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Romeo and Juliet
Commemorative coin depicting a scene from the ballet
ChoreographerIvo Váňa-Psota
MusicSergei Prokofiev
LibrettoAdrian Piotrovsky,

Sergei Radlov, Sergei Prokofiev,

Leonid Lavrovsky
Based onRomeo and Juliet
Premiere1938 (1938)
Mahen Theatre, Brno
Original ballet companyBallet of the National Theatre, Brno
CharactersIvo Váňa-Psota as Romeo
Zora Šemberová as Juliet

Romeo and Juliet (Russian: Ромео и Джульетта, romanizedRomeo i Dzhulyetta), Op. 64, is a ballet by Sergei Prokofiev based on William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. First composed in 1935, it was substantially revised for its Soviet premiere in early 1940. Prokofiev made from the ballet three orchestral suites and a suite for solo piano.

Background and premiere

Based on a synopsis created by Adrian Piotrovsky (who first suggested the subject to Prokofiev)[1] and Sergey Radlov, the ballet was composed by Prokofiev in September 1935 to their scenario which followed the precepts of "drambalet" (dramatised ballet, officially promoted at the Kirov Ballet to replace works based primarily on choreographic display and innovation).[2] Following Radlov's acrimonious resignation from the Kirov in June 1934, a new agreement was signed with the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow on the understanding that Piotrovsky would remain involved.[3]

However, the ballet's original happy ending (contrary to Shakespeare) provoked controversy among Soviet cultural officials.[4] The ballet's production was then postponed indefinitely when the staff of the Bolshoi was overhauled at the behest of the chairman of the Committee on Arts Affairs, Platon Kerzhentsev.[5] The ballet's failure to be produced in the Soviet Union until 1940 may also have been a result of consequences in the performing arts following Pravda's denunciation of Dmitri Shostakovich in 1936, as well as other "degenerate modernists" including Piotrovsky.[6] The conductor Yuri Fayer met with Prokofiev frequently during the writing of the music, and he strongly urged the composer to revert to the traditional ending. Fayer went on to conduct the first performance of the ballet at the Bolshoi Theatre.

Suites of the ballet music were heard in Moscow and the United States, but the full ballet premiered in the Mahen Theatre, Brno (then in Czechoslovakia, now in the Czech Republic), on 30 December 1938.[7] This version was a single-act production with music mainly from the first two suites. Prokofiev was not able to attend the premiere due to his status of outbound restriction.

The history of the creation of the ballet was recited by the composer Sergei Prokofiev himself:

At the end of December (of 1934) I returned to Leningrad specifically for the negotiations with the Kirov Theatre. I expressed my wish to find a lyrical scenario for a ballet… We started recalling the scenarios: Piotrovsky named "Pelléas and Méllisande", "Tristan and Isolde", "Romeo and Juliet". I immediately "clung" onto the latter – it would be impossible to find a better one! It was arranged that Piotrovsky, Radlov and I (S.P.) would be making a libretto. It was decided to engage as a producer Rostislav Zakharov – a former student of Radlov… However, we didn't conclude a contract with the Kirov Theatre… I arrived in Moscow, and Golovanov, the then chief conductor of the Bolshoi Theatre said that if this was about "Romeo" the Bolshoi theatre would immediately conclude a contract with me. The contract was signed in the summer of 1935. The theatre gave me the opportunity to work on the ballet in "Polenovo" – the holiday home of the Bolshoi theatre, where I managed to almost finish the ballet using themes composed in the spring. An audition of the ballet took place in the theatre. It had no success. The ballet was not put on the stage at that time… Yet it was staged in the Kirov Theatre in 1939 (1940). R. Zakharov dropped out after the ballet had been rejected by the Bolshoi theatre. Lavrovsky, on the other hand, during the staging of the ballet in Leningrad, added quite a lot to what had been composed before him. Later I decided to include him in the co-authors of the libretto.[8]

1940 Kirov production

Galina Ulanova and Yuri Zhdanov in the ballet

It is better known today from the significantly revised version that was first presented at the Kirov Theatre (now Mariinsky Theatre) in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) on 11 January 1940, with choreography by Leonid Lavrovsky and with Galina Ulanova and Konstantin Sergeyev in the leading roles. Despite the objections of Prokofiev, Lavrovsky significantly changed the score of the ballet. This production received international acclaim and was awarded the Stalin Prize.

In 1955, Mosfilm made the film version of this production with Galina Ulanova as Juliet and Yuri Zhdanov as Romeo. This film won the Best Lyrical Film and nominated as Palme d'Or in the 1955 Cannes Film Festival.

