Columbus Symphony: Romeo and Juliet

Michael Stern conducts the Columbus Symphony this weekend(Photo: kcsymphony.com)
Michael Stern conducts the Columbus Symphony this weekend(Photo: kcsymphony.com)

The Columbus Symphony presents Romeo and Juliet program for Valentine’s weekend, February 14 and 15, 8 PM in the Ohio Theater. Come an hour early, have cocktail and listen to my pre-concert talk.

Michael Stern conducts Berlioz Love Music from Romeo and Juliet; a Suite from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet; and the dances from Bernstein’s West Side Story.

This concert will be broadcast on Classical 101 Sunday, April 6 at 1 p.m.

West Side Story was a contemporary Romeo and Juliet. “It must be remembered” writes critic Ken Mandelbaum,” that the show was putting onstage the violence that was happening nearby.” But the love between Maria and Tony and its tragic consequences proved irresistible. Leonard Bernstein’s score was jarring, dissonant, difficult and soared with love music like nothing else

Bernstein arranged the hottest tunes (were any cold?) into a suite of Dances from West Side Story. We’ll hear these dances in the Ohio Theater this weekend. Afiery and dangerous love between two teenagers.

Hector Berlioz wrote a symphonie dramatique of Romeo and Juliette. Berlioz was different from French-born composers of his time and in that he was no miniaturist. Size counted and Berlioz liked a large orchestra, choruses and robust soloists. Even so, he deliberately scored Romeo and Juliet’s scene d’amour for orchestra with no voices. This kind of lush, sensuous music predicted Wagner, and that composer himself was in the audience for the Berlioz premiere.

Berlioz called the love music from Romeo and Juliet the greatest of all his works. Who’s to say he’s wrong?

Sergei Prokofiev couldn’t get a break with his ballet score Romeo and Juliet. The Bolshoi called it impossible to dance. The Kirov wouldn’t touch it. It was thought to be too rhythmically complicated for those gorgeous sinuous Russian and Danish choreography. Eventually, the full ballet was staged in Prague. The Soviet government was embarrassed and a production was quickly put together for the Kirov in what is now, again St Petersburg.  This was the ballet in which Margot Fonteyn met Rudolf Nureyev. Their partnership outsold the Beatles all over the world in the early 1960s.

This weekend’s Columbus symphony concerts present no singers and no dancers. We don’t need them. Bernstein and Prokofiev left engaging orchestral suits of their music meant for orchestra alone. Included in his weekend’s program is Prokofiev’s fight between the Montagues and the Capulets.

The love of Romeo and Juliet inspired Shakespeare, plus 14 operas, films beginning in 1908 and Prokofiev’s eminently danceable ballet. You don’t have to dance this weekend. The Columbus Symphony will fill your evenings with the love and passion of Shakespeare, Berlioz, Prokofiev and Bernstein. Bring your honey.

Comments