Deathly silence reigns in the auditorium of the Karlín Music Theatre: the most famous tragic romance of all time takes the form of a dancer’s veil and submits to a magical game of symbols. Under the baton of Sergey Prokofiev, the ballet performance was given its world premiere 80 years ago in Brno. Today, choreographer Petr Zuska is staging the play for a contemporary audience. A feature of his interpretation is the remarkable dreamlike poetry that brings the classical narrative to a new level.
Shakespeare’s drama, inspired by several older stories, is well-known: in an Italian city in the 16th century an age-old conflict is raging between the Montague and Capulet families. As a result, romances between them are simply unthinkable. However, at a masked ball organised by the Capulets, Romeo of the Montagues manages to be present, and there he falls in love with young Juliet, who later reciprocates her love for him. The pair receive the blessing of the kind friar Laurence, who unwittingly sets off the tragedy of violence and grief, which culminates in the suicide of both lovers.
In Zuska’s production, however, it is of course a little more than a dance version of work performed numerous times. From the beginning to the end, Queen Mab accompanies you clothed bewitchingly in white, of whom there is only a fleeing reference in the play. But here she takes on crucial significance: she represents the realm of fate, death and dreaming, into which she gradually invites the heroes of the story. Queen Mab gives them a sense of inevitability but also a deeper justification. The black-clad friar Laurence, the archetypal embodiment of reason and conscience, always feels a sense of helplessness when he wants to reach the Queen or here associates. Human behaviour, however virtuous, must eventually give way to the magical unpredictability of life. The purple costumes of the Montagues (men), evoke brightness and courage, and the red costumes of the Capulets (women), are mysterious and disturbingly sensual. They move wildly around each other in contrast to the irreconcilability and passionate attraction that finds a beautiful musical response to Prokofiev’s Knight’s Dance. There is also a humorous high point thanks to the excellent dancing of Mercury and the children’s ballet ensemble. The performance, however, makes an impression on you, above all, with the atmosphere of another world, banishing the concept of real time, and with the ethereal ballet of the true queen of the evening: Queen Mab.
Romeo and Juliet is performed by the soloists of the Czech National Ballet and the Ballet Preparatory School, and accompanied by the Orchestra of the State Opera.