Original Cast

Revivals and other productions

In 1955, Frederick Ashton choreographed a production of Romeo and Juliet for the Royal Danish Ballet.

In 1962, John Cranko's choreography of Romeo and Juliet for the Stuttgart Ballet helped the company achieve a worldwide reputation. It had its American premiere in 1969.

In 1965, choreographer Sir Kenneth MacMillan's version for the Royal Ballet premiered at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev danced the title roles. Fonteyn, considered to be near retirement, embarked upon a rejuvenated career with a partnership with Nureyev. Also in 1965, Oleg Vinogradov stages a version in Russia while serving as assistant ballet master to Pyotr Gusev.

In 1971, John Neumeier, partly inspired by John Cranko, created another version of the ballet in Frankfurt. In 1974, Neumeier's Romeo and Juliet premiered in Hamburg as his first full-length ballet with the company.

In 1977, Rudolf Nureyev created a new version of Romeo and Juliet for the London Festival Ballet, today's English National Ballet. He performed the lead role of Romeo with British ballerinas Eva Evdokimova and Patricia Ruanne creating the role of Juliet. As a partnership, they toured the production internationally. Eva Evdokimova danced the leading role Juliet in London and Paris, and it continues to be a popular ballet in the ENB repertoire, with its most recent revival in 2010 staged by Patricia Ruanne and Frederic Jahn of the original 1977 cast. This production was also staged by La Scala Theater Ballet in 1980 and Paris Opera Ballet in 1984 and has been a renowned performance in the POB repertoire.

In 1979, Yuri Grigorovich created a new version for the Bolshoi, "which did away with most of the stage properties and stylized the action into an all-danced text." This was revived in 2010 and remains in the Bolshoi repertory.[9]

A 2010 production at the Royal Swedish Opera

In 1985, choreographer László Seregi's production premiered at the Hungarian National Ballet, Budapest.

In 1990, director Armondo Linus Acosta used Prokofiev's score, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, to create a motion picture adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Acosta's Romeo.Juliet was conceived as a film-in-concert with a live orchestra performing the soundtrack, and was performed as such to international acclaim with by conductors such as André Previn, Barry Wordsworth, and Nicholas Cleobury.[citation needed]

A 2014 Krzysztof Pastor's production at the Polish National Ballet, dancers: Vladimir Yaroshenko and Maria Żuk

In 1991, Christopher Gable directed his own production for the Northern Ballet Theatre. It was choreographed by Massimo Moricone and featured William Walker as Romeo and Jayne Regan as Juliet.

In 1996, choreographer Jean-Christophe Maillot premiered his version of Roméo et Juliette at Les Ballets de Monte Carlo. Taking formal inspiration from the episodic character of Sergei Prokofiev's classic score, Maillot structured the action in a manner akin to cinematic narrative. Rather than focusing on themes of political-social opposition between the two feuding clans, this Romeo and Juliet highlights the dualities and ambiguities of adolescence.

In 2007, Peter Martins made Romeo + Juliet on New York City Ballet to the Prokofiev music.

In 2008, Krzysztof Pastor presented his version by the Scottish Ballet at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre. The Polish premiere of this version was by the Polish National Ballet in Warsaw, and the United States premiere was by the Joffrey Ballet in 2014.

On July 4, 2008, with the approval of the Prokofiev family and permission from the Russian State Archive, the original Prokofiev score was given its world premiere. Musicologist Simon Morrison, author of The People's Artist: Prokofiev's Soviet Years, unearthed the original materials in the Moscow archives, obtained permissions, and reconstructed the entire score. Mark Morris created the choreography for the production. The Mark Morris Dance Group premiered the work at the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College in New York state. The production subsequently began a year-long tour to include Berkeley, Norfolk, London, New York, and Chicago.

In 2011, the National Ballet of Canada premiered a new choreography of Romeo and Juliet by Alexei Ratmansky in Toronto, with plans to take it on tour in Western Canada in early 2012.

Also in 2011, Graeme Murphy created his version of Romeo and Juliet for The Australian Ballet.[10]

In 2015, Stanton Welch premiered his version of Romeo and Juliet for Houston Ballet.

In 2019 at the Curve Theatre, Leicester Matthew Bourne choreographed an alternative adaptation of Romeo and Juliet set in a mental hospital called 'Verona Institute'. It was filmed with Cordelia Braithwaite as Juliet, Paris Fitzpatrick as Romeo and Dan Wright as Tybalt.



