The Australian Ballet world premiere of Romeo & Juliet

The Australian Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet by Graeme Murphy premieres

two dancers embrace

Robyn Hendricks and Ty King-Wall Photograph : by Paul Empson

For immediate release Thursday 16 June 2011   

Romeo & Juliet: love is a battlefield

The world premiere of a Graeme Murphy masterpiece

This year, The Australian Ballet presents one of its most ambitious commissions to date. Celebrated choreographer Graeme Murphy puts his unmistakable signature to Shakespeare’s
Romeo & Juliet
in this year’s must-see production.

Forget what you think you know about this story
– The Australian Ballet takes the Bard’s famous tragedy to never-before-seen dimensions.

Romeo & Juliet
will have its world premiere in Melbourne on 13 September 2011, before
heading to Sydney from December 2.

In his first-ever collaboration with the company, internationally renowned fashion designer
Akira Isogawa
has teamed with Murphy to
create the costumes for this lavish work.

Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet,
David McAllister, says audiences will be in awe
of the production’s scale.

“Graeme Murphy is a genius at retelling traditional stories with modern narratives that reflect our times. He goes where others fear to tread, and audiences are going to be greatly rewarded,” said McAllister.

“Combined with Akira Isogawa’s exquisite
costumes and that commanding Prokofiev score,
this will be the ballet event of the year.”

This work has been created in dedication to living dance legend Dame Margaret Scott, a key player in the development of The Australian Ballet. Scott was the founding artistic director of The Australian Ballet School and discovered a young Murphy, nurturing him throughout his career as he moved from
dance to choreography.

About the production

The ever-imaginative Murphy has shaped a whole new world for the famous star crossed lovers to inhabit. The central characters remain – the passionate but ill-advised Romeo, innocent and
wilful Juliet, the overbearing families of Capulet and Montague, alongside fiery Mercutio, handsome Paris and deadly Tybalt.

But the action is not restricted to fair Verona.
This book-to-ballet adaptation is set across multiple continents and refuses to be defined by a particular era – a nod to the story’s global themes of love,
war, greed and factionalism.

Murphy explains how the warring Capulets and Montagues became an allegory for current-day unrest.

“The main premise is that war kills our youth; and just like in the Shakespeare tale, old men start conflicts which our young are responsible for
fighting,” observes Murphy.

“Romeo and Juliet are fighting for love, the most valuable commodity of all, while around them the world continues to be full of senseless fighting
which ultimately leads to both of their deaths.”

As Romeo himself declares: “these violent delights have violent ends”, and there can be no happy ending for the young couple.

Intrinsic to the mood of menace and foreboding is Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev’s enduring 1935 score. Originally commissioned by the Kirov Ballet, it is one of ballet’s most evocative pieces of music.

Of course a grand vision such as Murphy’s cannot be realised without a stellar artistic team.  Set designer Gerard Manion, who has collaborated previously with Murphy on Sydney Dance Company, has created a number of magnificent backdrops, transporting audiences to the most far-flung corners of the globe.

A team of 25 production crew – from designers, planners, construction, painting and props – are working to bring this elaborate production to life.

Meanwhile, Akira Isogawa has employed his artisan fabric skills to evoke the sweeping themes, from the first blush of Romeo and Juliet’s love to the darkest hours of death and despair.

Intricate hand-beading, bespoke dyeing and exquisite textured materials are all being utilised to create these beautiful costumes.

With a team of over 20 highly skilled, full-time costumiers bringing more than 150 pieces from sketch to stage, Romeo & Juliet promises to be a moving work of art.

– ends –


Melbourne 13 – 24 September
(14 performances)
the Arts Centre, State Theatre
with Orchestra Victoria

Sydney 2 – 21 December
(22 performances)
Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House
with Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra


Choreography Graeme Murphy
Creative associate Janet Vernon
Music Sergei Prokofiev
Costume design Akira Isogawa
Set design Gerard Manion
Lighting design Damien Cooper

Australian Ballet website or 1300 369 741


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