Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet
What an incredible and captivating treat. We heard Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet performed by the LA Philharmonic on Sunday with Gustavo Dudamel. The LA Dance Project, a dance troupe organized by the French choreographer Benjamin Millepied, performed the ballet.
The dance occurred throughout Disney Hall -- on the outside balconies, in the backstage catacombs, on the stage, in the hallways and was filmed and projected onto the central screen hanging over the stage. In Sunday’s performance, Romeo and Juliet were male lovers, giving their hidden affair and deaths special poignancy.
I think it’s a work in progress, which will be eventually recorded and released.
Prokofiev grew up in the Ukraine, performed and wrote music from a very young age, went to conservatory in St. Petersburg, and became one of the most original of the avant-garde composers in Paris, at the time of Stravinsky, Picasso, Cocteau, Diaghilev and the Ballet Russe before, during and after the First World War.
He left Russia after the Russian Revolution, to make his living in Europe and the US but retained his ties with his fellow Russian artists and to the new Communist government. During the Great Depression, it was increasingly hard to survive as artist in Europe and the US, and in 1935 Prokofiev returned with his wife, Lina a Spanish singer, to live in Russia. He composed Romeo and Juliet, Peter and the Wolf and Alexander Nevsky among other works during the reign of Stalin, the rise of Hitler and the lead up to the Second World War. Romeo and Juliet’s premiere was performed in Czechoslovakia not long before Hitler invaded the country. It was performed for the first time in Russia just before Hitler’s invasion of Russia in 1940. He experienced frequent artistic conflicts with Soviet censors who preferred the social realist style of art, yet survived somehow while other artists were being sentenced to the gulag or killed for their artistic license and dissidence. After Hitler’s invasion, many of the great Russian artists were evacuated from Moscow to an artist’s colony in the Caucasus for the remainder of the war. After the War, numbers of his important works were banned in Russia as inconsistent with Soviet art.
Prepared by: Lucien Wulsin