In addition to a somewhat standard instrumentation, the ballet also requires the use of the tenor saxophone. This voice adds a unique sound to the orchestra as it is used both in solo and as part of the ensemble. Prokofiev also used the cornet, viola d'amore and mandolins in the ballet, adding an Italianate flavor to the music.

Full instrumentation is as follows:

The score is published by Muzyka and the Russian State Publisher.


List of acts, scenes and musical numbers.[11]

Scene No. Original title in Russian English title Tempo indication Notes
Act 1
1 Вступление Introduction Andante assai
Scene 1 2 Ромео Romeo Andante
3 Улица просыпается The Street Awakens Allegretto
4 Утренний танец Morning Dance Allegro
5 Ссора The Quarrel Allegro brusco
6 Бой The Fight Presto
7 Приказ герцога The Prince Gives His Order Andante a.k.a. The Duke's Command. Introduction of Montagues and Capulets in Suite No. 2
8 Интерлюдия Interlude Andante pomposo (L'istesso tempo)
Scene 2 9 Приготовление к балу (Джульетта и Кормилица) Preparing for the Ball (Juliet and the Nurse) Andante assai. Scherzando a.k.a. At the Capulets' (Preparations for the Ball)
10 Джульетта-Девочка Juliet as a Young Girl Vivace a.k.a. The Young Juliet
11 Съезд гостей (Менуэт) Arrival of the Guests (Minuet) Assai moderato
12 Маски (Ромео, Меркуцио и Бенволио в масках) Masks (Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio in Masks) Andante marciale
13 Танец рыцарей Dance of the Knights Allegro pesante The main part of Montagues and Capulets in Suite No. 2
14 Вариация Джульетты Juliet's Variation Moderato (quasi Allegretto)
15 Меркуцио Mercutio Allegro giocoso
16 Мадригал Madrigal Andante tenero
17 Тибальд узнает Ромео Tybalt Recognizes Romeo Allegro
18 Гавот (Разъезд гостей) Gavotte (Departure of the Guests) Allegro Gavotte (movement III) from "Classical" Symphony, Op. 25
19 Сцена у балкона Balcony Scene Larghetto
20 Вариация Ромео Romeo's Variation Allegretto amoroso
21 Любовный танец Love Dance Andante
Act 2
Scene 3 22 Народный танец Folk Dance Allegro giocoso
23 Ромео и Меркуцио Romeo and Mercutio Andante tenero
24 Танец пяти пар Dance of the Five Couples Vivo Dance in Suite No. 2
25 Танец с мандолинами Dance with Mandolins Vivace
26 Кормилица The Nurse Adagio scherzoso
27 Кормилица передает Ромео записку от Джульетты The Nurse Gives Romeo the Note from Juliet Vivace a.k.a. The Nurse and Romeo
Scene 4 28 Ромео у патера Лоренцо Romeo at Friar Laurence's Andante espressivo
29 Джульетта у патера Лоренцо Juliet at Friar Laurence's Lento
Scene 5 30 Народное веселье продолжается The People Continue to Make Merry Vivo a.k.a. Public Merrymaking
31 Снова народный танец The Folk Dance Again Allegro giocoso a.k.a. Further Public Festivities (Снова народный праздник)
32 Встреча Тибальда с Меркуцио Tybalt Meets Mercutio Moderato a.k.a. Meeting of Tybalt and Mercutio
33 Тибальд бьётся с Меркуцио Tybalt and Mercutio Fight Precipitato a.k.a. The Duel
34 Меркуцио умирает Death of Mercutio Moderato
35 Ромео решает мстить за смерть Меркуцио Romeo Decides to Avenge Mercutio's Death Andante. Animato a.k.a. Death of Tybalt
36 Финал второго действия Finale of Act II Adagio dramatico
Act 3
37 Вступление Introduction Andante reprise of No. 7
Scene 6 38 Ромео и Джульетта (Спальня Джульетты) Romeo and Juliet (Juliet's bedroom) Lento
39 Прощание перед разлукой Farewell before Parting Andante a.k.a. Romeo Bids Juliet Farewell, or The Last Farewell
40 Кормилица The Nurse Andante assai
41 Джульетта отказывается выйти за Париса Juliet Refuses to Marry Paris Vivace
42 Джульетта одна Juliet Alone Adagio
43 Интерлюдия Interlude Adagio
Scene 7 44 У Лоренцо At Friar Laurence's Andante a.k.a. At Friar Laurence's Cell
45 Интерлюдия Interlude L'istesso tempo
Scene 8 46 Снова у Джульетты Again in Juliet's Bedroom Moderato tranquillo
47 Джульетта одна Juliet Alone Andante
48 Утренняя серенада Morning Serenade Andante giocoso a.k.a. Aubade
49 Танец девушек с лилиями Dance of the Girls with Lilies Andante con eleganza
50 У постели Джульетты At Juliet's Bedside Andante assai
Act 4: Epilogue
Scene 9 51 Похороны Джульетты Juliet's Funeral Adagio funebre Romeo at the Tomb of Juliet in Suite No. 2
52 Смерть Джульетты Death of Juliet Adagio (meno mosso del tempo precendente)

