≈ 2 hours and 40 minutes · With intermission
The powerful Shakespearean tragedy Romeo and Juliet is an enduring inspiration for choreographers throughout generations, both as a rich vehicle for layered storytelling and a dynamic showcase for virtuosic dancing. When Karen Kain, now Artistic Director Emerita of The National Ballet of Canada, commissioned the famed choreographer Alexei Ratmansky to create a new Romeo & Juliet in 2011 to open the company’s 60th anniversary season, she introduced a striking reinterpretation that will inevitably anchor the company’s repertoire for years to come. We are fortunate to have this brilliant production grace our stage once again, highlighting some of the finest members of this stellar company. It is wondrous, musical, expressive, and enchanting –and at times will move you to tears (as it does me)!
With this presentation, we officially welcome The National Ballet of Canada’s new Artistic Director, Hope Muir, to NAC Dance! We also acknowledge the amazing performances over many years of Principal Dancer Guillaume Côté, who will bring us his Romeo one final time during this run.
Toronto native Hope Muir was named Joan and Jerry Lozinski Artistic Director of The National Ballet of Canada in January 2022, succeeding Karen Kain. Her accomplished international career as a dancer, guest teacher, stager, rehearsal director and artistic leader is matched by her deep commitment to collaboration and innovation. The National Arts Centre is excited to partner with her on future presentations and projects. We welcome her with open arms and wish her a long and prolific career at the helm of this exceptional company.
Karen Kain, C.C., LL.D., D.Litt., O.Ont joined The National Ballet of Canada in 1969 as a member of the Corps de Ballet and premiered, at the National Arts Centre in 1970, her first lead role in The Mirror Walkers. Soon after, she was promoted to the position of Principal Dancer. International recognition followed and through a close creative partnership with renowned dancer and choreographer Rudolf Nureyev she reached new heights for a Canadian ballerina. Her dance career spanned an amazing 28 years during which she appeared at the National Arts Centre over 30 times. In 2005, Karen was appointed Artistic Director of her beloved company and, over the next 15 years, she raised the level of dancing, diversified the repertoire and resumed touring internationally. She stepped down from this role last year and was appointed Artistic Director Emerita.
Please join the National Arts Centre in paying tribute to her brilliant career, her artistic genius, her visionary leadership, and her stellar legacy.
Welcome to Alexei Ratmansky’s Romeo and Juliet, The National Ballet of Canada’s signature adaptation of a great work of 21st century ballet. This is my first tour to the Nation’s Capital as Artistic Director and I could not be more excited to join the much-loved tradition of performing at the National Arts Centre. Thank you for receiving us so warmly.
Created for the National Ballet in 2011, Romeo and Juliet is incredibly musical and poetic in its imagery, with choreography that reflects the artistry and athleticism of the company today. Alexei is a wonderful storyteller, keenly attuned to the emotion and psychology of Shakespeare’s tragedy, and he imbues each character with personality and intention. The production’s design has the warm palette of a Renaissance fresco and will transport you straight to Verona.
Alexei created the lead role of Romeo for Principal Dancer Guillaume Côté, an outstanding artist who has contributed significantly to the artistic profile of the National Ballet and to dance in Canada. This will be the last time Guillaume performs Romeo in Ottawa, a city close to his heart. I hope you will join me in celebrating Guillaume as he reaches this milestone in his remarkable performing career.
Last updated: February 4, 2023
Few of the many Shakespeare works that have been re-imagined for ballet have had the lasting impact and been embraced with as much affection as Romeo and Juliet. The story of two young lovers whose passion is tragically thwarted by the enmity of their respective families has inspired numerous choreographers over the decades, attracted by the enduring power of its themes and narrative and by its potential for dramatic and evocative dancing.
In his adaptation of the play, celebrated Russian choreographer Alexei Ratmansky has given the familiar story a fresh and compelling re-telling. Created for The National Ballet of Canada in 2011, his version stays true to the play’s theatricality, romance and tragedy, plumbing the characters’ emotional depths and complexity with rare sensitivity. Ratmansky has created a Romeo and Juliet that is at once bracing and modern in its choreographic vigour, yet timeless in its dramatic urgency.
