A very memorable 'Romeo and Juliet'
By JOSEPH DALTON, Special to the Times Union First published: Sunday, July 8, 2007
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- As the curtain goes up on New York City Ballet's new "Romeo and Juliet," the set practically drips with blood and in minutes a harsh and extended swordfight fills the stage. But graphic violence is only one of many memorable aspects of the evening-length ballet, which opened on Friday night at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Romance, humor and bravura dancing also abound.
With Prokofiev's monumental score as a template, Peter Martins' choreography and storytelling is remarkably compelling, and the opening night casting was spot-on.
Robert Fairchild and Sterling Hyltin had a palpable chemistry as the leads. The waif-like Hyltin moves with a joyful freedom and displays a rare emotional surrender. Fairchild was at his best when tragedy arrived. His attempt to recreate the pas de deux of Act I with Juliet's lifeless body evoked chills.
Of the supporting cast, the unstoppable Daniel Ulbricht was a spectacular Mercutio, mirthful and highflying.One can hardly complain that he seems to be in every ballet lately. As Tybalt, the goateed Joaquin de Luz had the quiet force of a tank, able to stare down a Montague and create worse damage when armed.
Retired principal dancer Jock Soto returned as Lord Capulet, with Darci Kistler as his wife. They led the court dances of the first act and even these were enjoyable, thanks in large part to Prokofiev and the orchestra led by Maurice Kaplow.
Yet Soto was no mere stage piece. Seemingly out of nowhere he delivered a sharp slap to his disobedient daughter in Act II.
Another surprise came from five adolescent dancers from the School of American Ballet, including a somersaulting tyke. They steal the stage for a brief mandolin dance in Act I.
Per Kirkeby, who collaborated with Martins on the company's "Swan Lake," returns as designer. His drops look as if they are scribbled with sidewalk chalk. A castle-like structure at center stage seems borrowed from "The Flintstones." Except for some fidgety curtains, none of it is ever terribly distracting. Dancing rightfully holds the eye.
"Romeo and Juliet" nearly sold out its extended run in New York City this spring, so it's curious that SPAC hasn't made more of a fuss about it and that the few performances are rather randomly placed during the first and second week. It is absolutely worth seeing. Joseph Dalton is a local freelance writer who contributes regularly to the Times Union.
NEW YORK CITY BALLET: "ROMEO & JULIET"
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs
Duration: Two hours 20 minutes; one intermission
The crowd: About 2,000 devoted fans
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