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The music for the ballet Romeo and Juliet, written by classical composer Sergei Prokofiev, was completed in 1936
Although it is now one of the most famous ballet scores ever written, Sergei Prokofievís Romeo and Juliet did not have an easy road to the stage. Towards the end of 1934, Prokofiev was discussing staging a ballet with the Kirov theatre in Leningrad (now St Petersburg).
However, the Kirov pulled out, and he instead signed a contract with the Bolshoi theatre in Moscow. He discussed a scenario for Romeo and Juliet with them during spring 1935 and wrote the music over the summer. Prokofiev was told that 'dead people canít dance!' So, the decision was made to have Romeo arrive just in time, before Juliet takes her potion, therefore making the ending a happy one. However it was decided that the music he had written was not suitably joyous for a happy ending,
and the choreographer was persuaded to find a way of choreographing the tragic ending. But in the end, Prokofiev's music was declared undanceable and the Bolshoi broke the contract.
In an attempt to get the ballet performed, Prokofiev extracted two concert suites from the score. He arranged performances of these in halls in Europe and America. He also arranged Ten Pieces for Piano from the ballet's music, giving the first performance himself in 1937. Finally, the ballet was given its
first full performance on 30 December 1938 in Brno, Czechoslovakia.
In 1940, a new Soviet version of the ballet was choreographed. Prokofiev had many disagreements with the choreographer and declared that the dancers did not understand his music, and the premiere was almost cancelled by a disruptive orchestra. The ballet was finally performed at the Bolshoi theatre in 1946, and it was this version that established the workís reputation in Western Europe, starting it on the road to the
worldwide fame it has today.
Sergei Prokofiev was born in the Ukraine in 1891, and died in 1953, on the same day as Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. To read more about his life, click one of the links on his name above.
To find out when BRB is performing Romeo and Juliet, click here, or
click on the thumbnails below to see some pictures of BRBís Romeo and Juliet: