Romeo and Juliet (Prokofiev)

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Romeo and Juliet
Commemorative coin depicting a scene from the ballet
ChoreographerIvo Váňa-Psota
MusicSergei Prokofiev
Based onRomeo and Juliet
Premiere1938 (1938)
Mahen Theatre, Brno
Original ballet companyBallet of the National Theatre, Brno
CharactersIvo Váňa-Psota as Romeo
Zora Šemberová as Juliet

Romeo and Juliet (Russian: Ромео и Джульетта, romanizedRomeo i Dzhulyetta), Op. 64, is a ballet by Sergei Prokofiev based on William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. First composed in 1935, it was substantially revised for its Soviet premiere in early 1940. Prokofiev reused music from the ballet in three suites for orchestra and a solo piano work.

Background and premiere[edit]

Based on a synopsis created by Adrian Piotrovsky (who first suggested the subject to Prokofiev)[1] and Sergey Radlov, the ballet was composed by Prokofiev in September 1935 to their scenario which followed the precepts of "drambalet" (dramatised ballet, officially promoted at the Kirov Ballet to replace works based primarily on choreographic display and innovation).[2] Following Radlov's acrimonious resignation from the Kirov in June 1934, a new agreement was signed with the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow on the understanding that Piotrovsky would remain involved.[3]

However, the ballet's original happy ending (contrary to Shakespeare) provoked controversy among Soviet cultural officials.[4] The ballet's production was then postponed indefinitely when the staff of the Bolshoi was overhauled at the behest of the chairman of the Committee on Arts Affairs, Platon Kerzhentsev.[5] The ballet's failure to be produced within Soviet Russia until 1940 may also have been due to the increased fear and caution in the musical and theatrical community in the aftermath of the two notorious Pravda editorials criticising Shostakovich and other "degenerate modernists" including Piotrovsky.[6] The conductor Yuri Fayer met with Prokofiev frequently during the writing of the music, and he strongly urged the composer to revert to the traditional ending. Fayer went on to conduct the first performance of the ballet at the Bolshoi Theatre.

Suites of the ballet music were heard in Moscow and the United States, but the full ballet premiered in the Mahen Theatre, Brno (then in Czechoslovakia, now in the Czech Republic), on 30 December 1938.[7] This version was a single-act production with music mainly from the first two suites. Prokofiev was not able to attend the premiere due to his status of outbound restriction.

1940 Kirov production[edit]

Galina Ulanova and Yuri Zhdanov in the ballet

It is better known today from the significantly revised version that was first presented at the Kirov Theatre (now Mariinsky Theatre) in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) on 11 January 1940, with choreography by Leonid Lavrovsky and with Galina Ulanova and Konstantin Sergeyev in the leading roles. Despite the objections of Prokofiev, Lavrovsky significantly changed the score of the ballet. This production received international acclaim and was awarded the Stalin Prize.

In 1955, Mosfilm made the film version of this production with Galina Ulanova as Juliet and Yuri Zhdanov as Romeo. This film won the Best Lyrical Film and nominated as Palme d'Or in the 1955 Cannes Film Festival.

Original Cast

Revivals and other productions[edit]

In 1955, Frederick Ashton choreographed a production of Romeo and Juliet for the Royal Danish Ballet.

In 1962, John Cranko's choreography of Romeo and Juliet for the Stuttgart Ballet helped the company achieve a worldwide reputation. It had its American premiere in 1969.

In 1965, choreographer Sir Kenneth MacMillan's version for the Royal Ballet premiered at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev danced the title roles. Fonteyn, considered to be near retirement, embarked upon a rejuvenated career with a partnership with Nureyev. Also in 1965, Oleg Vinogradov stages a version in Russia while serving as assistant ballet master to Pyotr Gusev.

In 1971, John Neumeier, partly inspired by John Cranko, created another version of the ballet in Frankfurt. In 1974, Neumeier's Romeo and Juliet premiered in Hamburg as his first full-length ballet with the company.

