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Commissioning Partners Anounced for Bard's Fisher Center and Mark Morris Dance Group's Historic Production of the Original Version of Prokofiev's Romeo & Juliet











(New York, NY) – The Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG) and The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College are pleased to announce commissioning partners for a new production of Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet, On Motifs of Shakespeare, scheduled to premiere at the Bard SummerScape Festival July 4, 2008*. This historic event features a new, fully-staged dance production by Mark Morris set to Prokofiev’s original score and scenario by Soviet dramatist Sergei Radlov, based on exclusive documents unearthed in Moscow by Princeton University musicologist and Bard Scholar in Residence Simon Morrison and represents the first time Prokofiev’s music for Romeo and Juliet will be performed according to the composer’s instructions. 


Commissioning the $1.1 million production in association with The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College and the Mark Morris Dance Group are: Cal Performances - Berkeley, the Krannert Center at the University of Illinois, Virginia Arts Festival, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Barbican CentreLondon and other, individual commissioners. Dates for presentation of this work by commissioning organizations will be announced at a later date.

"We are thrilled to be working with these commissioning partners and their visionary leaders,” said Nancy Umanoff, Executive Director, Mark Morris Dance Group. “These are organizations with whom the company has developed major relationships, and for years have invested in the development of Mark’s work and in bringing it to their audiences.  Their support is vital to the production."


The premiere of Romeo & Juliet, On Motifs of Shakespeare, choreographed by Mark Morris, will be performed by the American Symphony Orchestra (ASO), led by Leon Botstein, and the Mark Morris Dance Group. The production will feature scenic design by Allen Moyer, costume design by Martin Pakledinaz, and lighting design by James F. Ingalls, all of whom are longtime collaborators of Mark Morris.


About the commissioners


“We’re delighted to participate in this historic rediscovery, and I think this promises to become a widely performed version of Romeo and Juliet,” said Leon Botstein, president of Bard College and music director of the American Symphony Orchestra (ASO).


The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College is dedicated to producing and presenting world-class music, opera, theater, and dance, while providing an intellectually and creatively stimulating home for current and future leaders in all disciplines of the performing arts.  Designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry and located in New York’s scenic Hudson River Valley, 90 miles north of New York City, the Fisher Center features two state-of-the-art theaters and four studios, which serve both the Center’s educational and public service missions. Bard College is a highly selective, rigorous, independent college of the liberal arts and sciences known for its innovative curriculum, small classes, and system of satellite institutions and programs that foster close interaction among students, scholars, artists, and scientists. MMDG made its Fisher Center debut with four sold-out performances of The Hard Nut in December 2006.  The 2008 Bard SummerScape Festival is pleased to open its 2008 season on July 4 with the premiere of Romeo & Julie,t On Motifs of Shakespeare.  Known for it’s thematic approach to programming, the 2008 Bard SummerScape Festival will focus on “Prokofiev and His World,” and conclude with the celebrated Bard Music Festival running August 8-10 and 15-17, 2008.


Cal Performances, the performing arts presenter and producer of the University of California, Berkeley, is now in its 102nd season.  The organization’s mission is to inspire, nurture and sustain a lifelong appreciation for the performing arts by presenting, producing and commissioning outstanding artists, both renowned and emerging to serve the University and the broader public through performances and education and community programs. A deep commitment to excellence in service, facilities, staff and volunteer leadership provides a unique environment where artists flourish and where the community is enriched through programs of innovation and diversity. 

"When two really significant artists come together for the first time -- whether both are living or one has preceded the other by decades or centuries -- a lot of electricity is generated.  Certainly that was true with the likes of Cunningham and Rauschenberg, Sellars and Mozart, Brook and Shakespeare.  Now its Mark Morris and Prokofiev," said Robert Cole, Director of Cal Performances. "This is an unusual opportunity: a newly discovered manuscript of one of the greatest scores of the 20th century in a fresh interpretation by the leading choreographer of our day.  I imagine Diaghilev felt this kind of excitement when Stravinsky and Nijinski worked together-- but I'm reasonably assured that there will be no rioting at this premiere."


Cal Performances, MMDG’s official West Coast home, has long been famous for its commitment to bringing important dance works on a grand scale to Zellerbach Hall.  Cal Performances and MMDG’s relationship over the last twenty years has played a major part in fulfilling that commitment.  MMDG first performed two mixed repertory programs at Zellerbach Hall in 1987.  Since then, Cal Performances has presented 53 different works by Mark Morris, eleven of which were premieres and seven of which were commissions.  Mozart Dances in September ‘07 marked the 150th MMDG performance at Zellerbach Hall.


