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DVD Review

Serge Prokofieff

Roméo and Juliet

  • Angel Corella (Romeo)
  • Alessandra Ferri (Juliet)
  • Michele Villanova (Mercutio)
  • Alessandro Grillo (Benvolio)
  • Gianni Ghisleni (Tybalt)
  • Bryan Hewison (Paris)
Corpo di Ballo del Teatro alla Scala
Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala/David Garforth
TDK DVBLRAJDVD EuroArts DVD 205007-9 Widescreen Dolby, DTS 115min
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This isn't a bad Roméo and Juliet, but when you notice that the timing on the case is given as 115 minutes, you know, that in a ballet usually of nearly two-and-a-half hours' duration, that cuts have been made. Thus, the question you can't help but ask is, why cut a masterpiece like Roméo and Juliet ? It isn't War and Peace after all, a Prokofieff opera that might well benefit from some pruning, as past recordings have shown, most notably the Melik-Pashayev. All fifty-two numbers of this ballet are given, but several are shortened, ultimately, I think, to the detriment of the performance.

And who's messing with Prokofieff's orchestration? – the opening number of Act II (Folk Dance) and Roméo and His Friends (#26, from the same Act), to cite just two instances, feature instrumentation that, while colorful, might well set off a Richter scale situated near Prokofieff's grave. Does this recording feature some of the orchestration fashioned by Pogrebov, used in certain Soviet productions of the ballet? Soviet dancers did not like Prokofieff's original, somewhat transparent orchestration because they claimed they couldn't hear it. So the composer beefed it up. Nevertheless, the bigger (now most commonly heard) version was not satisfactory for some later productions and the little-known Pogrebov fashioned a decidedly less attractive scoring.

Anyway, the production here is fairly good, and the dancing and choreography (based on Kenneth MacMillan's) are quite impressive. Alessandra Ferri is a fine Juliet, and Corella's Roméo is also quite moving. The other dancers in the cast are convincing as well. Conductor David Garforth leads the orchestra with a decent sense for the ballet's drama and emotional thrust. But some of his tempos push things to the extreme: Try the Interlude (#9) that follows The Duke's Decree – never has this march-like episode sounded so slapdash, so devoid of pomp in its rushed glitter and business-like grandeur.

In the end then, this DVD issue won't disappoint lovers of this ballet (the cuts are not foolhardy, but can be maddening), but it doesn't bring on the kind of listening enjoyment that previous classic efforts in this ballet have, like the Ozawa (DG), Maazel (Decca) and Previn (EMI) efforts. The sound is fine and the notes a bit skimpy.

Copyright © 2004, Robert Cummings