Stanton Welch’s Romeo and Juliet
In February 2015, Houston Ballet unveiled a spectacular new production of Romeo and Juliet, featuring choreography by Stanton Welch and opulent scenery and costumes by the internationally acclaimed Italian designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno. Welch brought a fresh, brilliantly imagined interpretation to Shakespeare’s classic story of two star-crossed lovers. With its exquisite score by Sergei Prokofiev, Romeo and Juliet is one of the great works of Houston Ballet's international repertoire.
. . . a smooth, cleverly paced and highly nuanced narrative . . . told with a lucid, naturalistic dance vocabulary supremely attentive to the music’s dramatic and expressive cues.
HOUSE OF MONTAGUE: Lord Montague, Lady Montague, Romeo, Benvolio, Balthasar
HOUSE OF CAPULET: Lord Capulet, Lady Capulet, Juliet, Tybalt, Rosaline, Nurse
HOUSE OF ESCALUS: Mercutio, Prince Escalus
THE CLERGY: Friar Lawrence
Two households, both alike in dignity...
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life,
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Doth with their death bury their parents' strife.
--William Shakespeare, 1595
Scene 1: The Alleys of Verona
“One fairer than my love! The all-seeing sun ne'er saw her match...” Young Romeo, son of Lord Montague, waits in the early morning for his new love, Rosaline, to pass by. Love-sick, he follows at a distance. Worried over their son's dreamy and heavy state, Romeo's parents enlist his friend Benvolio to watch over him. “Could we but learn for whence his sorrows grow, we would but willingly give cure to know.”
Scene 2: The Market
Romeo's spirits can not be cheered, even by Mercutio, kinsman to Escalus, Prince of Verona. Paris, rich nephew of Prince Escalus, asks permission of Lord and Lady Capulet to marry their daughter Juliet. “But woo her gentle Paris, get her heart. My will to her consent is but a part.” Invitations to the Capulet ball are sent by bumbling, illiterate Peter, the Capulet servant. Unable to read the names, Peter asks Romeo to help him. When Romeo sees Rosaline's name among the guests, he vows to go to the ball, whatever the danger. The lively market quickly fills. But soon, the Capulet and Montague households begin arguing, hurtling insults, and unsheathing weapons. Benvolio asks for peace, but the brawling Tybalt, nephew of Capulet, spurs a fight. The market erupts in fierce battle. Prince Escalus stops the fighting. The city will not be their battleground. He threatens both families with severe punishment if ever again they raise arms against each other. “If ever you disturb our streets again, Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.”
Scene 3: The Nursery
Though she still scampers through the nursery, trying the patience of her loving Nurse, Juliet is on the cusp of adulthood. It is time for her to marry. Lady Capulet surprises her with the news of her first ball and the opportunity to meet eligible Paris. “What say you, can you love the gentleman?” The nurse encourages Juliet. “Go, girl, seek happy nights to happy days.”
Scene 4: Hallway of the Castle Capulet
“You have dancing shoes with nimble soles, I have a soul of lead.” In the rush of guests, the three Montague friends, Romeo, Benvolio, and Balthazar, sneak into the ball. The young men are excited to be there. Romeo is wary. “My mind misgives some consequence yet hanging in the stars shall bitterly begin his fearful date.”
Scene 5: The Ball
“Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright.” In splendid array, the Capulet ball proceeds. Shy but uninterested in Paris, Juliet is fascinated by a handsome young stranger. Equally struck, Romeo is mesmerized by Juliet. Rosaline is quickly forgotten. The new lovers steal a kiss, and their fate is sealed. Tybalt recognizes Romeo and immediately goes for his sword. Lord Capulet stops him, making him swear to uphold Escalus's peace. The ball continues.
Scene 6: Hallway of the Castle Capulet
“Blind is his love, and best befits the dark.” As guests depart, Benvolio and Mercutio search for Romeo, but he is nowhere to be found.
Scene 7: Juliet's Balcony
“O, it is my lady. O, it is my love. O that she knew she were.” Romeo hides in the gardens below Juliet's balcony. When she comes out of the house, dreaming of the young man, he reveals himself. They fall deeply in love and rashly plan to marry the next day.
Scene 1: Preparations for Carnival
“Is not this better now than groaning for love?” Even the bawdy tavern owner's daughters, with the prodding of Benvolio, Balthasar, and Mercutio, can not persuade Romeo to get into the festive mood. His heart isn't in it, his heart is with Juliet. They all make fun of his love-sickness. The nurse bustles in to tell Romeo of the wedding plans. Overjoyed, he rushes to the chapel.
Scene 2: The Chapel
Collecting herbs for medical potions, Friar Lawrence and Friar John meet Juliet and preparations are made for the ceremony. The young couple are married, making secret plans to meet that night in Juliet's bedroom. “But my true love is grown to such excess I cannot sum up sum of half my wealth.”
Scene 3: The Carnival
With the carnival in full swing, Tybalt, seething at Romeo's impertinence at the ball, challenges him. Now married to Juliet, Romeo will not fight his new in-law. “Tybalt, the reason that I have to love thee doth much excuse the appertaining rage.” But Tybalt will not be assuaged. To break the impasse, Mercutio audaciously takes up the challenge. When Romeo attempts to stop the fight, Mercutio is fatally stabbed by Tybalt. “A plague o' both your houses.! They have made worms' meat of me.” Mad with rage, Romeo viciously attacks Tybalt, killing him. As Prince Escalus arrives, Romeo escapes. Escalus pronounces a death sentence upon the young man.
