The most anticipated ballet of the year in New Zealand, the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s production of Romeo and Juliet, set to the music of Sergei Prokofiev and choreographed by the company’s outgoing artistic director, Francesco Ventriglia, has its world première on August 16 in Wellington. The sets and costumes have been designed by three-time Academy Award-winning designer James Acheson (who won for Dangerous Liaisons, The Last Emperor, and Restoration).
Other talents behind the full-length, three-act ballet are dramaturge Mario Mattia Giorgetti, choreographic assistant Gillian Whittingham, and guest ballet master Frédéric Jahn. The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra’s associate conductor Hamish McKeith will conduct orchestras in Wellington, Christchurch, Auckland and Dunedin.
The company’s biggest production of the year, there will be 13 scene changes and over 90 costumes.
It is Ventriglia’s second full-length ballet for the RNZB, with work beginning in October 2016. His successor, Patricia Barker, has started as the new artistic director as the reins are handed over, noting, ‘It’s a very exciting time to have joined the RNZB—this production promises to be exquisite while it transports us to the heart of Verona. The energy in the studio is captivating. I have enjoyed getting to know the RNZB dancers and I’m looking forward to seeing them inhabit these iconic characters.’
Ventriglia said, ‘To create a brand new classical ballet of one of the greatest stories and the most beautiful scores is so invigorating. I’m taking great care to respect Shakespeare and Prokofiev’s great works plus drawing inspiration from Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 multi-Academy Award-winning film. I’m also working with a dream team of collaborators and the very talented artists of the RNZB, who I’d like to thank for their incredible work.
‘James Acheson’s magnificent sets make me feel right at home, like I’m in Verona in the height of an Italian summer. All of the costumes are exquisite. We have been very true to the Renaissance period and I know audiences will also be transported to the time and place where our star-crossed lovers meet.’
The production promises to be ‘epic’, with 22 performances scheduled from August 16 to September 24 in Wellington (with Orchestra Wellington), Christchurch (with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra), Auckland (with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra), Rotorua, Dunedin (with the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra), Invercargill, Palmerston North, and Napier.
The season is sponsored by Ryman Healthcare. More information can be found at www.rnzb.org.nz.