Prokofiev’s seventh ballet, Romeo and Juliet. was commissioned by the Kirov Theater in Leningrad during the autumn of 1934. “I have taken special pains,” Prokofiev said, “to achieve a simplicity which will, I hope, reach the hearts of all listeners. If people find no melody and no emotion in this work, I shall be very sorry--but I feel sure that sooner or later they will.”
It was to be later. The Kirov shelved the work and so did the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, which rejected the music as “impossible to dance to.”
Undeterred by these developments, Prokofiev put together various orchestral suites from the ballet. The complete ballet finally reached the stage on December 30, 1938, when a company in Brno, Czechoslovakia performed it without consulting the composer. Prokofiev did not attend.
Meanwhile, the Kirov Theater had changed its mind. When the choreographer suggested changes in the score, Prokofiev was adamant: “I have written the exact amount of music that is necessary. And I am not going to do anything more. It is done. The piece is ready. If you want to produce it--there it is, if not--then not.”
After much negotiation and delay, Romeo and Juliet was finally given in Leningrad on January 11, 1940. The Bolshoi Theater followed suit on December 22, 1946.
~ Program notes by Charley Samson, copyright 2023