PROKOFIEV: “Romeo and Juliet”
Valery Gergiev; Mariinsky Ballet and Orchestra
Mariinsky DVD and Blu-ray
The star of this Mariinsky Ballet DVD/Blu-ray two-disc set is one of the great ballerinas of our time, Diana Vishneva, and she’s the reason to buy it. Her Juliet is giddy, buoyant, luxuriant, and irrepressible, with the charisma of a silent-movie heroine. It’s a performance to compare with Alessandra Ferri’s on the 1984 Royal Ballet DVD, and from a dancer who’s not well represented on video.
The rest of this production, with Leonid Lavrovsky’s original 1940 choreography, seems stuck in the Soviet era. The dancing achieves the level you’d expect from the Mariinsky (formerly the Kirov); the acting ranges from arch and stiff to melodramatic. Vladimir Shklyarov is a sweet, callow Romeo who at times seems more like Vishneva’s son than her boyfriend. (He was 28 to her 36 when the video was made last year.) The balcony scene is done at floor level, with no balcony; neither Paris (Yuri Smekalov) nor Friar Lawrence (Pyotr Stasyunas) appears in the final scene at Juliet’s tomb. Stasyunas, who plays Lord Montague as well as the friar, makes no impression in either role; Nikolai Naumov is even less prepossessing as the Duke of Verona. Pyotr Williams’s set looks like an Italian travel poster.
Then there’s Mariinsky Theatre artistic director Valery Gergiev, arguably the world’s most famous conductor, in the pit. Eschewing pretty and poetic, he gives us Prokofiev that’s passionate and even brusque, more like his 2011 “Romeo and Juliet” CD recording with the London Symphony than his Mariinsky Orchestra set from 1991. It’s breathless and often breathtaking stuff, but more interpretative finesse would have been welcome.