Cal Performances has hosted more performances of Mark Morris’s holiday classic, The Hard Nut than anywhere else in the world - 65 performances to date.


Since 1969, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts has served as one of the nation's premier educational and professional performing arts complexes. The setting for over 300 performances each year, Krannert Center nurtures excellence and innovation in the performing arts through education, presentation, community service, and research. Above all, it is a place for education. Each season, Krannert Center features performances and productions by students and faculty in the University's School of Music and the Departments of Theatre and Dance. Made possible by the generous gift of the late industrialist and University of Illinois alumnus Herman Krannert and his wife, Ellnora, Krannert Center continues its vision of "education through participation in culture."  As a component of the College of Fine and Applied Arts at the Urbana-Champaign campus, the Center supports the belief that creativity is a core human characteristic and that the arts - and the ideas surrounding them - hold unique and transformative potential.  Embracing the art of the past as well as the art of our time, the Center is equally committed to the creation of new work and the shared process of discovery


"I cannot think of a more worthy investment of resources in the arts on the part of a major research university such as Illinois than that which has been made by Chancellor Richard Herman in support of the Romeo and Juliet project,” said Mike Ross, Director of the Krannert Center.  “The project is a perfect blending of the research/education/public engagement mission that guides Illinois, and the chancellor's commitment is an emblematic commentary on his belief in the value of the arts to society, the need for continuous exploration, and in the exuberant quality our years-long, high-yield relationship with Mark and his company."     


MMDG made its Krannert Center debut in 1987 and has appeared annually in the Center’s Marquee Season since 2001.  Several of Morris’ most popular works such as Gloria, Grand Duo, V, and Dido and Aeneas have been performed there. MMDG’s engagement with the Urbana community has been equally successful with the Dance for Parkinson’s program each year and the new Shadow Program launched with the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign’s dance performance students in the Spring of 2007.  Shadow Program fellows receive behind the scenes access to the company on tour and scholarships to the pre-professional summer intensives at the Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn.  In 2007, Krannert Center was officially proclaimed MMDG’s Midwest Home.


Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (LCPA) serves three primary roles: presenter of artistic programming, national leader in arts and education and community relations, and manager of the Lincoln Center campus. As a presenter of more than 400 events annually, LCPA’s series include American Songbook, Great Performers, Lincoln Center Festival, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Midsummer Night Swing, and the Mostly Mozart Festival. These programs offer performances of music, opera, theater, dance, and multi-media events each year.  The Emmy Award–winning Live From Lincoln Center extends Lincoln Center’s reach to millions of Americans nationwide. As a leader in arts and education and community relations, LCPA takes a wide range of activities beyond its halls through the Lincoln Center Institute, as well as offering arts-related symposia, family programming, and accessibility. And as manager of the Lincoln Center campus, LCPA provides support and services for the Lincoln Center complex and its 11 other resident organizations.


“We are very pleased and excited to further extend our collaboration with Mark Morris and the Mark Morris Dance Group through our joint commission of this important new Romeo & Juliet, ” said Jane Moss, Vice President for Programming, Lincoln Center For the Performing Arts.


MMDG made its LCPA debut with one of Morris’ most beloved masterpieces, Handel’s L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato as part of American Visionaries in 1995.  MMDG appeared as part of Lincoln Center Out of Doors in 2001 and made its Mostly Mozart Festival debut in 2002.  Since then, MMDG has performed a variety of programs including Gloria, V, and Jesu, Meine Freude, in addition to another highly-acclaimed evening-length program, Mozart Dances, which was co-commissioned by LCPA and received its world premiere at Lincoln Center in 2006.  The opportunity to perform as part of LCPA programming aligns with MMDG’s dedication to performing to live music with some of the best musicians today.  In addition to working with the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, led by Louis Langrée, MMDG has had the opportunity to collaborate with musical artists such as Emanuel Ax, Yoko Nozaki, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Waverly Consort, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and Voices of Ascension.