Scene 1: The Funeral Corteges of Mercutio and Tybalt
Scene 2: Juliet's Bedroom
“More light and light, more dark and dark our woes.” The young lovers awake with the sunrise. She pleads with him to stay a bit longer, but they both know he can't risk being found. It's too dangerous; he's a wanted fugitive. The morning brings Lord and Lady Capulet to her side, accompanied by Paris. He professes his love and asks for her hand. Juliet refuses. Angry, her parents can't understand such ungrateful disobedience. They leave her in her room, but she runs off to her confidant, Friar Lawrence.
Scene 3: The Cell of Friar Lawrence
“Come weep with me – past hope, past cure, past help.” Threatening to kill herself, Juliet begs Friar Lawrence for help. Comforting and full of good intentions, he knows just what might save her in this predicament: a sleeping potion whose effects mimic death. “No warmth, no breath shall testify thou live'st. The roses in thy lips and cheeks shall fade.” When the potion's effects wear off, she and Romeo can escape together. Juliet writes a letter to Romeo explaining everything. She asks Friar John to deliver it to her husband.
Scene 4: Juliet's Bedroom
“Romeo, I come. This do I drink to thee.” Playing her part well, Juliet relents and agrees to marry Paris. When her parents leave, she drinks the potion.
Scene 5: The Plague
“Where the infectious pestilence did reign.” Verona is ravaged by plague. Death is everywhere, with troops rounding up anyone suspected of being contagious. Friar John, carrying Juliet's letter to Romeo, is delayed when he aids the afflicted. Unable to pass the guards, he's ordered off the street.
Scene 6: Juliet's Bedroom
“Never was seen so black a day as this.” The Capulet household is overjoyed with wedding preparations. Juliet's friends are there to wish her well. But where is she? She can't be sleeping on her wedding day? The Nurse draws back the bed curtains to discover Juliet's lifeless body. Grief enfolds the house.
Scene 7: Juliet's Funeral Cortege
Scene 8: The Capulet Crypt
The grieving family leaves the tomb, but Paris remains behind to pay final respects. Entering the dark tomb, Romeo is attacked by Paris. Defending himself, Romeo stabs him. Seeing lifeless Juliet, Romeo, insane with grief, drinks poison. At that moment, Juliet stirs, the potion having worn off. She awakes to discover her lover dead, she kisses him for the last time, then stabs herself. The lovers die entwined in each other's arms. Chastened by their children's needless sacrifice, the people of Verona, mourn this terrible loss. “For never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”
In July 2003, the acclaimed Australian choreographer Stanton Welch assumed the leadership of Houston Ballet, America's fourth largest ballet company, as artistic director. Since his arrival, Mr. Welch has transformed Houston Ballet by raising the level of classical technique, infusing the company with new energy, drive and vision; introducing works by distinguished choreographers to the repertoire; and attracting some of the world's best coaches to Houston to work with the dancers. He has created works for such prestigious international companies as Houston Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, The Australian Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, and Royal Danish Ballet.
Sergei Prokofiev received his first piano instruction from his mother, who also encouraged composing. After studies with Gliere, he passed the entrance examination at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. There he studied with Rimsky-Korsakov and Liadov. He formed a lasting relationship with Sergei Diaghilev, who arranged his first performance outside Russia (Rome, 1915). The opera The Love of the Three Oranges and the Third Piano Concerto were premiered in Chicago in 1921. In Paris, where Prokofiev settled, Diaghilev produced his ballets during the years 1921-32. After returning to Russia, he composed Peter and the Wolf, the opera War and Peace, and the ballets Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella.
Romeo and Juliet Repertoire History
This was Houston Ballet’s first time performing Stanton Welch's Romeo and Juliet. This performance was the World Premiere of Stanton Welch's Romeo and Juliet. Stanton Welch's Romeo and Juliet has been performed internationally during the company's Australian Tour in the summer of 2016. Previously Houston Ballet performed Ben Stevenson's production of Romeo and Juliet as part of its main season seven times.
Romeo and Juliet Production Details
ORIGINAL CHOREOGRAPHER: Sir Kenneth MacMillan
GENRE: Full-Length Classical Ballet
RUN TIME: Ballet in 3 Acts; approximately three hours
COMPOSER: Sergei Prokofiev
ARRAGEMENT: G. Schirmer
SCORE: "Romeo and Juliet"
ORIGINAL PREMIERE DATE: February 9, 1965 at Covent Garden, London by the Royal Ballet
HOUSTON BALLET PREMIERE DATE: September 2, 1987 at the Brown Theatre, Houston, Texas
WORLD PREMIERE OF STANTON WELCH'S ROMEO AND JULIET: February 26, 2015 at the Brown Theatre, Houston, Texas
STANTON WELCH PRODUCTION COSTUME DESIGN: Roberta Guidi di Bagno
STANTON WELCH PRODUCTION SET DESIGN: Roberta Guidi di Bagno
STANTON WELCH PRODUCTION LIGHTING DESIGN: Lisa J. Pinkham
HOUSTON BALLET ORCHESTRA CONDUCTOR (2015): Ermanno Florio
HOUSTON BALLET STAGE MANAGER (2015): Michelle Elliott