In 1977, Rudolf Nureyev created a new version of Romeo and Juliet for the London Festival Ballet, today's English National Ballet. He performed the lead role of Romeo with British ballerina Patricia Ruanne creating the role of Juliet. As a partnership, they toured the production internationally, and it continues to be a popular ballet in the ENB repertoire, with its most recent revival in 2010 staged by Patricia Ruanne and Frederic Jahn of the original 1977 cast. This production was also staged by La Scala Theater Ballet in 1980 and Paris Opera Ballet in 1984 and has been a renowned performance in the POB repertoire.

In 1979, Yuri Grigorovich created a new version for the Bolshoi, "which did away with most of the stage properties and stylized the action into an all-danced text." This was revived in 2010 and remains in the Bolshoi repertory.[8]

A 2010 production at the Royal Swedish Opera

In 1985, choreographer László Seregi's production premiered at the Hungarian National Ballet, Budapest.

A 2014 Krzysztof Pastor's production at the Polish National Ballet, dancers: Vladimir Yaroshenko and Maria Żuk

In 1991, Christopher Gable directed his own production for the Northern Ballet Theatre. It was choreographed by Massimo Moricone and featured William Walker as Romeo and Jayne Regan as Juliet.

In 1996, choreographer Jean-Christophe Maillot premiered his version of Roméo et Juliette at Les Ballets de Monte Carlo. Taking formal inspiration from the episodic character of Sergei Prokofiev’s classic score, Maillot structured the action in a manner akin to cinematic narrative. Rather than focusing on themes of political-social opposition between the two feuding clans, this Romeo and Juliet highlights the dualities and ambiguities of adolescence.

In 2007, Peter Martins made Romeo + Juliet on New York City Ballet to the Prokofiev music.

In 2008, Krzysztof Pastor presented his version by the Scottish Ballet at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre. The Polish premiere of this version was by the Polish National Ballet in Warsaw, and the United States premiere was by the Joffrey Ballet in 2014.

On July 4, 2008, with the approval of the Prokofiev family and permission from the Russian State Archive, the original Prokofiev score was given its world premiere. Musicologist Simon Morrison, author of The People's Artist: Prokofiev's Soviet Years, unearthed the original materials in the Moscow archives, obtained permissions, and reconstructed the entire score. Mark Morris created the choreography for the production. The Mark Morris Dance Group premiered the work at the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College in New York state. The production subsequently began a year-long tour to include Berkeley, Norfolk, London, New York, and Chicago.

In 2011, the National Ballet of Canada premiered a new choreography of Romeo and Juliet by Alexei Ratmansky in Toronto, with plans to take it on tour in Western Canada in early 2012.

Also in 2011, Graeme Murphy created his version of Romeo and Juliet for The Australian Ballet.[9]



In addition to a somewhat standard instrumentation, the ballet also requires the use of the tenor saxophone. This voice adds a unique sound to the orchestra as it is used both in solo and as part of the ensemble. Prokofiev also used the cornet, viola d'amore and mandolins in the ballet, adding an Italianate flavor to the music.

Full instrumentation is as follows:

The score is published by Muzyka and the Russian State Publisher.


List of acts, scenes and musical numbers.[10]

