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What you need to know about… Romeo and Juliet Suite

Sydney Opera House

Love knows no bounds…not even a physical set or production.

LA Dance Chronicle

Ever since William Shakespeare’s tragic story of star-crossed lovers, we have seen countless adaptations and interpretations that you would think there’s nothing new left to tell. Yet renowned choreographer, Benjamin Millepied, has found a way. Millepied’s Romeo & Juliet Suite is a modern, innovative and emotionally rich ballet that blurs the lines between dance, cinema and theatre.

Who are Romeo & Juliet?

So what’s so unique about this adaption? For starters, the show’s heart lies not in just one couple but three. Throughout the season, Romeo and Juliet will be played by male/male, female/female and male/female pairings, portraying love in its many forms.

 “Why must it be above all a man and a woman? It was important for me to present this production with different people” - Benjamin Millepied

The Opera House stage expands

However, the production’s innovations don’t end with the cast. Cinematic elements are also infused into the ballet, helping to show important plot points more realistically. Throughout the ballet, cast members will leave the stage and continue their performance in unexpected spaces inside the Opera House. A film crew will follow them, using state-of-the-art technology to broadcast the footage to the screen on stage. Suddenly the production has transformed from live dance to film in a matter of seconds.

About the choreographer

This visionary retelling of Romeo and Suite is another success in Benjamin Millepied’s celebrated career. As a world-renowned choreographer, dancer and director, he is most well known for his work in the Academy Award®-winning Black Swan, which he choreographed and co-starred in. In 2011, Millepied co-founded LA Dance Project and currently serves as its Artistic Director. He is also the choreographer of the ‘sand walk’ in the recently released film Dune: Part II.

The upcoming season will be the Australian premiere of Millepied’s Romeo and Juliet Suite and the first LA Dance Project production to reach our shores. Massive success has already been seen with seasons in Los Angeles and Paris. After spending a year in Sydney during the lockdown and filming his film Carmen, Millepied developed an affinity for Australia, making Romeo and Juliet Suite’s Australian debut exciting for not just audiences but the creator himself.

“The Opera House is one of the most majestic in the world. It’s just such an incredible location to put on this performance” - Benjamin Millepied

The iconic score

As for the music, it was after hearing Prokofiev’s score that Millepied became inspired to create his own version of Romeo and Juliet, so it’s fitting that Prokofiev’s music went on to feature in the production.

Sergueï Prokofiev was the first to turn Shakespeare’s iconic Romeo and Juliet into a ballet. Though it came with its challenges, Prokofiev successfully captured the story of the famous star-crossed lovers without the use of lyrics and to this day remains an important, iconic and revered ballet.

The score is lush, with vibrant orchestration and dramatic dynamic moments. The story’s emotional turmoil is beautifully expressed through the rich orchestration, which blends romantic melodies with rhythmic complexities. 

The scene to watch

In his turn at the classic story, Millepied neglects to tell the tale with hyperfocused detail and rather opts for a series of beautiful tableaus that paint a bigger picture. 

One scene to watch is the “Masked Ball”, known as Act 1: Scene 5 in William Shakespeare’s classic story. Romeo attends the Capulet’s party, and is the moment we’ve all been waiting for, Romeo sees Juliet and falls deeply in love. The visual effects in this scene using light, colour, dynamic choreography and the live camera, create an explosive and eye-catching image. 

The costumes

As the story is set in modern times, you won’t see the cast wearing 14th-century fashion from Verona. Instead, costume designer Camille Assaf has designed the costumes to be modern, elegant and sleek, helping the production feel closer to current times.

With its innovative film elements, progressive casting and captivating dance, Romeo & Juliet Suite is truly a ballet for our times. Catch it at the Sydney Opera House from 5 - 9 June 2024.