A few thoughts on today's matinee performance of Romeo & Juliet at the ROH, with Mara Galazzi and Jonathan Cope in the leads.
It was Galazzi's debut in the role, and she was magnificent. As far as I could judge, she was technically flawless and, like the very best artists, she made it all look easy. From her first appearance in the nursery, her playful jumps had such elevation that it was evident we were in for something special, but it wasn't just the pyrotechnics the made her dancing so special; she was delicate and precise in her ballroom solo and wonderful in her unwilling pdd with Paris. Dramatically too her Juliet struck exactly the right balance between vulnerable young girl and headstrong teenager. She was perhaps lucky in her partner, Jonathan Cope, replacing the injured Inaki Urlezaga. He is not only a super-strong and dependable partner but he is now so experienced in the role that he can practically dance it on auto-pilot. Not that he did so today - he was all ardour and despair, though rather mechanical in the final tomb scene.
It was a jolly good show all round today, I thought, though it was a bit of a shock seeing the lovely and youthful Muriel Valtat cast as the nurse - surely there are enough older dancers around for this role? I'm not grumbling though because Valtat invested the part with such unexpected comic detail that all doubts were banished.
Mercutio and Benvolio were danced smoothly and powerfully by Ricardo Cervera and Ivan Putrov respectively. Putrov is a dancer to watch, I think, though he needs to present himself a bit more positively. Ashley Page's barely controlled anger as Tybalt was impressive (I would love to see him given a proper dancing role), Luke Heydon played Escalus with calm, unfussed authority, and once again Vanessa Palmer stood out, this time as a very cheeky head Harlot.
A word about the new set; I don't like it much. There's nothing hugely wrong about it, but it is definitely not an improvement on the old one, and Juliet's tomb is horrible, with its distracting 'simplistic' religious icons.
Under a new (?) conductor, Alex Ingram, the orchestra made Prokofiev sound as menacing and thrilling as ever. Its a miracle of a score.