Mark Morris puts his creative twist on a 'new,' less tragic 'Romeo & Juliet'
Using the original score by Prokofiev, Juliet awakens in time for Romeo to see she's alive
Mark Morris, the choreographer-performer and sometimes-conductor who has been the enfant terrible of the contemporary dance world for more than 25 years is about to première his full-length version of "Romeo & Juliet," set to Sergei Prokofiev's score. But true to Morris practice, he'll surprise his audiences. This version will have a happy ending, and don't expect to find a balcony anywhere on stage.Skip to next paragraph
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In truth, the idea belonged to Prokofiev and Soviet dramatist Sergey Radlov, who wrote the scenario. The composer's original score, dating from 1935, was recently discovered by Princeton musicologist, Simon Morrison, at the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art in Moscow. Although the ballet, based on Shakespeare's play, has become a classic since its 1940 Russian première by the Kirov Ballet in Leningrad, the score has never been performed according to the composer's intentions. Soviet censors forced Prokofiev to reverse the ending he intended, add solo dances for the ball and balcony scenes, and make other changes.
"Romeo & Juliet, On Motifs of Shakespeare" opens July 4 at the Bard College Summerscape Festival. The evening-length work will tour to Berkeley, Calif.; London; Urbana, Ill.; Norfolk, Va.; and Lincoln Center, N.Y.; during the 2008-09 season.
How did this project come to your attention?
Simon Morrison found the manuscript and told Bard College about it. It was brought to my attention in 2006 when I was getting an honorary degree from Bard. Leon Botstein [the president of Bard] mentioned it to me. Bard is sponsoring the re-creation. Leon Botstein is conducting the American Symphony Orchestra. We have a lot of other sponsors, including my company.
What intrigued you about it?
It's not the same oversized, bombastic score that everyone is used to. It makes more sense, [is] more interesting and varied. I like that it's not the automatic Shakespeare ending. I love Prokofiev. I haven't done Prokofiev before. [Morris has taken on composers such as Tchaikovsky for "The Hard Nut," the choreographer's resetting of "The Nutcracker" in 1970s America, as well as many other classical and popular scores.]