French company to dance classic

Ballet: The Naval Academy series will offer international performers in Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet."

January 06, 2000|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A fully staged three-act ballet of Serge Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet," danced by the Ballet de l'Opera de Bordeaux, will be presented at 7: 30 p.m. Wednesday in the Naval Academy's Distinguished Artists Series, at midpoint in its season.

Sometimes described as the greatest ballet score ever written, Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" should find the consummate interpretation by this pre-eminent dance company.

With recurring opera-like motifs to suggest each character's emotions, the score was originally criticized for not conveying love.

Pronounced "impossible to dance to" when it was introduced in 1938, Prokofiev's work failed to evoke the emotion of love for such dancers as Soviet prima ballerina Galina Ulanova, who appeared in the classic film version.

At the 1940 Kirov premiere, Ulanova advised her dance colleagues to join her to "hear some melodic patterns of our own" that would describe love.

Today's audiences recognize Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" as the most intense love music, especially lyrical in the famous balcony scene when at dawn Romeo takes leave of Juliet.

Typical of Prokofiev, the music has a seething undercurrent of violence that comes to the surface in the "Death of Tybalt" section.

The distinguished history of Ballet de l'Opera de Bordeaux dates to 1752, when it began as the ballet wing of the Royal Academy of Music in Bordeaux. The company was heralded by Napoleon Bonaparte as the top dance company of the French Empire.

Jean-Antoine Petipa became ballet master in 1834 and was succeeded in 1840 by his son Marius Petipa, one of ballet's greatest choreographers. During the next century, the ballet company continued to employ great choreographers and was established as an integral part of the opera. When Napoleon III restored the Opera House, the ballet company came under his patronage.

Recent history has seen the premier danseur of the Bolshoi Ballet, Vladimir Skouratoff, serve as ballet master in the 1970s, continuing the great Franco-Russian heritage created by Marius Petipa.

In 1990, legendary principal dancer Paolo Bortoluzzi became the company's artistic director and achieved prominence as a major European choreographer, creating such ballets as "Beauty and the Beast" and "Carmina Burana."

Since the arrival in 1996 of another legendary dancer, Charles Jude, the company has expanded its repertoire to include Jude's new productions of "Giselle" and "The Nutcracker."

Jude brings a strong reputation as premier danseur with the Paris Opera, where he worked with one of the greatest dancers of our time, Rudolf Nureyev, who Jude describes as his "father, brother, dearest friend" and the reason that he can now pass on everything he knows about dance to others.

Having toured with Nureyev, Jude learned how to organize and run a ballet company smoothly.

Nureyev is responsible for Jude's choosing to join Bordeaux. Nureyev's co-worker at Paris Opera, Thierry Fouquet, was appointed general director of the ballet in Bordeaux. Having known Fouquet for 23 years, Jude appreciates that Fouquet knows what productions cost, eliminating any need for argument over the price of what he wants.

A respected teacher for several years, Jude enjoys an excellent and growing reputation as a choreographer. Wednesday, the audience will enjoy Jude's choreography.

This work will be presented at the Naval Academy's Alumni Hall by a corps of 50 during this extended 2000 tour of several cities.

Tickets are available at the top price of $19.

Information: 800-874-6289.

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