Romeo i Dzhulyetta [Romeo and Juliet] (1955) + Vienna Symphony

Romeo i Dzhulyetta is a ballet movie by Lev Arnshtam and Leonid Lavrovsky, based on Shakespeare‘s play and starring Galina Ulanova and Yuri Zhdanov. It was shown in the Konzerthaus with live music by Sergei Prokofiev played by the Vienna Symphony under Frank Strobel as part of ther Film and Music Cylce. [Here’s my review of the other shows in the cycle.]

[I think the story is well known, but here the short version.]
The Montagues and the Capulets are feuding. But when Romeo Montague (Yuri Zhdanov) falls in love with Juliet Capulet (Galina Ulanova) things could work out for the better. Unfortunately, they don’t and it all goes to hell.

The movie is very oldfashioned but I liked it: The play was shortened and they took good care to do it in the right places. The dancers were great and Prokofiev’s music is absolutely wonderful.

I don’t feel qualified to comment on the performance of the Vienna Symphony but it sounded good to my untrained ears. And it’s surely difficult to play the music to a dance movie live, so that’s pretty cool.

But I can say things about the movie!

It’s very clear why Galina Ulanova became one of the greatest ballerinas. The whole movie is pretty much the Juliet show and everyone pales compared to her. I’m no ballet specialist (though I love it) but even I could recognise her brilliance. She sparkles and shines when she dances.

Unfortunately the choreography feels antiquated and sometimes plain ridiculous from today’s standards. About half of the film is Mercutio dying. And also when Romeo dies, he comes back again as if this was a bad horror movie, gives Juliet a last kiss, then dies again.

And the costumes (apart from Juliet’s dresses, which were cool) were a little too theatre for a movie. The sets were as well, but it wasn’t so out of place there. Also, the cast list should have read: Juliet, Romeo, Tybalt, Tybalt’s hair cut, Tybalt’s eyeliner, Mercutio, … That was some dramatic get-up there.

And did I mention the music? I have a weakness for the Russian composers, but even among them, Prokofiev is way up high, battling Tchaikovsky for first place. :)

Here, have some dramatic horns that can rival the Inception trailer:

Summarising: A brilliant evening.

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