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Ballet in three acts after William Shakespeare - 1962

Choreography John Cranko · Composer Sergej Prokofjew

Friday, 17. March 2006
07:30 pm – 10:15 pm
Nationaltheater

Duration est. 2 hours 45 minutes · 1. Akt (est. 07:30 pm - 08:30 pm ) · Interval (est. 08:30 pm - 09:00 pm ) · 2. Akt (est. 09:00 pm - 09:40 pm ) · 3. Akt (est. 09:40 pm - 10:14 pm )

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Cast

Choreography
John Cranko
Set Design
Jürgen Rose

  • Soloists and corps de ballet of the Bavarian State Ballet
  • Bayerisches Staatsorchester

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Even though John Cranko is South African, he counts as one of the most significant English choreographers of the 20th century. Furthermore, he is a central figure in German ballet history – after all, he contributed greatly to the fact that Germany returned to the forefront of the ballet world in the 1960s. In particular his version of Romeo and Juliet, created in 1962, directed the eyes of the ballet world back to the "Dance Country Germany" after it had been the catalyst of "Ausdruckstanz" and Modern Dance during the first third of the 20th century.
Cranko's Romeo and Juliet is told in the most clear and concise way, making explanations in the program book almost completely redundant. In his choreographic handwriting, each movement resembles an emotion. It is purely classical, but combines different styles and influences: from the near acrobatic virtuosity of the soviet ballet to the subtle elegance of the English style. This mixture is especially evident in his pas de deux between lovers. Ever since 1968, the ballet has been in the repertory of the Bavarian State Ballet. Every new generation of audiences and dancer alike is enchanted and devastated by the drama of this Piece.






 

 

Act I
Scene 1The Market Place.

As day breaks, Romeo, son of Montague, is found declaring his love to the fair Rosaline. With the sunrise the market place fills with townspeople among whom are members of the two rival families, the Capulets and the Montagues. Tempers flare and a quarrel develops. The Duke of Verona appears and warns the two fractions that death will the ultimate punishment if the feud does not stop. Romeo and his friends, Benvolio and Mercutio, make reluctant peace with Tybalt, a kinsman of the Capulets.

Scene 2Juliet’s anteroom in the Capulets’ house.
Juliet receives her first ball dress from her mother, Lady Capulet, and learns that she is to meet the noble Paris to whom she will be betrothed on the following day. Now she must bid farewell to her childhood.

Scene 3Outside the Capulets’ house.
Guests appear for the Capulets’ ball, among them Rosaline. Romeo and his friends, masked, follow her to the hall.

Scene 4 The ballroom.
Juliet dances with Paris but suddenly she and Romeo behold each other, and it is love at first sight. Tybalt, suspecting Romeo’s identity, tries to start an argument, but is prevented by Juliet’s father who abides by the laws of hospitality.

Scene 5Juliet’s balcony.
On the balcony outside her bedroom Juliet dreams of Romeo. He appears below in the garden. They declare their eternal love.

Act II
Scene 1The Market Place.
A carnival is in progress in the main square. Romeo, indifferent to the gaiety around him, is discovered by Juliet’s nurse, who brings him a letter from her. She asks Romeo to meet Juliet in the chapel of Friar Laurence.

Scene 2 The Chapel.
In his cloister, Friar Laurence joins the young lovers in marriage.

Scene 3The Market Place.
At the height of the carnival, Romeo returns to the square. Tybalt accosts him but Romeo declines to fight. Mercutio, angered, engages in a duel with Tybalt, and dies at his hands. Romeo, distraught, turns on Tybalt and kills him.

Act III
Scene 1
The Bedroom.
In Juliet’s bedroom the lovers are awakened by the sunrise, and Romeo, under sentence of exile, must leave Juliet and Verona. Lord and Lady Capulet enter with Paris, but Juliet rejects him.

Scene 2The Chapel.
Juliet, appealing for help to Friar Laurence, receives a potion from him that will place her in a death – like sleep. He explains that Romeo will find her in the family tomb and from there they can escape together.

Scene 3The Bedroom.
Juliet agrees to her marriage with Paris. After he leaves with her parents, she takes the sleeping draught and is thought to be dead when her family and friends discover her.

Scene 4The Capulet family crypt.
Romeo, who has never received Friar Laurence’s message revealing the plan, believes Juliet to be dead and rushes to her tomb. There he finds the mourning Paris and kills him. Embracing Juliet for the last time, he plunges his dagger into his heart. Juliet awakens to find Romeo Dead. Grief-stricken, she kills herself.

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Biographies

John Cranko was born on August 15, 1927 in Rustenburg, South Africa. He received his dance education mainly at the University of Cape Town, where he also choreographed his first ballet to Stravinsky’s Suite from The Soldier’s Tale. In 1946, he continued his studies at the Sadler’s Wells School in London and shortly afterwards became a member of the Sadler’s Wells Ballet (subsequently The Royal Ballet).

In 1947, Cranko made a sensational choreography to Debussy’s Children’s Corner for the Sadler’s Wells Ballet; from 1949 on he devoted himself exclusively to choreography, producing extremely successful ballets - mostly for the Sadler’s Wells Ballet. In 1955, he choreographed La Belle Hélène for the Paris Opera Ballet and in 1957 he created his first full-length ballett, The Prince of the Pagodas, for The Royal Ballet. In 1961, John Cranko was appointed ballet director in Stuttgart by Walter Erich Schaefer, the General Director of the Wuerttemberg State Theatre (today’s Stuttgart State Theater). At the beginning of his time in Stuttgart, Cranko created short ballets and gathered together a group of dancers, among whom were Egon Madsen, Richard Cragun, Birgit Keil and, most importantly, a young Brazilian dancer named Marcia Haydée who was to become his prime muse and inspiration.

The breakthrough for Cranko came in December 1962 with the world premiere of Romeo and Juliet, which was highly praised by critics and audience alike. In Stuttgart, Cranko created many small choreographic jewels such as Jeu de cartes and Opus I as well as his symphonic ballet Initials R.B.M.E. but it was with his dramatic story ballets such as Onegin, The Taming of the Shrew, Carmen, Poème de l’Extase and Traces that Cranko secured his place in the pantheon of great choreographers. In addition, he encouraged young dancers in his company - including Jiří Kylián and John Neumeier - to try their hand at choreography.

Cranko’s gift for nuanced story-telling, clear dramatic structure and his exquisite mastery of the art of the pas de deux conquered New York audiences during a triumphant season at the Metropolitan Opera in 1969. World-wide acclaim soon followed, as Cranko and his young company toured the globe.

John Cranko died unexpectedly at age 45 on June 26, 1973, on a return flight from a successful USA tour.

John Cranko was director of the Bavarian State Opera's ballet company between 1968 and 1970. In these years, he created "Begegnung in drei Farben", "Gesang der Nachtigall", "Triplum", "Französische Suite", "Une Fete Galante", "Orpheus" and "Ebony Concerto". Also, the company performed the masterly "Romeo and Juliet", "Onegin", and "The Taming of the Shrew" which are still part of the repertoire.

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