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Stanton Welch Stages a Spectacular New Production of Romeo and Juliet

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Stanton Welch Stages a Spectacular New Production of
Romeo and Juliet 

From February 26 - March 8, 2015, Houston Ballet presents the highlight of the 2014-2015 season:  the world premiere of a new production of Romeo and Juliet by Stanton Welch. One of Shakespeare's most famous tales, Stanton Welch's Romeo and Juliet, will be a fresh, brilliantly imagined interpretation of the classic love story of two star-crossed lovers. The production is set to the exquisite score by Sergei Prokofiev and designed by renowned Italian designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno, who will create the spectacular scenery and costumes for the production. This new production, Houston Ballet's first in 28 years, is made possible through the generosity of longtime Houston Ballet supporters Ted and Melza Barr.

"Romeo and Juliet is a milestone work, a benchmark for a choreographer.  I've never created a work inspired by Shakespeare's dramas before.  Prokofiev's score is so exquisitely evocative, with such a strong sense of the individual characters.  There are parts of the score that are so moving and emotional that they can bring one to tears," states Mr. Welch.

The production would not be possible without the support of Ted and Melza Barr. The couple has generously underwritten the entire cost of Welch's new Romeo and Juliet. The Barrs have been Houston Ballet patrons for over 30 years. Mrs. Barr serves on the executive committee of Houston Ballet's board and has been known to plan the couple's travel plans around Houston Ballet touring engagements. 

"Romeo and Juliet has long been one of our favorite ballets, and we were excited when we learned Stanton was interested in doing a new version of it for Houston Ballet," comments Melza Barr.  "With his amazing and talented choreography, the talented artistry of the Houston dancers, and the beautiful sets and costume designs by Roberta Guidi di Bagno, it thrills us to be able to support such a production."

Mrs. Barr continues, "This new and spectacular production by Stanton Welch of one of the world's most famous love stories on Shakespeare's 450th anniversary year will be a wonderful achievement of Houston Ballet."

Set in Verona, Italy, during the Italian Renaissance, Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare about two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately reconcile their feuding families. According to literary scholar Harold Bloom in Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, it is "the most persuasive celebration of romantic love in Western literature." Believed to have been written between 1591 and 1595, the play is among Shakespeare's most popular, and, along with Hamlet, is one of his most frequently performed plays.

Shakespeare's tale of the doomed lovers has been an inspiration to choreographers worldwide since the earliest days of ballet. Although records show the first treatment of the ballet was in 1811 by the Royal Danish Ballet, the most notable productions have come in the twentieth century and have utilized Prokofiev's score for a full-length version.  The most influential Romeo and Juliet was staged by the Kirov Ballet with choreography by Leonid Lavrovsky in 1940. Inspired by Lavrovksy's version, several choreographers tried their hands at Romeo and Juliet; most notably, Yuri Grigorovich, Frederick Ashton, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Anthony Tudor, John Cranko and Rudolf Nureyev. Explaining the allure of the tale of Romeo and Juliet, critic John Gruen writes in his book, The World's Great Ballets, "Romeo and Juliet is charged with passion, theatrical spectacle, rollicking humor, and breathtaking solos and dances for small groups and ensembles - all working to convey the grandeur and emotion of Shakespeare's tragedy."

The new production of Romeo and Juliet is designed by Roberta Guidi di Bagno, who has collaborated with Stanton Welch on two of his productions for Royal Danish Ballet: Ønsket ("The Wish") (1998) and Ander ("The Ghost") (1999). "Roberta creates a sort of old-world glamour with her designs," Mr. Welch comments. "She is from Italy, and I thought it fitting that she would bring her experience and knowledge of the artwork of the country into the production design."

Born in Rome, Roberta Guidi di Bagno enjoys an international reputation as a set and costume designer. She created scenery and costumes for John Cranko's Onegin for Teatro all Scala, and her designs were later taken into the repertoires of Deutsche Oper Berlin, Teatro Colòn Buenos Aires and Opéra de Nice. For English National Ballet, she created designs for two new productions by Derek Deane: Romeo and Juliet (1998) and The Sleeping Beauty (2000) both performed at The Royal Albert Hall in London. In 2000, she also created new sets and costumes for Ronald Hynd's productions of The Nutcracker for Teatro alla Scala and Coppélia for Deutsche Oper Berlin.  In 1996, Ms. Guidi di Bagno was commissioned to create new sets and costumes for Mr. Hynd's The Merry Widow for Teatro alla Scala, which was restaged in Seattle by the Pacific Northwest Ballet and by Houston Ballet.

Romeo and Juliet is set to the music of Sergei Prokofiev (1891 - 1953). Born in Russia, Prokofiev was a composer, pianist and conductor who mastered numerous musical genres and is regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century. The score for Romeo and Juliet was commissioned by the Kirov Ballet and was Prokofiev's first attempt at composing a full-length ballet. Prokofiev completed the score in 1935 and it was first performed in a concert that year. When the Kirov Ballet finally performed the ballet in 1940, it was to great commercial success and critical acclaim. Since then, it has remained one of the most popular ballets in the world, and one of Prokofiev's most enduring successes.

This production of Romeo and Juliet is the third staging of one of the great full-length story ballets that form the core of the ballet repertoire Mr. Welch has created for Houston Ballet. He previously created Swan Lake (2006) and La Bayadère (2010) on the company. He has also choreographed a number of full-length story ballets for The Australian Ballet, including Madame Butterfly (1995), Cinderella (1997), and The Sleeping Beauty (2005); as well as two original evening-length works for Houston Ballet: Tales of Texas (2004) and Marie (2009).