How do we love Romeo and Juliet? Let us count the ways. Do you swoon for Shakespeare's iambic pentameter? Will wrote his masterpiece in the late 16th c. based upon a story which dated back to antiquity and had been given several incarnations until the bard brought the two young lovers and their warring families to life.
Do you prefer treating the tale operatically? Countless composers have given it a go. Gounod's Roméo et Juliette is arguably the best known. Bellini's I Capuleti ed I Montecchi has some lovely tunes but has been criticized for not following the story. Berlioz' version is more of an oratorio. Let us not forget Tchaikovsky's symphonic poem.
The medium of film has made good use of the story as well. Zeffirelli's 1968 version far surpassed MGM's 1936 version by casting young non-actors in the lead roles, lending the tale the advantage of verisimilitude. Baz Luhrman made a post-modern MTV version in 1996. The Bernstein/Sondheim musical of 1957 West Side Story was based on R&J and was filmed in 1961.
But for us, the pinnacle of pleasure is reached in the medium of ballet. The visuals and the kinesthetics allows us to turn off our intellect and to directly experience the intensity of adolescent passion, intergenerational conflict, tribal warfare and profound loss. John Cranko choreographed a superb R&J in 1962 and Sir Kenneth MacMillan a no less wonderful one in 1965. It is this latter version currently being presented by the American Ballet Theater. We just witnessed a triumph of role interpretation by Herman Cornejo who wears the role of Romeo like a second skin. We were quite sure no one could replace Julio Bocca and the memory of his performance remains untarnished in our mind; but Mr. Cornejo owes us no apologies. What he lacks in height is more than made up for by his artistry; actually his size works to his advantage in this role and he is completely believable as an impetuous adolescent. Xiomara Reyes is a winsome Juliet and convinces us that she is but 13 years old. The production was effectively staged by Julie Lincoln and the handsome sets and costumes, mostly in tones of burnt sienna and ochre, evince Renaissance Italy.
So, readers, what is your pleasure? The printed word, the spoken word, film, opera, musical, or ballet? Please leave your opinions and comments!