Romeo and Juliet: an absolute beauty of a ballet

Jeremy Brick/RNZB​

Choreographer Francesco Ventriglia talks about his production of Romeo and Juliet with The Royal New Zealand Ballet.

The Royal New Zealand Ballet's Romeo and Juliet 
By Francesco Ventriglia,with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Hamish McKeich.
Isaac Theatre Royal, August 26

When the best talent come together, they create sublime quality.

The RNZB have brought together an impressive creative team to bring their new ballet of Romeo and Juliet to life. 

Francesco Ventriglia is the outgoing Artistic Director of the RNZB and has remained as guest choreographer to make a dream of his a reality. Turning down an opportunity, earlier in his career, to create a Romeo and Juliet ballet because he felt he was not ready is testament to a man who waited to do his dream justice and create a masterpiece.

Back in 2015, set and costume designer James Acheson approached Ventriglia about working together. Acheson has won three Academy Awards for his costumes designs. Has designed set and costumes for both the Vienna State Opera and Metropolitan Opera in New York and his work has been seen in many notable fantasies and costume dramas created in the last 40 years.

The choreography was so much about a partnership of equals between Juliet and her Romeo and Joseph Skelton was the ...

The choreography was so much about a partnership of equals between Juliet and her Romeo and Joseph Skelton was the perfect match for Madeleine Graham.

For this new ballet, choreographer and designer took inspiration from Shakespeare, Prokofiev and Zeffirelli, but especially from the art of the early Renaissance masters and the architecture of the city of Verona itself. Francesco Ventriglia has lived, trained and worked much of his life in Italy, and for his new ballet asked Acheson to create a Verona that he would recognise. The result is large scale, uncluttered, strong-lined, visually beautiful staging. The outdoor sets do make us feel as though we are in the piazza with the midday sun striking the stone walls setting them on fire with intense colour.

Being that the church was at the heart of society in the 15th century, it is also centre stage in each scene. Minute detail adds authenticity and for a moment two tiny altar boys appeared either side of the altar and visually completed the scene.

The costumes are absolutely stunning. They are designed to be as true as possible to the Renaissance, as is possible in the 21st century. As with most productions of Romeo and Juliet, colour is the key that differentiates the Montagues and the Capulets. Montagues are dressed in cool blues, greys and the Capulets are afire in yellow, gold and red. The Capulets court ball scene is a masterstroke of theatre. A visual feast for the connoisseur of luxury and opulence.

I left the Isaac Theatre Royal pondering. Is it the choreography that makes a dancer beautiful, or is it the dancer that makes the choreography sing? I conclude that in this case it is a marriage of two artistries combining to create absolute beauty.

Juliet was danced by Madeleine Graham. I loved every moment of her on stage, which is most of the ballet. Here is a dancer who epitomises purity of movement, incredible strength and the confidence to dance to the extremes of her physicality. Graham did Ventriglia's choreography and dream justice.

The choreography was so much about a partnership of equals between Juliet and her Romeo and Joseph Skelton was the perfect match for Graham.  There is an over-arching quality across the RNZB's senior dancers in this production. They are all absolute artists of dance. They are all an absolute joy to watch.

With Prokofiev's beautiful and powerful music rising up from the orchestral pit to accompany the dancers, how could they not have been inspired to give their all. Congratulations for creating a true spectacle and masterpiece RNZB. 

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