on March 14, 2001
First, it should be said that every time Fonteyn and Nureyev danced together, there was a chemistry that transcended the choreography. Even with Fonteyn at the close of her amazing career in this production, those qualities of interpretation and connection shine through. Nureyev's dancing is solid, but as with many MacMillan ballets, he spends much time as a display pedestal for his partner. However, when Fonteyn, especially, is on screen, it is impossible to tear your eyes away: she truly was one of the most charismatic dancers of the last century.
That said, I must confess to a great deal of frustration with this DVD. There was no effort made to re-master, as far as I can see. Also, as becomes obvious from the intro titles (with the edges chopped off), the coversion from PAL to NTSC was done haphazardly at best. In some scenes, dancers are partially cut-off from view, in others the frame speeds result in an almost jerky quality.
Czinner, like many others in the past, tried very hard to turn the ballet production into a movie production, and fails miserably at times. Close-ups are filmed when MacMillan's spectacular corps choreography is occurring, so you miss some wonderful dancing. Often, the effort to capture "drama" for the movie screen ends up detracting terribly. One day, somebody will figure out that the best way to film ballet is to simply plop your camera in the best seat in the house with a wide angle lens and let it run.
Would I purchase this again? Certainly. As a bit of history it has great value. However, I see no reason to spend the extra money on the DVD version -- it's no better than film, and the "extras" are nothing that you couldn't find elsewhere, and in a better format ("I am a Dancer", the VHS with Nureyev, comes to mind.) So save your DVD dollars and go for tape on this one.
on March 5, 2000
According to the screen credits, this was made for film. Thankfully it does not go off on some filmitization experiment. Actually they might have been too conservative for everyone's liking since it looks exactly like a stage production, only with film like camera work. A greater number of people can comment on the ballet itself since it has been on VHS for some time. I will confine my comments mostly to issues with its reproduction.
I agree with the Chicago person's comment that the quality of the transfer is not the best, and will go much further. Despite my criticisms, I hope everyone will keep in mind that I would recommend this as a great DVD to own.
Unfortunately this DVD was not transferred from the film, but from a video of the film. This means that you will see scan lines and other video artefacts. Either because of this or poor DVD compression, the picture sharpness is muddy, and trails of movement are visible as on the Swan Lake DVD. Other problems that would be easy to restore are inconsistencies between exposures on the frames and frame shake (revealed by static objects appearing to vibrate). Hopefully, the next release will be digitally remastered directly from film with better quality compression, and digital remastering of the audio track to DTS. A plus would be if they restored the film print by removing the dust and scratches.
DVD features were not entirely ignored, but could be significantly improved:
"Chapter" Indexing: 18 points in the ballet can be accessed. This is much too few. Not just the scenes, but each particular dance should be indexed as with Kultur's Swan Lake DVD.
Music History, Ballet Synopsis and Biographies of Nureyev, Fonteyn and Prokofiev have about 10 pages each, in text easily read from a television.
There are no language features. At bare minimum, the synopsis for each act should be translated into the typical European languages as well as those of other ballet loving markets such as Chinese. Going further, a ballet commentary as a separate audio track would be especially welcome. Such commentaries are common on great films by Hitchcock or Bergman and could be done cheaply. Commentaries enrich the experience of audiences who are interested in gathering a fuller appreciation of this art form, and both features would pay the producers back since it would extend their market into larger audiences.
Other Dancers: Margo Fonteyn, David Blair, Desmond Doyle, Julia Farrow, Michael Somes, Anthony Dowell, Gerd Larsen, Leslie Edwards, Christopher Newton, Ronald Hynd, Georgina Parkinson, Betty Kavanagh, Derek Rencher and artists of the Royal Ballet under the supervision of John Hart
Choreography by Kenneth MacMillan, not Nureyev
Scenery and Constumes: Nicholas Georgiadis
Music by Royal Opera House Covent Garden
Conducted by John Lanchbery
Produced and Directed by Paul Czinner
on April 28, 2002
There are already lots of superlatives used by other reviewers for this performance. Indeed, the dancing is superb and it is probably difficult to see something like this one in our days. However, Margo F. is desperately and hopelessly old here, and although her dancing is perfect, I could not totally believe her interpretation because she was playing a 14 years old girl. She is well over 40 when this was filmed and it showed. Somehow, I also noticed some rigidity in her movements. I agree with some critics who say that she reigned in Royal ballet for too long and was careful to destroy all competition. The result is this, although technically perfect but not very believable performance. Nevertheless, it is still a great one.
