St Petersburg, Mariinsky Theatre

Romeo and Juliet

ballet in three acts (thirteen scenes)

Opening of the season

Marking Irina Kolpakova’s birthday
Alina Somova
and Vladimir Shklyarov in the ballet


Age category 6+


Music by Sergei Prokofiev
Libretto by Andrian Piotrovsky, Sergei Prokofiev, Sergei Radlov and Leonid Lavrovsky, based on the tragedy by William Shakespeare
Choreography by Leonid Lavrovsky
Set and costume design by Pyotr Williams



Act I

Scene 1
It is early one morning. Romeo, dreaming of love, wanders through the deserted streets of Verona. Little by little, all sorts of people fill the square and the first customers arrive at the inn.
Tybalt, noticeably drunk, is on his way home. He sees Benvolio and, drawing his sword, attacks him immediately. The peaceful square turns into a scene of fierce fighting between the supporters of the Montague and Capulet households. Swords cross, people are killed and the alarm is sounded.
Paris, a young nobleman, appears. He has come to ask for the hand of Juliet, the beautiful daughter of Old Capulet. Nobody heeds him. Old Capulet himself is seen running out of his house, eager to play a part in the encounter with the Montagues.
The Duke of Verona and his guards appear in the square. The people implore him to put a stop to the bloodshed. The Duke commands them to drop their weapons, and issues a decree stating that anyone who bares arms in the streets of Verona will be sentenced to death.

Scene 2
Juliet playfully teases her old nurse, who is helping her dress for the imminent ball. Juliet´s mother enters and scolds her daughter for her childishness.

Scene 3
Guests pass in a ceremonious parade to the ball at the Capulets´ house. Paris is amongst them, accompanied by his page.
Romeo´s friends, the witty Mercutio and the loyal Benvolio, persuade him to go to the ball with them. The young men put on masks; without them they cannot go to the feast because of the feud between the two families.

Scene 4
Romeo and his friends enter the Capulets´ palace. Romeo is captivated by Juliet´s beauty and cannot conceal his emotions. By accident, his mask slips, revealing his face to Juliet. She falls in love with the youth.
Tybalt recognises Romeo as an enemy of the Capulets and hurries off to tell Old Capulet that Romeo has dared to come to the ball. Romeo and his friends leave the house to avoid trouble.

Scene 5
On a moonlit balcony of the Capulets´ house, Juliet dreams of seeing Romeo again.
Her dream comes true as Romeo appears in the garden below. He stretches out his arms to her in an expression of love. A moment later, they are together. They tenderly declare their love for one another and vow eternal fidelity to each other.

Act II
Scene 6
In the noisy gaiety of the square in Verona, Juliet´s nurse hands Romeo a letter from her young mistress. Romeo reads it with delight, for Juliet has agreed to be his wife.

Scene 7
Friar Lawrence is happily passing the day in his quiet cell. Romeo enters and begs the monk to wed him to Juliet in secret. The friar promises to help, hoping that the marriage will reconcile the Montagues and the Capulets and thus end the feud. Juliet enters and Friar Lawrence performs the wedding rites.

Scene 8
Mercutio, Benvolio and their friends have come to the inn. Tybalt enters and, upon seeing his enemies, he draws his sword and rushes at Mercutio. Romeo tries to make peace between them. Tybalt pushes him away. Tybalt and Mercutio cross swords. Romeo again attempts to separate them, but Tybalt, seizing a favourable moment, deals Mercutio a treacherous blow and kills him.
Romeo is wild with fury at the death of his friend. He draws his sword and challenges Tybalt to a duel. Tybalt is killed. Benvolio, frightened, points to the decree posted by the Duke of Verona and leads his friend away.
Tybalt´s kinsmen gather round his dead body and swear vengeance on the House of Montague.

Scene 9
Romeo has come to bid farewell to Juliet. He is ready to flee Verona, having violated the Duke´s decree.
As the rays of the morning sun stream into the room, Romeo takes leave of his beloved. The nurse comforts Juliet, who is heart-broken at her separation from Romeo.
Juliet´s parents enter the room, and her mother tells her that her marriage to Paris has been arranged. Paris, who has also come in, declares his love for Juliet; she listens to his passionate avowals, but refuses to comply with her parents´ wish. When Paris has left the room, they shower her with reproaches. Her father says firmly that he is determined to have his way.
Juliet is in despair. She makes up her mind to go to Friar Lawrence for advice.

