Romeo & Juliet - THE BALLET Part 3 - The Genius of Composer Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

Performances and Artists

A few things about Sergei Prokofiev:

- He was known as the “enfant terrible” of Russian music…

- He was criticized for his offerings of highly dissonant and percussive piano and instrumental works…

- The majority of the Soviet Republic was clamoring for more of the romanticism and style of Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov; and yet, Sergei Prokofiev survived all the criticism and in 1935, he completed the piano score for Romeo & Juliet. It wasn’t until the spring of 1936 that there was a complete orchestration….

Prokofiev’s music portrays the depth and breadth of emotion flowing between Romeo & Juliet. More than 10 themes, most of them richly melodic, clearly convey the nuances of their feelings from the first awakening of their love to the bittersweet sorrow of their parting.

From the “love theme,” bright and full of hope, to the somber and foreboding theme of death evident by the tuba and basses, Prokofiev paints a vivid picture of Romeo & Juliet, their times and range of human emotions inherent in this global, timeless and enduring love story.

The clash of the feuding families is personified by the unison of the basses throughout his score and most notable the Dance of the Knights (in this version the Capulet theme). You will discover this continued “Motive of Hatred” executed in the themes depicting the role of Tybalt. You hear the evil, the arrogance and the class haughtiness so clearly, that it’s as if Prokofiev wrote the play.

To the critics during his time, they wrote that Prokofiev’s style was too cerebral and difficult with no soul, or gift of melody. In reply, Prokofiev wrote, “I am always being advised to put melody, expression and feeling into my music, but they are there already although no one seems to hear them. It should be remembered that I am the only one to know my intentions. In fact, I always look for beauty in music and I pay particular attention to melody and believe this to be the basic element in my work.”

And from this choreographer to you, Mr. Prokofiev…I could not agree more. Nowhere can this be more obvious than in your composition of Romeo & Juliet.

The world thanks you…

Written by James Canfield, Nevada Ballet Theatre Artistic Director