on July 12, 2001
I found it extremely disappointing that no attempt has been made to enhance the quality of this DVD. I also thought the direction was not the best--very little thought given to long, medium or close shots, and seemingly shot with only one camera. I was fortunate enough to see the real McCoy in its second year of production and this DVD does not capture the excitement, beauty or emotion of that performance. Should you buy it? Yes. In spite of it's shortcomings, it is an extraordinary record of an extraordinary dance team. And I don't mean just Fontayne and Nureyev. It is quite possibly the Royal Ballet at its best. Don't overlook David Blair, Monica Mason and Gerd Larson when you watch this one.
on October 30, 2002
Being a ballerina myself, any ballet is really worth it to me. Of course, these specific dancers are absolutely amazing at what they do, but I found it to be a little awkward at times with camera views and such. It does stay true to the story of Romeo and Juliet, and of course the orchestration is amazing. I truly suggest this to anyone interested in this aspect of the arts.
on February 27, 2003
In 1965 I saw Nureyev and Fonteyn dance 'Romeo And Juliet' at the Arie Crown Theater in Chicago (I still have the program) and can attest to Maltin's comment that "zoom lens is a poor substitute for live performance". While those gorgeous moments will remain forever with me I would not forgo for an instant the pleasure of viewing what Czinner captured in his 1966 film of this ballet. This is dance drama as only Nureyev and Fonteyn could create it, and I don't believe it has ever been surpassed.
MacMillan created his 'Romeo And Juliet' not for Nureyev and Fonteyn but for Lynn Seymour and Christopher Gable, and Gable was bitterly disappointed when his role was given over to Nureyev who didn't hesitate to inject his own changes into the choreography. Nureyev was perfectly cast as a randy Renaissance playboy suddenly entranced by Juliet's demure girlish innocence so perfectly projected by Fonteyn. She was forty-six at the time yet through her dancing she transformed herself into a romantically inspired teenager. The experience of this in the theater was stunning, as one is not diverted by camera close-ups, but even in the film I find myself thoroughly convinced by her portrayal. Of all the ballets that Nureyev and Fonteyn danced together this one most perfectly captured the contrasts in their personas that made their partnership so unique. He has been described as "fire", she as "light", and the synergy between them was unforgetable in this ballet.
In his choreography MacMillan does a masterful job of characterizing Romeo who in the opening scene makes a play for Tybalt's girlfriend, Rosaline, dances in abandon with the harlots of the town, and then pursue Rosaline to the Capulet's ball. In contrast we meet Juliet playing with a doll in her anteroom and shying timidly away from her suitor, Paris. But at the ball Juliet plays the mandolin and Romeo, intruding himself, dances for her generating a spellbinding attraction between them that flowers into the balcony scene. Juliet gives herself to him, timidly at first but then freely in an exquisite pas-de-deux by which all subsequent performances by other dancers must be judged.
Czinner's film of this ballet is filled with memorable moments; Desmond Doyle's outstanding portrayal of the menacing; treacherous Tybalt; David Blair's rendition of Mercutio's death; Romeo and Juliet's parting pas-de-deux filled with tenderness, longing, and grief (Shakespeare's words, "Oh thinkest thou we shall ever meet again?" fill the moment). But of all it is perhaps the tomb scene that remains the most vivid.
Hearing of Juliet's death Romeo invades the Capulet's tomb, dispathes Paris, and mourns over Juliet's body. In Nureyev's lifts of Fonteyn's limp body he recreates a semblance of their balcony and bedroom trysts, pathetically trying to dance life into her once again, until overcome at last he takes poison and dies. Juliet awakens and now it is Fonteyn's turn to match Nureyev's sorrow and desperation as she realizes the tragic consequences of her failed plan. The poignancy of their deaths is so well realized the one felt a sense of relief when at last Rudi and Margo materialized before the curtain to take their tumultous curtain calls. This ballet is a perfect marriage of Prokofiev's sumptuous score, MacMillan's evocative choreography, the exquisite dancing of Nureyev and Fonteyn, and we are most fortunate to have it all preserved in Czinner's film, a "must own" for every lover of dance.
