Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet
Date and Time
The 2019 season finale from the Sydney Youth Orchestra brings together young love, a testimony to friendship, and heart-stopping action in a program directed by SYO Chief Conductor Alexander Briger.
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has been channelled into countless musical adaptations from operas (Gounod) to symphonies (Berlioz) to musicals (Bernstein’s West Side Story), but the tragedy of young love framed against the violence of warring families bearing ‘ancient grudge’ in the streets of fair Verona has never had a more visceral musical setting than Prokofiev’s classic ballet score of 1938.
A huge orchestra draws upon a vast sonic palette to describe the grandeur and pomposity of nobility, the heart-stopping cut-and-thrust of the street swordfights, and a Balcony Scene of pure sound that transcends the Bard’s immortal words. Prokofiev’s moving response to the story has been danced by many balletic stage legends, but SYO demonstrates that even without the presence of a Fonteyn or Nureyev the music loses none of its impact, especially in the hands of orchestral players identical in age to Romeo and Juliet themselves.
Earlier in the program, SYO mystery posed by Edward Elgar in his famous set of Variations on an Original Theme from 1899, known ever since as the ‘Enigma’ Variations. Coded allusions to friends are arrayed like frames on a Facebook page around the ‘enigma’ theme, its provenance still debated by musicologists. The so-called ‘Nimrod’ variation from the set has been used in countless films and documentaries, all drawing upon its sense of end-of-Empire melancholy.
Once again, the SYO’s younger companion the SYO Philharmonic will open the concert with conductor Brian Buggy in music that celebrates the end of the school and university year: the Academic Festival Overture of Brahms.