The Russian National Ballet Theatre: Romeo and Juliet

The Russian National Ballet Theatre Romeo and JulietCo-founded by Evgeny Amosov in 2001, The Russian National Ballet Theatre is one of several Russian ballet companies which regularly tour Australia offering productions of ballet classics. It’s 2017 tour; alternating performances of Romeo and Juliet with The Nutcracker will see the company perform in about 50 towns and cities across Australia, between September and December, offering around 85 performances in all.

It’s a gruelling schedule, but the Russian National Ballet Theatre manages to service an audience outside the capital cities which would otherwise rarely get the opportunity to experience a full scale classical ballet production.

An unfortunate lack-lustre performance of Swan Lake last year may have accounted for the disappointingly small audience which greeted its only Canberra performance of Romeo and Juliet this year. This was a shame because this production offered much to enjoy.

One of the stated aims of the Russian National Ballet Theatre is to preserve the creative heritage of the great masters of Russian Ballet, which helps explain why, when modern audiences are regaled with new innovative productions of the classics, these heritage productions sometimes come across as dated and unimaginative.

Despite the restrictions of gruelling touring schedule, the richly painted backdrops and splendid costumes, particularly for the ensemble scenes, provide a sense of lavishness. The choreographic style, interpreted by Artistic Director, Evgeny Amosov, sticks strictly to the traditional Russian style with its attention to line and technique.

Amasov stays with the familiar Prokofiev score for his production, concentrating on telling the story with the minimum of fuss, relying on the backdrops and costumes for spectacle, and allowing the choreography to interpret the emotions.

The Montagues and Capulets glare appropriately at each other as they process around the stage. Taking his cue from Juliet’s parents, Tybalt glowers threateningly whenever Romeo looked like getting anywhere near Juliet. Tybalt and Mercutio’s sword fight is efficiently, if un-excitingly staged with Mercutio dying dramatically, stabbed under the arm.

Handsome, Filipp Parkhachev is dashing and attentive as Romeo. Julia Nepomnyashchaya looks exquisite and dances superbly as Juliet, displaying lovely line and flowing extensions. Though both are obviously excellent dancers, neither appeared to invest their roles with subtext, apparently content instead to focus their attention on executing the choreography neatly and efficiently.

Indeed the most exciting dancing of the night came from the dancer who played Mercutio, with his high confident jumps and energetic attack, but I can’t share his name with you as, regretfully, the glossy souvenir program provides very little information about the other dancers, other than the five principals. However, they all do credit to their company coach, Evgenya Rytova.

For those interested in experiencing a taste of ballet history, this production of Romeo and Juliet provides a welcome glimpse of ballet’s rich cultural heritage.     

Romeo and Juliet
Canberra Theatre Centre, London Circuit, Canberra
Performance: Tuesday 26 September 2017

The Russian National Ballet Theatre is touring till December. Check with your local venue for dates and performance times.

Image: Artists of The Russian National Ballet Theatre in Romeo and Juliet

Review: Bill Stephens OAM