Prokofiev, Romeo and Juliet (chor. L. Lavrovsky), D. Vishneva, V. Shklyarov, Mariinsky Theater, V. Gergiev
(released on October 14, 2014)
MAR0552 | 152 min
This sounds like a good idea, but it is actually a bad one. Prokofiev's music was not made to accompany Shakespeare's play. It lines up with the choreography of the ballet's streamlined story, adapted in Soviet Russia, and has little to do with Shakespeare. Worse, rather than having a few excerpts between sections of the score, which would have allowed the listener to focus on one or the other, actors performed their lines, with powerful amplification, at the same time as the BSO was playing. The cacophony that this created was most unpleasant, taking two beautiful works of art and forcing them to annihilate each other. There were a few effective moments, when one or the other work took a pause, or when the dynamics of the orchestra lined up briefly with a scene. By and large, though, it was rather hard, perhaps not surprisingly, to take in two simultaneous performances.
Some of the score was cut, to keep the run time down to around two hours with an intermission, but Marin Alsop managed to keep the numbers with mandolins, which are often cut in ballet versions. In spite of the circumstances, some of the actors made favorable impressions, including the noble but venomous Lady Capulet of Kelley Curran and the dignified/ridiculous Friar Lawrence/Nurse of Louis Butelli, who was so memorable in the Folger's production of Henry VIII in 2010. The orchestra seemed out of sorts, with one of the players even plugging his ears during one of the actor's louder speeches, and the performance of the Prokofiev suffered, although there were some pretty moments, too.
Tim Smith, A frustrating fusion of Shakespeare, Prokofiev from the BSO (Baltimore Sun, October 17)
This performance repeats this evening at Strathmore and Sunday afternoon at the Meyerhoff in Baltimore.