Morning in the Italian Renaissance city of Verona. Romeo, son of Lord and Lady Montague, greets the awakening day. As the city comes to life, Romeo is joined in the lively town square by two friends, Mercutio and Benvolio. The bitter enmity between the Montague and Capulet families emerges with the arrival of Tybalt, a Capulet. Innocuous teasing escalates into swordplay as Tybalt fights with Benvolio and Mercutio. Lord and Lady Capulet and Lord and Lady Montague enter and there is a brief lull in the fighting but soon the Lords also take up swords. The Duke of Verona enters with his guards and intervenes, chastening all of the combatants. The crowd parts, revealing the bodies of two dead young men.
In her bedroom, Juliet, the daughter of Lord and Lady Capulet, plays affectionately with her Nurse as she prepares for a ball. Her mother enters and tells her of Paris, an aristocratic suitor, whom they expect Juliet to marry. Her father enters with Paris. Juliet is uncertain about the arrangement but she receives Paris graciously.
A lavish ball at the Capulet home. Juliet is being presented by her father to the assembled guests. Disguised by masks, Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio slip unannounced into the ball. When Romeo sees Juliet, he is immediately lovestruck. Romeo approaches her, professes his feelings and Juliet immediately falls for him. Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin, suspects the interloper and unmasks him, revealing his true identity. Enraged at Romeo’s effrontery, the hotheaded Tybalt demands revenge but he is stopped by Lord Capulet. As the guests depart, Tybalt warns Juliet to stay away from Romeo.
Later that night, Romeo waits beneath Juliet’s balcony. When she appears at her window he makes his presence known. Juliet comes down to him and, despite the danger of their situation which has now become all too clear to both, they pledge their love to each other.
INTERMISSION (20 minutes)
In the market square, Romeo, delirious with love, is gently mocked by Mercutio and Benvolio. Juliet’s Nurse arrives, bearing a letter to Romeo from Juliet, agreeing to secretly marry him. Romeo is overjoyed.
As planned, Romeo and Juliet meet with Friar Laurence, who has offered to marry them despite the risk, in the hope that it might bring peace to the warring families. He performs the the marriage ceremony for the two young lovers.
Mercutio and Benvolio encounter Tybalt and taunt him. When Romeo enters, Tybalt challenges him to a swordfight but Romeo refuses. Mercutio is less reluctant and, after an exchange of insults, he and Tybalt cross swords and fight. Romeo seeks to intervene and stop them but inadvertently causes Mercutio’s death. A grief-stricken and guilt-ridden Romeo takes up a sword and kills Tybalt. The Duke arrives and as his guards bear away the bodies of Tybalt and Mercutio, he angrily banishes Romeo, who flees Verona.
INTERMISSION (20 minutes)
Juliet’s bedroom at dawn. Romeo, although banished, has stayed for their wedding night. But now, however sorrowfully, Romeo must depart before they are discovered. After Romeo has gone, Juliet’s parents enter with Paris and tell her that she is to marry him the following day. She protests but her father brutally silences her. In despair, Juliet rushes off to seek assistance from Friar Laurence.
In his cell, Friar Laurence gives Juliet a vial containing a sleeping draught that will simulate death. He plans to send word to Romeo, who will return to rescue her from the family burial vault when she has awakened.
Juliet returns to her bedroom, where she pretends to bend to her parents’ will and marry Paris. Left alone, she takes the sleeping draught and falls into a death-like slumber on her bed. In the morning, Lord and Lady Capulet, Paris, the Nurse and several bridesmaids arrive to wake Juliet but find her unresponsive and believe her to be dead.
In the Capulet vault, Juliet lies still in her death-like sleep. Romeo enters, but not having received Friar Laurence’s message, believes Juliet is dead. In despair, he drinks a lethal poison to join her in death. As he dies, he sees Juliet awaken and realizes the cruel extent of what has happened. Juliet finds her beloved dead and kills herself in anguish. The Montagues, Lord Capulet, the Duke, Friar Laurence, and others enter to discover the terrible scene. Realizing the part their enmity has played in the tragedy, the Capulets and Montague are reconciled in their shared sorrow.
1. Ratmansky incorporates more dancing than some older versions of Romeo and Juliet, replacing certain mime scenes with movement. For example, Romeo’s first sighting of Juliet – and the moment they fall in love – is an exquisite lift sequence that alludes to their soaring hearts.
