Artistic Director’s Notebook-Roméo et Juliette

The story of Roméo et Juliette offers many takeaways: humor, drama, tears, and passion, to name a few. From my first read of the play in Mr. Crosby’s seventh-grade classroom to a recent viewing of the new Steven Spielberg film version of West Side Story, I’ve enjoyed a lifetime of different perspectives. Now in my sixth decade, I am struck by the hatred—virulent, all-encompassing, and destructive as a raging wildfire. It spills onto the streets of Verona and erupts in the town square; it boils between mother and daughter in Juliet’s bedchamber — it’s everywhere. As Montagues and Capulets continue to hate one another, we wonder if they recall the root of their hatred. Is the sliver of passionate love between our two protagonists enough to end strife and repair entrenched ways?


When we watch from a comfortable seat in a theater or on a screen at home, the problems plaguing two feuding families seem obvious and fixable, but when hate surrounds us in our everyday lives, we can’t always see the solution. We lack avenues for dialogue or bridges to understanding. One of the many boons of art is the perspective it offers. Art gives us a lens, and through it, we see clearly. The lens is yours even after the curtain descends or the credits roll. Take it with you. See if the wisdom gained or lesson learned is applicable elsewhere in your lives. Be willing to step back, see both sides, and work for understanding.


During the weeks leading up to opening night, our studios become literal laboratories of coaching. Stagers Bernice Coppieters, George Oliveira, and Bruno Roque circulate throughout the studio, whispering, demonstrating, encouraging artists to plumb greater depths. Acting is pushed to the most realistic interpretations. Our dancers, especially those returning to familiar roles like Noelani Pantastico, Lucien Postlewaite, and James Moore, quietly help new casts refine interpretations from the sidelines. You can feel their commitment in each performance.


George Balanchine once said the music of Igor Stravinsky’s Apollo taught him he could do less, be more economical — find the essence. Not sure who shared the same wisdom with Jean-Christophe Maillot and his creative team, but they too offer striking lessons in economy with this production. Less is so much more, prompting our imaginations to fill in the blanks and round out a detailed picture. By stripping away, Jean-Christophe lets the focus intensify on bodies, hands, lungs, and limbs. Shakespeare’s play is vividly revealed against a largely monochromatic canvas. I’m struck by the exquisite work of costume designer Jerome Kaplan, whose selections of cuts and fabrics move with a grace and flow that compliments the singular strength of the choreography. PNB’s costume shop faithfully constructed each of Jerome’s concepts. We have been lucky enough to present four productions designed by Jerome. Watch for the return of his Giselle next season.


I also want to herald the PNB Orchestra members who bring Prokofiev’s rich score —with all its nuance and surging power— to life in a way that greatly enhances the onstage experience. If ever there was an example of triumph through unity and collaboration, it is our orchestra under the baton of Emil de Cou. The players embody the concept of working together. How lucky we are to have these experiences, and if we have one takeaway from the past two years, it is that life’s greatest moments are all too fragile. Thank you for joining us. Thank you for recognizing the brilliance that is possible when we come together to experience art, music, and life.



Peter Boal
Artistic Director



Featured photo: Miles Pertl as Friar Lawrence in Roméo et Juliette. Photo by Angela Sterling; choreography by Jean-Christophe Maillot.