Romeo and Juliet

David Dawson

Ballet in three acts

Premiere 5. November 2022

World premiere

It is one of the greatest love stories in the canon of Western literature: the passion and dreadful fate of young Romeo and his Juliet, who cannot be together because of deep-seated hatred and ancient quarrels, only to be united in death. William Shakespeare’s tragic tale has been reinterpreted countless times for the theatre, opera and dance stage as well the big screen, often updated to reflect current events and modern perspectives. The version of the famous ballet music by Sergei Prokofiev that we know today was created for Leonid Lavarovsky’s choreography for the Kirov Ballet, which premiered in St. Petersburg in 1940. »Romeo and Juliet« was first performed in Dresden in 1955. In 2022, the British associate choreographer of the Semperoper Ballett, David Dawson, will now present his fourth full-length ballet with »Romeo and Juliet«. In Dawson’s vision, this is a world of jarring contrasts oscillating between order and chaos, between tenderness and strength–where the power of dance illuminates the tragedy and beauty of the story. 


Act one
Among a crowd in a city square, a young man Romeo seeks the attention of Roseline, a Capulet. He is joined by his close and loyal friends Mercutio and Benvolio. The morning is interrupted by the arrival of Capulet’s nephew Tybalt, who is feared due to his cruelty and thirst for violence, and his bodyguards. Tybalt is taunted by Mercutio and a brawl ensues, started by Benvolio. Capulet appears with his guards and restores order by force. Mercutio and Benvolio plot to infiltrate a masked ball being held that evening at the Capulet’s palace and persuade Romeo to come as well. At the party, Capulet and Lady Capulet lead their guests in a dance. As Romeo seeks out Roseline, he sees Capulet’s daughter Juliet, who is being presented to Paris, a young man her parents have chosen for her to marry. As their eyes meet, Romeo and Juliet are struck by love. Tybalt discovers them together and alerts Capulet and Lady Capulet to the presence of the interlopers but, wanting no trouble in front of their guests, they permit them to stay. After the party, Romeo returns to the Capulets’s gardens, yearning to see Juliet again. Stepping out onto her balcony and thinking she is unobserved, Juliet proclaims her love for Romeo. Romeo appears to her and, alone with each other at last, their love unfolds. With a kiss they seal their destiny, and Romeo departs before he is discovered. 

Act two
The next day, Juliet’s nurse mingles among the crowd in the square. She gives Romeo a letter from Juliet telling him to meet her at the chapel of Brother Laurence, who will marry them in secret. Romeo rushes to the chapel, and Brother Laurence blesses their union. Later, Tybalt arrives in the square looking for Romeo and tries to question Mercutio and Benvolio. Mercutio playfully taunts Tybalt, much to the approval of the citizens. Romeo returns from his wedding to Juliet, delirious with happiness. Tybalt turns his anger towards him, but Romeo wants only to make peace. Mercutio, seeking to defend Romeo, is mortally wounded during the fight with Tybalt and dies in Romeo’s arms. Devastated, Romeo attacks Tybalt in a blind rage. Romeo kills Tybalt and Benvolio hurries Romeo away, fearing the wrath of the Capulet family.

Act three
As dawn breaks, Romeo and Juliet awake after having spent their wedding night together. Juliet is distraught and begs Romeo to stay, but he must leave before he is discovered. The Capulets arrive, and her father insists that she must marry Paris immediately to help restore calm. She pleads and resists, but to no avail. Desperate, she runs to Brother Laurence asking for help. He gives her a potion that will cause her to fall into a death-like sleep, promising to send Romeo word to recover her from the Capulet family crypt. Returning to the palace, Juliet feigns her agreement to marry Paris, but later alone in her room drinks the potion. In the morning, her friends come to prepare her for the wedding, only to find her seemingly lifeless body.

Juliet is mourned as she lies in the crypt. News of her supposed death has reached Romeo. Mad with despair, he rushes to the crypt; then, overcome with grief, he drinks poison. Juliet awakens to find Romeo and, with no desire to live without him, kills herself with his dagger.