Yuri Grigorovich on his ballet:

My first production of Sergei Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet was at the Paris Opera, Palais Garnier, in 1978. After the premiere of my ballet Ivan the Terrible had been a success with the Parisians, the artistic director of the Opera, Rolf Liberman invited me to do another, this time Shakespeare, production.

Suliko Virsaladze, my permanent scenographer and friend, and I decided on an unusual treatment of the ballet. The world of Shakespeare’s tragedy was made maximally abstract and was not painted in the bright, optimistic colour, as per usual ideas, of the Renaissance outlook. No, we chose the color black for tragedy, as an indication of the world of tragedy in general, outside of concrete people or circumstance. Separate details were lit up against a black velvet background. The world was generalized, completely freed of the details of everyday life, all that remained was the love symphony. Later we learnt that a certain French designer had also done Romeo and Juliet in this way: he too had freed the stage of everything that was not linked to the main plotline — the development of the love intrigue between the heroes.

Returning home from Paris, I began to think about a production at the Bolshoi, but in no way did I aim to abolish the legend or outshine the glory of Leonid Lavrovsky’s old production of the 40’s. It was decided to keep the old production in the repertoire and transfer it to the Kremlin Palace stage. Thus, for a certain time, both versions of the ballets were presented in parallel. And this was not for the sake of competition, but in order to show: Prokofiev’s music is not exhausted by a single stage treatment.

The Moscow and Paris productions were quite different. Virsaladze and I had done a lot of rethinking. Different sets and different costumes were created. The world of Verona while still steeped in conflict, became many-colored. There was now a certain amount of concrete detail in it, landscape, background. And it transpired this treatment too was possible. It flowed directly out of the music, did not contradict it. Over the course of time I made constant changes to the new production. I made a lot of things more precise in it, sometimes moreover right before a performance or during a tour — in Cuba, for instance, or in Italy, where the ballet was performed on an open-air stage and therefore required editing. Later, when I presented Romeo and Juliet at different theatres in our country and abroad, I kept on seeing it in new ways, making adjustments to it.

Today at the Bolshoi Theatre this ballet will be danced by those who have never seen it on stage, except perhaps in their early childhood. My new production is not an attempt to ford the same river twice. My aim is to bring the Shakespeare characters to life in a new age, return to the eternally topical plot and to the eternal music. Very important for me too are personal recollections of Natalia Bessmertnova — the first Juliet of my production. She inspired me then in my work in no small way. Her individuality defined so much in that joint ballet of ours...

Scene from the performance. Photo by Damir Yusupov.

In the main roles are leading and very young Bolshoi Ballet dancers — Nina Kaptsova, Yekaterina Krysanova, Anna Nikulina (Juliet), Ruslan Skvortsov, Artem Ovcharenko, Alexander Volchkov (Romeo), Mikhail Lobukhin, Yuri Baranov, Pavel Dmitrichenko (Tybalt), Andrei Bolotin, Dmitry Zagrebin, Vyacheslav Lopatin (Mercutio). Conductor — Andrei Anikhanov.
The first night performances will run from 21-24 April.