Roméo et Juliette, Ballet by Davide Bombana
Great stories always invite reinvention. When a tale asks a question that is fundamental to our shared human experience, whether love can overcome prejudice, it’s not surprising that artists, whatever their medium, will feel compelled to offer their own interpretations.
Roméo et Juliette (Romeo and Juliet), created specifically for the Wiener Staatsballett, is Davide Bombana’s second exploration into Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. In 2015, his award-winning Romeo e Giulietta drew its music from Sergei Prokofiev’s 1938 ballet of the same name and its inspiration from the real-life tragedy of Admira Ismić and Boško Brkić, two lovers whose ethnic origins placed them on opposite sides of the Bosnian conflict in the early 1990s.
Now Bombana is getting closer to the original text. Audiences will be able to identify many of the play’s key characters: Romeo and Juliet, their warring families, including Tybalt from the Capulets and Benvolio from the Montagues, as well as Friar Lawrence and the dream fairy, Queen Mab. And it has a new score. The ballet destined for the Volksoper Wien uses Hector Berlioz’ Symphonie Dramatique (also titled Roméo et Juliette) for its musical accompaniment and features, intriguingly for a ballet, three vocal soloists: alto, tenor and bass.
Romeo and Juliet fatefully fall in love with each other and secretly marry; Friar Lawrence sees their liaison as a means to end the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues, but instead it results in Romeo, against his will and better judgement, killing Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin, and incurring the wrath of Prince Escalus, head of the ruling house of Verona. Friar Lawrence’s solution to protect Romeo and Juliet only unleashes more death and tragedy.
Bombana is often drawn to the narratives of the past and discovering in them things that still resonate with us today. Other literary classics that have provided material for his ballets include Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck and Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. His choreographies find beauty in the ugliest and most difficult subjects.
Audiences in the Austrian capital may well be familiar with some of Bombana’s lighter moments, the balletic interludes he has created on more than one occasion for the Vienna New Year’s Concert. Roméo et Juliette promises a different side of Bombana’s talents — darker, challenging, but just as pleasing to the eye — that will hold you captive from start to finish.