography never seems ridiculous, thanks in large part to the total commitment of the lead dancers.
Angel Corella is a Spanish ballet dancer who has attracted considerable attention over the last decade. His Roméo is charming, boyish, athletic, and utterly sexy. He has been criticized for smiling his way through this role, but what a smile it is! There's no denying that he's a gifted actor, and to watch him dance is to experience joy in one's physical existence. His partner, Alessandra Ferri, has worked with him in the American Ballet Theatre since 1995. She too is a gifted actress, and a beautiful young woman whose every expression, gesture, and step is both meaningful and a joy to behold. In their duets, she and Corella move and emote like a single organism. If one had to explain the concept of love to a being from another planet, I would show him the duet that closes Act One. It expresses more than any treatise could.
The supporting dancers are excellent too. As Mercutio, Michele Villanova delivers another unforgettable death scene – mocking right up the end – and Juliet's Nurse (Laura Costa) provides necessary lighter touches. The little scene in which she reminds Juliet that she is not a little girl anymore is priceless, almost worth the price of the DVD. The La Scala corps de ballet could be a little more crisp, however. The ensemble numbers lack precision.
Garforth and the La Scala orchestra have a firm grasp on Prokofieff's idiom, and even without the dancing, this would be a worthwhile performance of the score. The sets and the costumes are opulent without getting in the way.
Stereo and surround-sound formats (Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1) are offered; I listened in stereo and found the audio to be excellent. The picture is Anamorphic Widescreen, enhanced for widescreen televisions. The camera seldom moves very close to the dancers. One gets an excellent feel for the size of the stage, however, and those interested in the choreography per se will appreciate the way this production has been shot.
There are no bonus features, but it's hard to imagine that anyone would be dissatisfied with the overall quality of this production.
Copyright © 2004, Raymond Tuttle