Scene 10
Juliet comes to Friar Lawrence´s cell. The monk is touched by the tale of her boundless love for Romeo and gives her a potion. His plan is that she will drink the potion and fall into a deep sleep. She will be thought dead, and her body will be taken to the family vault – in an open coffin according to the ancient custom of the country. Meanwhile, Friar Lawrence will write to Romeo who is hiding in Mantua and summon him back to Verona. The young man will return at once. Juliet will have awoken by that time and Romeo will take her away with him back to Mantua.

Scene 11
When Juliet returns home, she pretends to have submitted to her parents´ will.
She takes the potion and falls into a deep sleep. Juliet´s friends come in with bunches of flowers and, unable to find her, believe her to be still asleep. Her parents enter, accompanied by Paris. The nurse draws the curtains of Juliet´s bed aside. All are paralysed with horror – Juliet lies dead on her couch.

Scene 12
Mantua. It is night. Romeo is alone, lost in gloomy thoughts. He has had no news from Juliet. Friar Lawrence´s messenger has not arrived. Benvolio, who has just come from Verona, rushes to Romeo and tells him of Juliet´s death. Romeo hurries back to Verona.

Scene 13
At the cemetery in Verona, the mourners, sad and silent, take their last farewell of Juliet and depart.
Romeo enters the vault. He cannot take his eyes off his beloved; she is dead, and life no longer has any meaning for him. Romeo swallows some poison and falls dead at her feet. Juliet wakes up to see Romeo dead. Snatching his dagger, she stabs herself.
The people assembled at the cemetery watch as Old Montague and Old Capulet gaze sorrowfully at the bodies of their dead children. In silence, they stretch out their hands to each other.
The tragic death of the two lovers was the price to pay to end their long and bloody feud.

World premiere: 11 January 1940, Kirov Theatre of Opera and Ballet (Mariinsky), Leningrad

Running time: 3 hours 30 minutes
The performance has two intervals
Dedicated to the jubilee of Irina Kolpakova, People’s Artist of the USSR

A pupil of Agrippina Vaganova, Irina Kolpakova took up her teacher’s artistic credo of faithfulness to classical dance, conviction in its absolute perfection and self-sufficing eloquence, the ability to expose the inner essence of her characters. With her refined image, innate grace and spirituality, on the stage Kolpakova embodied the harmony of classical dance. A proponent of its pure form, in her time she was the best performer in Leningrad of highly demanding classical roles such as Raymonda in the eponymous ballet and Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty. Kolpakova’s virtuoso dance impressed with its lightness and ethereal qualities. It was compared with lofty verse when she danced as Giselle or the Sylph. The concept of technique for technique’s sake was alien to her and she never invented movements, preferring to captivate audiences with her pure and clean lines and the gentle tracery of her dance. A lyrical ballerina filled with the harmony and poetry of roles in classical productions, she was always prepared to demonstrate her talent in new and at times unexpected roles, frequently working with contemporary choreographers with great pleasure. Irina Kolpakova’s name is linked with almost every acclaimed premiere from the late 1950s to the 1980s; she danced as Katerina in The Stone Flower and Shyrin in The Legend of Love (choreography by Yuri Grigorovich), His Beloved in Shore of Hope (choreography by Igor Belsky), Eve in The Creation of the World and Natalia Nikolaevna in Pushkin (choreography by Natalia Kasatkina and Vladimir Vasiliev). Juliet in Romeo and Juliet (choreography by Igor Chernyshov), Ala in Georgy Alexidze’s Scythian Suite and the Girl in Oleg Vinogradov’s ballet Two. Irina Kolpakova worked with Leonid Yakobson, who created the role of Menada in Spartacus for her as well as the miniatures The Dream and The Snow Maiden. Using diverse choreographic styles, the ballerina created highly differing characters, from the mischievous to the tragic and from the restrained to the ebullient. With her, perfection of form always coincided with a deep revelation of the characters’ inner beings. Juliet was just one such dramatic role in Irina Kolpakova’s repertoire...

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