On Music: Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet

David K. Israel

Sergei Prokofiev was one of those precocious Mozartian geniuses, composing his first piece at the age of five and his first opera at the age of seven. He also mastered chess early on and I think even went on to compete against some heavy-duty Russian world-champion types later in life. Don't think the biographies I've read of him ever said whether he won or not, but I'd imagine not. Still, I've always been fascinated with chess and those that are really good at it.

But this post is about Romeo and Juliet, which I thought would fit well considering today's Valentines Day and all. In 1934, Prokofiev was commissioned by the famous Kirov Ballet to write a score for a new ballet.. The result? One of his most beloved works, and easily my favorite scoring of the Shakespeare tragedy. (Many other composers have set the story to music, including Berlioz, die-hard Romantic that he was, and Tchaikovsky, and come to think of it Radiohead, maybe too?)

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This classic footage features Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev, the world's most popular pas de duex team at one time--worth watching even if you're not interested in the string writing!