Scene No. English title Russian title (Original title) Tempo indication Notes
Act 1
1 Introduction Вступление Andante assai
Scene 1 2 Romeo Ромео Andante
3 The Street Awakens Улица просыпается Allegretto
4 Morning Dance Утренний танец Allegro
5 The Quarrel Ссора Allegro brusco
6 The Fight Бой Presto
7 The Prince Gives His Order Приказ герцога Andante a.k.a. The Duke's Command. Introduction of Montagues and Capulets in Suite No. 2
8 Interlude Интерлюдия Andante pomposo (L'istesso tempo)
Scene 2 9 Preparing for the Ball (Juliet and the Nurse) Приготовление к балу (Джульетта и Кормилица) Andante assai. Scherzando a.k.a. At the Capulets' (Preparations for the Ball)
10 Juliet as a Young Girl Джульетта-Девочка Vivace a.k.a. The Young Juliet
11 Arrival of the Guests (Minuet) Съезд гостей (Менуэт) Assai moderato
12 Masks (Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio in Masks) Маски (Ромео, Меркуцио и Бенволио в масках) Andante marciale
13 Dance of the Knights Танец рыцарей Allegro pesante The main part of Montagues and Capulets in Suite No. 2
14 Juliet's Variation Вариация Джульетты Moderato (quasi Allegretto)
15 Mercutio Меркуцио Allegro giocoso
16 Madrigal Мадригал Andante tenero
17 Tybalt Recognizes Romeo Тибальд узнает Ромео Allegro
18 Gavotte (Departure of the Guests) Гавот (Разъезд гостей) Allegro Gavotte (movement III) from "Classical" Symphony, Op. 25
19 Balcony Scene Сцена у балкона Larghetto
20 Romeo's Variation Вариация Ромео Allegretto amoroso
21 Love Dance Любовный танец Andante
Act 2
Scene 3 22 Folk Dance Народный танец Allegro giocoso
23 Romeo and Mercutio Ромео и Меркуцио Andante tenero
24 Dance of the Five Couples Танец пяти пар Vivo Dance in Suite No. 2
25 Dance with Mandolins Танец с мандолинами Vivace
26 The Nurse Кормилица Adagio scherzoso
27 The Nurse Gives Romeo the Note from Juliet Кормилица передает Ромео записку от Джульетты Vivace a.k.a. The Nurse and Romeo
Scene 4 28 Romeo at Friar Laurence's Ромео у патера Лоренцо Andante espressivo
29 Juliet at Friar Laurence's Джульетта у патера Лоренцо Lento
Scene 5 30 The People Continue to Make Merry Народное веселье продолжается Vivo a.k.a. Public Merrymaking
31 The Folk Dance Again Снова народный танец Allegro giocoso a.k.a. Further Public Festivities (Снова народный праздник)
32 Tybalt Meets Mercutio Встреча Тибальда с Меркуцио Moderato a.k.a. Meeting of Tybalt and Mercutio
33 Tybalt and Mercutio Fight Тибальд бьётся с Меркуцио Precipitato a.k.a. The Duel
34 Death of Mercutio Меркуцио умирает Moderato
35 Romeo Decides to Avenge Mercutio's Death Ромео решает мстить за смерть Меркуцио Andante. Animato a.k.a. Death of Tybalt
36 Finale of Act II Финал второго действия Adagio dramatico
Act 3
37 Introduction Вступление Andante reprise of No. 7
Scene 6 38 Romeo and Juliet (Juliet's bedroom) Ромео и Джульетта (Спальня Джульетты) Lento
39 Farewell before Parting Прощание перед разлукой Andante a.k.a. Romeo Bids Juliet Farewell, or The Last Farewell
40 The Nurse Кормилица Andante assai
41 Juliet Refuses to Marry Paris Джульетта отказывается выйти за Париса Vivace
42 Juliet Alone Джульетта одна Adagio
43 Interlude Интерлюдия Adagio
Scene 7 44 At Friar Laurence's У Лоренцо Andante a.k.a. At Friar Laurence's Cell
45 Interlude Интерлюдия L'istesso tempo
Scene 8 46 Again in Juliet's Bedroom Снова у Джульетты Moderato tranquillo
47 Juliet Alone Джульетта одна Andante
48 Morning Serenade Утренняя серенада Andante giocoso a.k.a. Aubade
49 Dance of the Girls with Lilies Танец девушек с лилиями Andante con eleganza
50 At Juliet's Bedside У постели Джульетты Andante assai
Act 4: Epilogue
Scene 9 51 Juliet's Funeral Похороны Джульетты Adagio funebre Romeo at the Tomb of Juliet in Suite No. 2
52 Death of Juliet Смерть Джульетты Adagio (meno mosso del tempo precendente)