One might indeed believe that Rudi defected in June 1961 to dance with Margo but the truth is that he was about to be arrested by the KGB in Paris and sent back to Russia. He threw himself upon the mercy of the French police, escaped, danced with the Cuevas company in Paris, and then with the Royal Danish Ballet. He didn't dance with Fonteyn until February 1962.
on December 18, 2000
I want to add to my earlier review. I suggested that this DVD is worth having since a live performance of this ballet by this company and Dame Morgot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev is not longer available. While this is true, it is also true as far as I am concerned that it would be more than worth having even if it were still possible to see the performance in person, not instead of, but in addition to, it. Furthermore, there is much to be said for seeing the performance on film as such that should not be overlooked, as well as for having one's own DVD of it. Also, it had been suggested by another reviewer that Rudolf Nuryev defected because of his partnership with Dame Margot Fonteyn, I think, - I said I'd check that and I did. His biographical information on the DVD says that he asked for asylum in Paris on June 17, 1961 while he was on tour, and defected. Subsequently, in 1962, he partnered with Dame Morgot Fonteyn. Also, I would like to add that great as it was, it did not last that long. I'm glad that their Romeo and Juliet is on DVD and available at this website.
on December 9, 2000
While I thought that this DVD of Rudolf Nureyev's and Dame Margot Fonteyn's performances of Romeo and Juliet in the 1966 Royal Ballet production would be good, I did not expect it to be this good! While I appreciate Leonard Maltin's saying (above) that a DVD is a poor sustitute for a live performance, it is now 2000, this is a DVD and it's all I've got of it, not having had the opportunity to see it live, and I am thankful to have it. I must say that regardless of what was taking place in the ballet at any particular time, and regardless of how dimly lit the stage was at any particular time, I did not find somberness and bleakness at all. On the contrary, but I lack the right words to express this in the way that it should be expressed and to the extent to which it should be expressed. Also, I was pleasantly surprised, after having read some comments about it , by the fact that while of course Dame Marot Fonteyn did not look extremely young, she did not appear to me to be much too old to play the part and I disagree that somehow she was not up to the demands of her role and that, in contrast to her, Nureyev was. I think they BOTH were...and that they did beautifully. Also, although I have minimal (but adequate) equipment on which to see DVDs, I do not think that the Audio somehow rates only a 4/10 as another reviewer suggested, I think-I would give it a 8/10. Additionally, I don't know what was meant by the fact (one rewiewer said) that you will see scan lines and other video artifacts (etc.), I didn't see anything of the kind. Also, I did not think that the close ups made anything less of the whole and should somehow not have been included because they somehow destroyed the illusion because they did not. I suppose that it does depend on what kind of screen you are viewing this DVD on and I must be the first to say that mine is not large, but not only did I not see every one of Dame Margot Fonteyn's wrinkles at any time, I didn't see ANY of her wrinkles. While I thought the costumes were excellent, I would not describe them as "dazzling", but simply appropriate. Finally, I must not have read Rudolf Nureyev's biographical information carefully enough because I do not remember reading that she had anything to do with his defection-I thought that their partnership occurred afterwards, but I'll check that out. In any case this is a beautiful production of the ballet Romeo and Juliet (if I am not mistaken, Prokofiev's ballet, I may have read elswehere, is quite faithful to Shakespeare's play scene by scene)and I highly recommend it!
on December 9, 1999
Kultur is producing DVDs! This is a title I put off buying on VHS, and hoped would come to DVD, but didn't expect quite so soon. Happily, this DVD is not as bare-bones as you might fear. There is a chapter selection (separate pages for each act), a written "Synopsis" of R&J, as well as some "Music History" on Prokofiev's ballet, and biographical information on Prokofiev, Nureyev, and Fonteyn.
Sound and picture are not the best, but as far as I can tell with my equipment, both are perfectly acceptable. If I want to listen to just the music, I would prefer a more recent recording.
The film is from 1966. The DVD is very nice to have, and the only DVD of this ballet available (so far very few DVDs are available of ANY ballet). Thanks, Kultur!
on November 26, 2003
I bought the dvd because I love Prokofiev and Nureyev so I was pretty sure the combination would be great. Is it ever. Margot Fonteyn is also exceptional. I have a version of Romeo & Juliet recorded from A&E network also the Royal Ballet from Covent Garden and must say I had my reservations about Juliet in this version because Alessandra (I forget the rest of her name)was such an innocent Juliet. I'm very glad I have this ballet but admit that I would like to have the later one as well to round out my collection. As far as I know the second isn't on dvd or vhs.