Tuesday, March 27, 2012: By Any Other Name

Opus Osm

A performance of Romeo and Juliet in any other media is just as sweet ...

A Rose by Any Other Name

Imagine getting to see the Royal Ballet perform in London, with front-row seats and backstage access — and without ever leaving Prague. Sound absurd? It’s possible, though, thanks to the Royal Opera House’s (ROH) Cinema Season. The ROH kicked off its 2012 broadcasts last Thursday with its live broadcast of the Royal Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet.

The ballet was streamed live from the Royal Opera House in London to the Kino Atlas here in Prague, as well as to hundreds of other theaters in 22 different countries. This stunning ballet, starring Federico Bonelli and Lauren Cuthbertson as the title characters, sets the classic story of Shakespeare’s love-crossed lovers to the music of Sergei Prokofiev. The live broadcast allows viewers to get an up-close look at the beautiful dancing and to really see the emotions on the dancers’ faces as they performed one of the most iconic and emotionally resonant stories of all time.

Hi-Tech Treats
The broadcast provided more than just a filmed view of the performance, though. The first and second acts were each preceded by a short video providing a behind-the-scenes look at a particular aspect of the production. Before the first act, members of the Royal Ballet provided background on the choreography, which was designed by legendary British choreographer Kenneth Macmillan in 1965.

Opus Osm Romeo and Juliet

Two-fisted sword fighting can be dangerous, as the cast discovered.

The second act, which contains several of the story’s climactic sword fights, was introduced by a glimpse into the work that went into those fights. As Federico Bonelli explained, the dancers had never been taught sword fighting before — they had to learn it just for Romeo and Juliet. This often had bloody results: Lauren Cuthbertson recalled a dress rehearsal where Mr Bonelli showed up to the third act with a huge gash on his head, thanks to a mishap in the previous scene. As the conductor, Barry Wordsworth, said, “There is nothing safe about what we do — sword fights or ballet or anything.”

In addition to these informative glimpses behind the curtain, audiences were given the chance to communicate with the performers and each other via Twitter. After the first act, a message appeared on screen encouraging audience members to tweet their reactions to the ballet with the hashtag #ROHmeo.

Then, during the second intermission, several of the tweets were selected to scrawl across the screen. Some of the messages were from the dancers themselves, saying that they hoped the audience enjoyed watching the ballet as much as they were enjoying dancing it.

Most of the messages were from audience members around the world, gushing about the ballet — one of the tweets, from Twitter user @lolalottie, read, “Oh my gosh. This is heart achingly beautiful. How have I not experienced this before? I genuinely can’t stop smiling!” Many of the messages gave a shout-out to their city, from Barcelona to Birmingham, Alabama. Even Prague was represented: One of the tweets (written by myself!) selected to play on screen read, ‘“Watching the Royal Ballet perform in London, while I’m sitting in a cinema in Prague. Technology is grand, isn’t it?” When the tweet scrawled across the cinema screen, many of the audience members cheered in recognition, pleased to have Prague represented to other audiences around the world.

The Royal Opera House Cinema Season promises to have plenty of other opportunities for Prague residents to look behind the curtain in London. Its upcoming broadcasts include the Royal Opera’s Rigoletto, playing April 17, and the Royal Ballet’s La Fille Mal Gardee on May 16. — oo

— Anna Walsh

Photo Credits: Top: Bigfoto; bottom, the Royal Opera House Ballet / Aero Cinema

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