A tragic tale of star-crossed lovers: Kenneth MacMillan’s groundbreaking ballet is a 20th-century classic.
Romeo and Juliet fall passionately in love, but their families are sworn enemies. The lovers marry in secret before Romeo kills Juliet’s cousin Tybalt in a fight and is banished from the city.
Juliet’s family arrange for her to marry Paris. To escape, Juliet takes a potion that makes her appear lifeless. Romeo does not receive the message explaining her plan; thinking her dead, he goes to her tomb and kills himself. She wakes, sees Romeo’s corpse and stabs herself.
Kenneth MacMillan poignant setting of Sergey Prokofiev’s classic score draws out the emotional and psychological intensity of the tale. Romeo and Juliet contains three passionate pas de deux: the lovers’ first meeting, the famous balcony scene and the devastating final tragedy, in which Romeo dances desperately with the lifeless Juliet. The story is set against a wonderful evocation of 16th-century Verona, and includes a bustling marketplace that erupts into a violent sword fight, and a lavish ball held in an elegant mansion.
MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet first arrived at Covent Garden in 1965. Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn took the title roles on the opening night – MacMillan had originally created the work on Lynn Seymour and Christopher Gable. Nevertheless, Fonteyn and Nureyev’s performance had a rapturous reception, with 43 curtain calls and almost forty minutes of applause. The ballet has been at the heart of the Company’s repertory ever since, amassing more than four hundred performances. This classic production has been toured around the world and in 2011 was adapted for arena-scale performances at the O2 Arena.