The ballet Romeo and Juliet by Sergei Prokofiev

The ballet “Romeo and Juliet” by the Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev is one of the most significant musical interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy.

The ballet “Romeo and Juliet”, as many other pieces of music by Russian composers, had a difficult fate. Initially, the ballet was not accepted by either the audience or the management of the theater where the premiere was scheduled to take place. The music was too complicated and unusual for the audience, and the images of the ballet “Romeo and Juliet” demanded unprecedented skill from the artists, because in addition to dancing they had to portray complex characters. Today, however, the ballet “Romeo and Juliet” is one of the most frequently performed works on stages around the world.

History of creation of the greatest dramatic ballet “Romeo and Juliet”

Sergei Prokofiev was commissioned by the Bolshoi Theatre in St. Petersburg (at that time – the city of Leningrad) to create the ballet in 1934. At first, the composer did not dare to undertake such an extraordinary task, because he wasn’t sure whether he could weave the dramatic images of lovers into the context of the ballet. Plus, he didn’t want to be “second” since the plot of one of the most famous works by Shakespeare had already been used to create beautiful works: 14 operas, a symphony by Berlioz, Tchaikovsky’s overtures …

Still, Sergei Prokofiev took the job and during the summer of 1935 created the music for the ballet. However, Bolshoi Theatre, in the words of Prokofiev, “did not found it suitable for dancing,” and didn’t accept its order.

Staging the ballet

The ballet “Romeo and Juliet” was staged outside the Soviet Union in 1938, in the theater in Bron (Czechoslovakia) by the choreographer Ivo Psotoy. But it was only a trial staging. The ballet consisted only of a single action, which was based on lyrical love scenes.

A year later, choreographer Lavrovskiy began working on the first Leningrad production of “Romeo and Juliet”. But the work progressed with difficulty becauseShakespeare’s characters were very complex to implement in terms of choreography and the idea of combining dancing with complex portraits of the main characters seemed impossible. The first premiere of the ballet in the Soviet Union took place in 1940 in the Kirov theater (today – the Bolshoi Theatre in St. Petersburg).

Adagio. Catherine Osmolkina and Igor Kolb

About the ballet “Romeo and Juliet”

Music by Prokofiev fully reveals the main idea of ​​the tragedy by the great genius of Shakespeare: a conflict between a young love and implacable enmity of several generations. The themes of the musical score miraculously conveyed emotions, passion, dramatic images, sufferings and hopes of the characters. The music in the ballet has a powerful melodic sound and sublime truthfulness which hasn’t stopped amazing the audiences until the present day.

The ballet has seen many productions and experienced many interpretations, but it amazing music filled with dramaturgical symphonic sound, its truthful interpretation of images and choreographic ingenuity without exaggeration make this masterpiece by Prokofiev a treasure of international ballet. 

Today “Romeo and Juliet” is one of the most frequently performed works in theaters around the world.

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