Houston Ballet: Romeo and Juliet
A review by Karen Van Ulzen
I saw this Romeo and Juliet at the premiere in Houston a year ago and was impressed. I’m pleased to say that the ballet is as good as I remember it, if not better, now that the dancers have settled into their roles.
As I have reviewed the ballet previously, I will not repeat my description here. Suffice to say, the ballet is a traditional interpretation that draws extra elements out of the Shakespeare play while keeping the the highlights sacrosanct. It tells the story logically and clearly, even though it has a more complicated plot and more characters than the Cranko and MacMillan versions. As for the design – it is is exquisite! Roberta Guidi di Bagno (costume and set) and Lisa Pinkham (lighting) have created a masterpiece that is lavish without being overwrought, sumptuous yet tasteful, with a gorgeous sense of colour and costumes that combine rich detail with simplicity.
The ballet moves swiftly. The crowd scenes and sword fights are full of excitement and colour, and are highlights in themselves, while showing the tension and acrimony between the feuding families. Despite its traditional setting, the ballet feels fresh, the humour modern and the mime and acting genuine and affecting.
All the company dancers are first rate. Most striking is the way they make dancing seen utterly natural. They have splendid attack, relish performing pirouettes and double tours, and convey no sense of caution or hesitation when it comes to difficult technique.
In the opening night cast, Juliet was performed by Karina Gonzalez. She is so pretty it’s not hard to believe that Romeo falls in love with her at first sight! Her portrayal moved from playfulness and shyness to passion and tragedy — she is the agent of the couple’s undoing, initiating the marriage and the final fatal mistake.
However, it is the men who steal the show. Connor Walsh was an ardent Romeo. He has a beautiful smooth style and jumps that hover. He is also a brilliant partner, and the pas de deux, especially the balcony scene, is breathtaking for its sweeping lifts and falls, expressing the rapture of love. He makes all those running lifts look effortless. Together they make a ravishing couple.
Also notable was Jared Matthews, as Mercutio, jovial and debonair to his last dying breath; Oliver Halkowich, compact and athletic; and Derek Dunn as Balthasar. All the smaller roles were notable for being rounded, interesting characters as opposed to cardboard cut-outs. The parents’ bitterness at their folly is palpable.
Orchestra Victoria, under the baton of Houston Ballet’s musical director Ermanno Florio, sounded underdone, though it improved as the evening progressed.
The Houston Ballet is America’s fifth largest classical ballet company, with more than 50 dancers. It has been directed since 2003 by Australian Stanton Welch. Going by this production, Australians should be bursting with pride at his achievements.
It is not often a company of this size, complete with magnificent sets, can afford to tour to Australia. Don’t miss your chance to see them in this magnificent ballet.
Read more at http://www.danceaustralia.com.au/reviews/houston-ballet-romeo-and-juliet#vwCLRxOSYoQhXS11.99
Link to the article