Orchestral suites taken from the work

Note that for compositional reasons the titles of the numbers in all three suites do not always correspond exactly to those in the complete ballet.

Suite No. 1 from Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64bis

  1. Folk Dance
  2. Scene (the Street Awakens)
  3. Madrigal
  4. Minuet (the Arrival of the Guests)
  5. Masks
  6. Romeo and Juliet (Balcony Scene and Love Dance)
  7. Death of Tybalt (Containing parts from No. 33, 6, 35 & 36 from the complete score)

Suite No. 2 from Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64ter

  1. Montagues and Capulets (The Prince Gives His Order and Dance of the Knights)
  2. Juliet as a Young Girl
  3. Friar Laurence (Romeo at Friar Laurence's)
  4. Dance (Dance of the Five Couples)
  5. Romeo and Juliet Before Parting
  6. Dance of the Girls with Lilies
  7. Romeo at Juliet's Tomb (Juliet's Grave)

Suite No. 3 from Romeo and Juliet, Op. 101

  1. Romeo at the Fountain (Introduction & Romeo)
  2. Morning Dance
  3. Juliet (Juliet's Variation & Juliet at Friar Laurence's)
  4. The Nurse (Preparing for the Ball & The Nurse)
  5. Aubade (Morning serenade)
  6. The Death of Juliet

Ten Pieces for Piano, Op. 75

Prokofiev reduced selected music from the ballet as Romeo and Juliet: Ten Pieces for Piano, Op. 75, which were performed in 1936 and 1937.[12]

  1. Folk Dance
  2. Scene: The Street Awakens
  3. Minuet: Arrival of the Guests
  4. Juliet as a Young Girl
  5. Masquers
  6. Montagues and Capulets
  1. Friar Laurence
  2. Mercutio
  3. Dance of the Girls with Lilies
  4. Romeo and Juliet before Parting


Sergei Prokofiev himself made the first recording of music from the ballet, with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra in 1938. Since then, there have been recordings of the full score, as well as various excerpts such as the orchestral suites the composer prepared. Leopold Stokowski conducted the NBC Symphony Orchestra in a rare stereo recording in 1954. Gennady Rozhdestvensky and the Symphony Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre recorded the full score in 1959. André Previn with the London Symphony Orchestra and Lorin Maazel with the Cleveland Orchestra both made recordings of the complete score in 1973. Michael Tilson Thomas conducted the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in 1995, in selections from the score, for RCA Victor. Georg Solti conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a recording coupled with the Classical Symphony. Valery Gergiev made two recordings, with the Kirov Orchestra in 1990 and with the London Symphony Orchestra in 2011.


  1. ^ Morrison 2008, p. 32.
  2. ^ Ezrahi 2012, p. 43.
  3. ^ Morrison 2008, pp. 32–33.
  4. ^ Morrison 2008, pp. 36–37.
  5. ^ Morrison 2008, p. 37.
  6. ^ Clark 1995, p. 291.
  7. ^ Morrison 2007.
  8. ^ Светлана Петухова. Балет Сергея Прокофьева «Ромео и Джульетта» [Petukhova S. The Ballet of Sergei Prokofiev "Romeo and Juliet"]. Moscow, 2018, pp. 31-32 // Мендельсон-Прокофьева М.А. Дневники. [Mendelson-Prokofieva M.A. Diaries.], Moscow, 2012, pp. 485-488
  9. ^ Macauley 2014.
  10. ^ "Romeo and Juliet – The Australian Ballet". Dance Magazine. December 2011.
  11. ^ S. Prokofiev: Op. 64 Romeo and Juliet, Ballet in Four Acts, Nine Scenes. Moscow: Muzyka, 1976. (С. Прокофьев: Соч. 64 Ромео и Джульетта, Балет в четырех действиях, девяти картинах. Москва: Издательство «Музыка», 1976 г.)
  12. ^ Redepenning 2001.