Ballet in three acts after William Shakespeare - 1962

Choreography John Cranko · Composer Sergej Prokofjew

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  • Ensemble of the Bayerisches Staatsballett
  • 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.

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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