2. Sergei Prokofiev’s score has contributed to the enduring popularity of Romeo and Juliet and is one of the finest in ballet history. The music captures the emotion and drives events in the story, using recurring sounds and phrases to define the characters. For example, Juliet is depicted with the quicksilver violins, expressing her youth and innocence.
3. Richard Hudson, the Tony Award-winning designer of The Lion King, designed the sets and costumes. He used Renaissance paintings and frescoes as inspiration for the muted colour palette, fabrics, hats, headdresses, and cloaks.
4. The casting and creation of the ballet were captured in Moze Mossanen’s successful documentary for CBC television, Romeos and Juliets.
5. Ratmansky has created acclaimed new work for companies around the world and he has a particular interest in ballet history and revivals of legacy works. In addition to Romeo and Juliet, he has staged revivals of The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake and La Bayadère.
Since its debut in 1969, the National Arts Centre (NAC) Orchestra has been praised for the passion and clarity of its performances, its visionary educational programs, and its prominent role in nurturing Canadian creativity. Under the leadership of Music Director Alexander Shelley, the NAC Orchestra reflects the fabric and values of Canada, reaching and representing the diverse communities we live in with daring programming, powerful storytelling, inspiring artistry, and innovative partnerships.
Alexander Shelley began his tenure as Music Director in 2015, following Pinchas Zukerman’s 16 seasons at the helm. Principal Associate Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and former Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra (2009–2017), he has been in demand around the world, conducting the Rotterdam Philharmonic, DSO Berlin, Leipzig Gewandhaus, and Stockholm Philharmonic, among others, and maintains a regular relationship with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie and the German National Youth Orchestra.
Each season, the NAC Orchestra features world-class artists such as the newly appointed Artist-in-Residence James Ehnes, Angela Hewitt, Joshua Bell, Xian Zhang, Gabriela Montero, Stewart Goodyear, Jan Lisiecki, and Principal Guest Conductor John Storgårds. As one of the most accessible, inclusive, and collaborative orchestras in the world, the NAC Orchestra uses music as a universal language to communicate the deepest of human emotions and connect people through shared experiences.
The National Ballet of Canada gratefully acknowledges the ongoing support of the Canada Council for the Arts; the Ontario Arts Council; the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council; the Government of Canada – Department of Canadian Heritage with the Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage; and the Government of Ontario with the Honourable Neil Lumsden, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport.
Chelsy Meiss (Feb 2, 4)
Svetlana Lunkina (Feb 3)
Ben Rudisin* (Feb 2, 4)
Guillaume Côté (Feb 3)
Jack Bertinshaw (Feb 2)
Spencer Hack (Feb 3, 4)
Stephanie Hutchison (Feb 2, 4)
Alejandra Perez-Gomez (Feb 3)
Duke of Verona
Tanya Howard or Jordana Daumec
Nobles and Citizens of Verona
Artists of the Ballet
+ Guest Artist
All casting subject to change
Conductor: David Briskin
**Yosuke Kawasaki (concertmaster)
Jessica Linnebach (associate concertmaster)
Noémi Racine Gaudreault (assistant concertmaster)
*Andréa Armijo Fortin
Mintje van Lier (principal)
Winston Webber (assistant principal)
Jethro Marks (principal)
David Marks (associate principal)
David Goldblatt (assistant principal / assistant solo)
Rachel Mercer (principal)
**Julia MacLaine (assistant principal)
Max Cardilli (assistant principal)
Joanna G'froerer (principa)
Charles Hamann (principal)
Kimball Sykes (principal)
* Robert Carli
Darren Hicks (principal)
Lawrence Vine (principal)
Julie Fauteux (associate principal)
Karen Donnelly (principal)
Steven van Gulik
*Gord Wolfe (guest principal)
Chris Lee (principal)
*Michael Kemp (guest principal)
Assistant Personnel Manager
Director of Marketing and Communications
Associate Director, Communications and Content Strategy
Senior Manager, Sales and Marketing
Director of Development
Diana Reitberger, CFRE
Chief Financial Officer
For a complete staff listing, please visit national.ballet.ca
The National Ballet of Canada gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the following:
Canadian Actors' Equity Association and IATSE locals 58 and 822
Mary Ross and The School of Dance, Ottawa, ON.