Orchestral suites taken from the work[edit]

Suite No. 1 from Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64bis[edit]

  1. Folk Dance
  2. Scene (the Street Awakens)
  3. Madrigal
  4. Minuet (the Arrival of the Guests)
  5. Masks
  6. Romeo and Juliet (Balcony Scene and Love Dance)
  7. Death of Tybalt (Containing parts from No. 33, 6, 35 & 36 from the complete score)

Suite No. 2 from Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64ter[edit]

  1. Montagues and Capulets (The Prince Gives His Order and Dance of the Knights)
  2. Juliet as a Young Girl[a]
  3. Friar Laurence (Romeo at Friar Laurence's)
  4. Dance (Dance of the Five Couples)
  5. Romeo and Juliet Before Parting
  6. Dance of the Girls with Lilies
  7. Romeo at Juliet's Grave (Juliet's Funeral)

Suite No. 3 from Romeo and Juliet, Op. 101[edit]

  1. Romeo at the Fountain (Introduction & Romeo)
  2. Morning Dance
  3. Juliet (Juliet's Variation & Juliet at Friar Laurence's)
  4. The Nurse (Preparing for the Ball & The Nurse)
  5. Aubade (Morning serenade)
  6. The Death of Juliet

Ten Pieces for Piano, Op. 75[edit]

Prokofiev reduced selected music from the ballet as Romeo and Juliet: Ten Pieces for Piano, Op. 75, which were performed in 1936 and 1937.[11]

  1. Folk Dance
  2. Scene: The Street Awakens
  3. Minuet: Arrival of the Guests
  4. Juliet as a Young Girl
  5. Masquers
  6. Montagues and Capulets
  7. Friar Laurence
  8. Mercutio
  9. Dance of the Girls with Lilies
  10. Romeo and Juliet before Parting


Sergei Prokofiev himself made the first recording of music from the ballet, with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra in 1938. Since then, there have been recordings of the full score, as well as various excerpts such as the orchestral suites the composer prepared. Leopold Stokowski conducted the NBC Symphony Orchestra in a rare stereo recording in 1954. Gennadi Rozhdestvensky and the Symphony Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre recorded the full score in 1959. Michael Tilson Thomas conducted the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in 1995, in selections from the score, both for RCA Victor. Andre Previn with the London Symphony Orchestra and Lorin Maazel with the Cleveland Orchestra both made recordings of the complete score in 1973. Georg Solti conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a recording coupled with the Classical Symphony. Valery Gergiev made two recordings with Kirov Orchestra in 2001 and London Symphony Orchestra in 2011.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (Russian: Джульетта-девочка). Sometimes, the play is nicknamed in Italian, Giulietta come una ragazza. For more details, see Origin of nickname


  1. ^ Morrison 2008, p. 32.
  2. ^ Ezrahi 2012, p. 43.
  3. ^ Morrison 2008, pp. 32–33.
  4. ^ Morrison 2008, pp. 36–37.
  5. ^ Morrison 2008, p. 37.
  6. ^ Clark 1995, p. 291.
  7. ^ Morrison 2007.
  8. ^ Macauley 2014.
  9. ^ "Romeo and Juliet – The Australian Ballet". Dance Magazine. December 2011.
  10. ^ S. Prokofiev: Op. 64 Romeo and Juliet, Ballet in Four Acts, Nine Scenes. Moscow: Muzyka, 1976. (С. Прокофьев: Соч. 64 Ромео и Джульетта, Балет в четырех действиях, девяти картинах. Москва: Издательство «Музыка», 1976 г.)
  11. ^ Redepenning 2001.


External links[edit]