Kenneth MacMillan’s great interpretation of Shakespeare’s enduring tragedy has become one of the most popular works in the Company’s repertory and one of the greatest examples of 20th-century choreography. Against the background of Renaissance Italy, colourfully evoked in designs by Nicholas Georgiadis, it tells how a chance meeting ignites a profound love between Romeo and Juliet, bringing with it the hope that they may provide the bridge to unite in peace their opposing families, the Montagues and the Capulets.

But instead it is the violence and intolerance of the two factions which ultimately and tragically seal the fates of the star-crossed lovers, and their attempt to escape from the violence that surrounds them leads not to the future of their dreams but to misunderstanding, tragedy and death. Half a century after his death, Prokofiev’s ballet music remains central to the modern repertory, and Shakespeare’s story inspired him here to a fine score of great range and passion. Complemented by choreography of lyric beauty and touching fluidity, it is no surprise that this work has become a classic of the international repertory and a favourite of audiences both at Covent Garden and abroad.

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