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BWW Review: ROMEO AND JULIET, Royal Opera House


Running until 25 February

BWW Review: ROMEO AND JULIET, Royal Opera House BWW Review: ROMEO AND JULIET, Royal Opera House The opening night for MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet, a production much loved by the audiences of Covent Garden, saw another dubious opportunity for Artistic Director Kevin O'Hare to take to the Opera House stage and announce "significant changes" to the billed cast. Cue much sighing from the near-full auditorium as it was revealed Marianela Nunez and Federico Bonelli would be stepping in for an isolating Natalia Osipova and Reece Clarke. But as replacements go, it's not bad!

Regulars at the Royal Ballet will be familiar with seeing Music Director Koen Kessels leading the orchestra, but this performance saw Alondra de la Parra take the reins. She removed her mask to acknowledge the audience as she took her place revealing a nervous smile. Initially, the tempi was a little wild before soon settling into something more familiar to the ear.

Of course, where the Royal Ballet shines in this production is not just through the casting of the title roles but the detail and nuance packed within the supporting roles that bring the streets of Verona to life. The outlandish Harlots (Hannah Grennell, Meaghan Grace Hinkis and Olivia Cowley) are always entertaining whether centre stage or not as they tease, kick and kiss their way about the stage.

First Artist Téo Dubreuil delights with a confident Benvolio, dancing toe to toe with the Principals - Bonelli's Romeo and Marcelino Sambé's Mercutio - as they sneak their way into the ball at the Capulets' residence. This trio are delightfully in sync and fleet of foot as they thrill with neat pirouettes and lofty jetés. There is also a successful set-piece with Kristen McNally's Nurse as they attempt to discover the contents of Juliet's letter to Romeo.

Ryiochi Hirano's Tybalt is pleasingly brooding and spoiling for a fight until he meets his end in Act II. He doesn't go quietly: so dramatic is his death as he throws himself around, desperate to survive, his anger sustaining him for a few more seconds. The vibrant Mandolin Dancers led by Joonhyuk Jun must also be acknowledged. With spectacular jumps provoking an audible reaction from the audience around me, they inject additional energy into the already lively proceedings.

However, there was no mistaking whose evening it was. To my eye, this was the Marianela show, a ballerina whose Juliet has been transformed into a riveting and highly charged portrayal with the assistance of coaching from Alessandra Ferri. Nunez is a couple months short of 40 years old, not that you would believe it from the way she scampers skittishly as we meet her upon her first encounter with potential suitor, Paris (Tomas Mock).

It's unquestionable that she is a naive teenager who comes of age over the course of the evening. There is so much depth and detail in this special portrayal, her wide-eyed innocence in these early scenes and then the heaviness of those limbs as Paris attempts to dance with her.

That's before the iconic balcony pas de deux, a dramatic whirlwind across the stage with passion and intensity that will, quite literally, when seen alongside Prokofiev's unmistakable score, give you goosebumps. If there is 15 minutes of ballet you should catch throughout a whole season, surely it's this.

Federico Bonelli's Romeo is more of a slow-burner, even a little uncertain in the first scene at the ball, until the end of Act I when he comes into his own. His experience in this role is suddenly evident in the assured partnering through the pas de deux which builds with a tangible ferocity.

Over the near three hours, the pace does occasionally relent through either a slightly lagging score or overlong divertissement. Some set changes and crowd scenes could be tightened up to make for a slicker feel overall. For balletomanes, a Romeo and Juliet is a matter of personal taste: some will drink up every last moment and some may crave a more concise retelling.

Future performances see debuts from Alexander Campbell and Calvin Richardson as Romeo and Mayara Magri as Juliet, who will undoubtedly offer their own take on the central roles of this classic story.

Romeo and Juliet runs at the Royal Opera House until 25 February

Image: Andrej Uspenski

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