Shakespeare's timeless tragedy returns to Cairo Opera House

Daily News Egypt
5 Min Read

We try to perform classical ballets that are close to the Egyptian audiences’ hearts to make sure they attend our performances, Egyptian ballet dancer Hany Hassan said.

Hassan was the youngest to sign a contract with the Cairo Opera Company at the age of 14, and performed 23 shows in different countries around the world. Judging by the different age groups that rushed to see Sergey Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet at the Cairo Opera House, it seems that Hassan got what he bargained for.

Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet premiered at Brno, Czechoslovakia, on December 30, 1938. The original ballet was written with a happy ending but, due to critical disdain, this was removed from the final version. The original version of the ballet is expected to be performed for the first time in Moscow.

The first scene that played out on the stages of the Cairo Opera House was preceded by a short lyrical musical introduction. However, Ivan Filev, the ballet’s conductor, did not seem to be in full control. The different musical notes were rather mixed up, which made the music hazy and undefined.

Despite the uninspiring lighting effects that remained static, concentrating only on one fixed part of the stage, Artistic Director of the Cairo Opera Ballet Company Erminia Kamel and the artistic supervisor/director Abdel Moneim Kamel succeeded in producing a consistent and faithful adaptation of the world famous ballet.

“In classical ballets as in Romeo and Juliet, we cannot alter much or include our personal vision and if we do, it is minimal, Kamel explained.

In the first act, Romeo, played by Ahmed Yehia, and Juliet, played by Katia Ivanova, declared their eternal love for one another. The decorations were simple but creative, with a full moon appearing to spread its white light upon a balcony.

Ivanova was born in Kiev and joined the Cairo Opera Ballet Company in 1994 as a soloist. Later, Ivanova was appointed as principal dancer. Yehia, on the other hand, graduated from the Higher Institute of Ballet with high honors, joined the Cairo Opera Ballet Company in 1999, and was also promoted to principal dancer.

While Ivanova’s dancing was distinguished for its confidence and ease, Yehia was somehow uncharismatic on stage.

Hassan, who played Tybalt was very expressive in playing the villain role. His facial expressions and quick, aggressive moves were very clear and effective. Ahmed Nabil, who played Mercutio, was the best of the three soloists. In addition to his charm on stage, his moves were agile and firm, a rather unusual combination.

Hassan and Nabil were at their best at the square scene in Act II. They fought violently with metallic swords that swung quickly but were in perfect synchronization with the fast, angry music. They moved all around the stage with the two rival families (the Capulets and the Montagues) witnessing the quarrel.

Color coordination was also an important element in the scene, with the Montague women wearing fancy red velvet dresses and the men dressed in black trouser and red velvet tops. The Capulet men, on the other hand, were dressed in white pants and light green tops while their women wore light green dresses.

The scene ends with funeral music, signifying the death of Mercutio and Tybalt. The entire scene was dynamic, but it took quite a long time for Mercutio to die, which slowed things down. His enactment of a slow death was unneeded and exaggerated.

The decoration was simple but inventive at the Capulet’s tomb in Act III, Scene V: A white tomb surrounded by flowers and tall dark blue windows standing in the background. Juliet wakes up to finds Romeo lifeless and heartbroken before she stabs herself.

The performers received a standing ovation at the end of the show.

“Ten years ago, the Egyptian audience did not come to ballets because most of the dancers were foreigners, now that most of us are Egyptians, the Egyptian audience feels more encouraged to watch us, it makes them feel proud, Hassan said.

I too felt pride when I heard an English women sitting behind me say, “I did not know Egyptian ballet dancers were so talented.

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