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Polish National Opera in Warsaw to its next ballet premiere. Continuing the company’s stretch of Shakespeare productions , PNB’s director, Krzysztof Pastor, has prepared a choreography to Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. The world premiere of Pastor’s work took place in 2008 (Scottish Ballet, Glasgow).The choreographer and his collaborators (dramaturge Willem Bruls, assistants Amanda Eyles and Paul Tyers, conductor Łukasz Borowicz, and stage designer Tatyana va Wlasum) decided to leave aside romantic vision and ballet narration. During a press conference, the choreographer stressed that this was in line with the character of Shakespeare’s work as he was not a romantic playwright after all: his plays focused mainly on the relations of power. And these were also the focal point of Pastor’s production which concentrates on conflicts of social and political background. Developing the project, the choreographer and dramaturge were interested in how different conflicts and tensions are passed on from generation to generation. The action spans different decades of 20th century Italy: the 1930s, 1950s and 1990s – from Mussolini to Berlusconi. Fated to un unhappy ending, the couple’s passion unfolds at the backdrop of war, fascism, terrorism and contemporary demagogy. It is therefore a particular society that that for certain reasons objects to Romeo and Juliet’s feelings, which is not the case in typically romantic works.

The stage design features the same street in Rome, changing over time: starting with sepia-tinted aura in the 1930s, moving on to Technicolour tinge in the 1950s, and finally immersing in television glow in the 1990s. In the words of Tatyana van Wasylum, the production is to take the audience for a journey in the course of which the realities change but the two protagonists stay the same – unchanged – despite the passing time.

Prokofiev’s score was abbreviated by Łukasz Borowicz, working in collaboration with the rest o the team, to match the play’s action and its flow. As a result, the choreography and music form a symbiotic relation, rendering the character of Prokofiev the avant-garde artist’s work, or his “postcard from the edge”, as Borowicz put it. The musical arrangement uses both Russian expressive aesthetics and American-style finesse. The choreographic score, characteristically for Pastor, fuses classical and contemporary dance techniques. One of the most demanding challenges the dancers face, as a consequence, is switching between natural gesture and classical rigor.

The premiere is another is a series of Shakespeare productions staged by the Polish National Ballet, which started in March 2013 with John Neumeier’s The Midsummer Night’s Dream and Jacek Tyski’s Hamlet. The series is going to climax in 2016 – the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death – with a festival and the staging of The Tempest in coproduction with the Dutch National Ballet.

After the premiere, Romeo and Juliet will be shown on 8, 19-22 March (7 pm), and on 9 and 23 March (6 pm).

About the ballet:

“Shakespeare immortalized them (1597), some used them to try to enter the pantheon, including Vincenzo Bellini (1830), Hector Berlioz (1839), and Charles Gounod (1867). More than 300 years after Shakespeare, Sergei Prokofiev (1936) performed a miracle – maybe because he got the cast to dance, and not speak or sing. Krzysztof Pastor has accustomed Warsaw audiences to his language in which lighting and space in constant motion play a major role – as if they were following the gestures and movements of the dancers. His choreography of Romeo and Juliet was created for the Scottish Ballet. The premiere in Edinburgh aroused the enthusiasm of critics: “excellent production”, “exploding with passion”, “stroke of genius”, “breathtaking – a triumph”, wrote the British press. It makes us look forward with great anticipation to the Polish premiere of this ballet by Krzysztof Pastor, which will be presented shortly afterwards by the famous American Joffrey Ballet.”

The poster

Ballet in two acts according to William Shakespeare
Premiere: 7/03/2014

Choreography: Krzysztof Pastor
Conductor: Łukasz Borowicz
Set and Costume Designer: Tatyana van Walsum
Literary Consultant: Willem Bruls
Lighting Designer: Bert Dalhuysen
Assistant Choreographers: Amanda Eyles, Paul Tyers

Polish National Ballet
Orchestra of Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera, Extras

Co-production: Joffrey Ballet, Chicago, USA

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