What a masterpiece! ABT has been performing Kenneth
MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet for the past 25 years and it is still one of the
most compelling, enjoyable, gut-wrenching, soul enlightening ballets in its
repertory. And the opera house is filled night after night, year after year.
Saturday night the company closed out its 70th season with huge performances
from within every rank.
Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes as Romeo and Juliet would
not have been able to dance their roles by pretending to be teenagers. They are
too mature as artists, too glamorous and too smart to attempt to do that. In
talented hands, Romeo and Juliet is an ageless story, and Gomes and Vishneva
conveyed the depth and scope of the tragedy and the power of their characters'
love in terms understandable to everyone of every age. But they did not attempt
to act like they were 14 years old or younger than that which they truly
While Vishneva's leg lines and arched feet may not be as
exquisite as those we remember seeing with Alessandra Ferri, the gold standard
for Juliet, she does have beautiful port de bras, a stunning face and uncommon
flexibility. Haglund thought that Vishneva perhaps played Act I a little cutsy
with the doll. Had it been a Barbie doll, that would have been a little more
appropriate and believable for Vishneva. The balcony PdD was superbly danced by
both Gomes and Vishneva. While on his knees Gomes repeatedly pressed Vishneva
over his head as she arched her back in ecstasy. Clearly we were in an adult
moment here. Gomes' solo variations in the balcony PdD were perhaps not as
energetic as on Monday night - this being his third performance of Romeo this
week - but they were pretty darned impressive. He is not Bocca; she is not
Ferri; everyone knows that and yet the hope and expectation for their type of
magic persists. That's one more reason to be grateful for
YouTube which enables us to revisit Bocca and Ferri
in Romeo and Juliet.
Daniil Simkin and Craig Salstein were Benvolio and
Mercutio. They were not especially pleasing to watch when dancing together or
with Gomes but they were fine when dancing separately. Simkin continued to
dance with his energy traveling upward when it should have been traveling
downward which made it difficult for him to keep up with the choreography and
the other two dancers.
Everyone's fencing and sword fighting were tops tonight.
There was a lot of trash-talking, or actually trash-mouthing, going on and
everyone looked very fierce and totally into killing whoever was in front of
him. Sascha Radetsky was a fantastic Tybalt again tonight – details and
dynamics were superb.
Lord and Lady Capulet were performed by Roman Zhurbin and
Stella Abrera with the right amount of theatrical mustard. Both are intensely
dramatic which serves their roles well. Their acting, never hammy, was bigger than life. The characters are not supposed to act like the Mom & Pop Capulet which the NYTimes critic seems to prefer.
Haglund has been practicing that special Lady Capulet formation where the thumb
and fingers form a circle and then the whole arm twists upside down over the
head. He's not sure what it all means, but it feels powerful.
Haglund was happy to see Isadora Loyola dancing lovely
among Juliet's Friends and Joe Gorak and Eric Tamm among the Mandolin men. All
three are going to floor the audience when they finally get a chance to stand
out. Tamm had a couple of opportunities this season and used them well.
Looking forward to next year.
The Haglund's Heel Pump Bump Award, the Blue Ribbon First Position trophy, tonight goes to Ferri
and Bocca because no one has yet come close to making us forget them in Romeo
and Juliet. It'll take a while.