Als Dirk Tanghes “Romeo en Julia” één van mijn mooiste theaterervaringen is, dan is de muziek voor het bal van de twee geliefden van Verona zoals geschreven door Sergei Prokofiev mijn mooiste balletervaring, zoals ik nog niet zo lang geleden schreef t.g.v. de 25ste verjaardag van mijn interview met ballerina Dawn Fay.
Ik herinner me nog als gisteren dat ik in de deuropening van het repetitielokaal stond (want daar is niet echt plaats voor toeschouwers) en toen ze kwam voorbij geschreden op die prachtige muziek, bereikte ik de hoogste regionen zonder de hulp van welk geestverruimend middel dan ook.
Vandaag is het tachtig jaar geleden dat het ballet in première ging in Leningrad, maar dat was niet de échte première, aangezien onder Stalin zowat elke première wel problematisch was. De Engelse Wikipedia legt uit wat er aan de hand was…
Based on a synopsis created by Adrian Piotrovsky (who first suggested the subject to Prokofiev) 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). 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.
However, the ballet’s original happy ending (contrary to Shakespeare) provoked controversy among Soviet cultural officials (*). 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. The ballet’s failure to be produced within Soviet Russia until 1940 may also have been due to the increased fear and caution in the musical and theatrical community in the aftermath of the two notorious Pravda editorials criticising Shostakovich and other “degenerate modernists” including Piotrovsky. 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. 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.
It is better known today from the significantly revised version that was first presented at the Kirov Theatre (now Mariinsky Theatre) in Leningrad 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 (foto). This film won the Best Lyrical Film and nominated as Palme d’Or in the 1955 Cannes Film Festival.
(*) Uiteraard moeten “de overheden” zich hiermee niet bemoeien, maar dat belet niet dat ze wel gelijk hadden!