The mission of the Virginia Arts Festival is to bring world-class performing arts to citizens and visitors, impact the lives of students through outstanding educational programs, commission new works of national and international significance, and make a tangible difference in Hampton Roads through regional partnerships and positive economic impact through the generation of cultural tourism. The world-class Virginia Arts Festival premiered in coastal Virginia in spring 1997. Twenty-plus venues in nine cities from the Historic Triangle (Jamestown/Yorktown/Williamsburg) to Norfolk to the oceanfront resort, Virginia Beach, host over 60 performances each spring by internationally renowned artists from around the world in classical music, dance, theatre, and opera. Signature events are the Chamber Music series, led by pianist André-Michel Schub, and the spectacle of music and might, the Virginia International Tattoo (named Internationally Known Event in the American Bus Association’s Top 100 Events in North America for 2008). The Virginia Arts Festival welcomed MMDG for the first time in its inaugural season in 1997.  MMDG then began a five-year residency in 2000 with the Festival.


“Prokofiev’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is one of the greatest ballet scores ever written and it’s only fitting that Mark Morris, one of the world’s great choreographers, was chosen for the project.  The Virginia Arts Festival is proud to be a partner in what should prove to be a landmark new production of this beloved ballet, “ Robert W. Cross, Artistic Director, Virginia Arts Festival.


Bite is the Barbican’s Centre’s year-round program of international theatre, dance and music.  It offers the best of new performance from around the world which often defy classification.  Much of the work presented in bite is produced or co-commissioned by the Barbican.  The program enables companies and artists to realize their goals and ambitions and to explore new ideas. Bite’s support as co-commissioner helps launch artists onto the international scene and creates a vibrant London home for established international artists.


“A new work by Mark Morris is always a major event. The premiere of the original score of Prokofeiv’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is simply unique,” Louise Jeffreys, Head of Theatre at the Barbican. “Our co-commissioning relationship with the Mark Morris Dance Group began with Mozart Dances, a phenomenal success; we are honored to be co-commissioners with the company again with this extraordinary new project. The thought of presenting this unmissable combination at the Barbican in 2008 leaves us breathless with excitement.”


MMDG made its sold-out bite debut at the Barbican Centre on July 4, 2007, with its production of Mozart Dances, for which the Barbican Centre was also a lead commissioning partner.


The Mark Morris Dance Group was formed in 1980 and gave its first concert that year in New York City.  The company’s touring schedule steadily expanded to include cities both in the U.S. and in Europe, and in 1986 it made its first national television program for the PBS series Dance in America.  In 1988, MMDG was invited to become the national dance company of Belgium, and spent three years in residence at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels. The company returned to the United States in 1991 as one of the world’s leading dance companies, performing across the U.S. and at major international festivals. It has maintained and strengthened its ties to several cities around the world, most notably its west coast home, Cal Performances in Berkeley, CA, and its midwest home, the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana, IL. MMDG also appears regularly in Boston, MA; Fairfax, VA; Seattle, WA; and at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, MA. MMDG made its debut at the Mostly Mozart Festival in 2002 and at the Tanglewood Music Festival in 2003 and has since been invited to both festivals annually. The company’s London seasons have garnered two Laurence Olivier Awards. MMDG is noted for its commitment to live music, a feature of every performance on its full international touring schedule since 1996. MMDG collaborates with leading orchestras, opera companies, and musicians including cellist Yo-Yo Ma in the Emmy Award-winning film Falling Down Stairs (1997); Indian composer Zakir Hussain, Mr. Ma and jazz pianist Ethan Iverson in Kolam (2002); The Bad Plus in Violet Cavern (2004); pianists Emanuel Ax and Yoko Nozaki for Mozart Dances (2006); and with the English National Opera in Four Saints in Three Acts (2000) and King Arthur (2006), among others. MMDG’s film and television projects also include Dido and Aeneas, The Hard Nut, and two documentaries for the U.K.’s South Bank Show. In fall 2001, MMDG opened the Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn, NY, the company's first permanent headquarters in the U.S., housing rehearsal space for the dance community, outreach programs for local children, as well as a school offering dance classes to students of all ages.  For more information, visit


About Prokofiev’s music for Romeo and Juliet


According to Princeton musicologist Simon Morrison, Bard Scholar in Residence for the 2008 SummerScape and Bard Music Festivals, the project has no parallel in ballet history and will correct an historical injustice.  It is perhaps hard to imagine that Romeo and Juliet, arguably the most popular ballet of the 20th century, has never been performed as the composer intended.  But the original, intended Romeo and Juliet score, which is preserved at The Russian State Archive of Literature and Art, has never been performed, even though the composer left precise and detailed instructions with respect to the orchestration.  It includes six new dance numbers, adding more than 20 minutes of new music and resulting in a radically different ending to the story. 


Prokofiev conceived the ballet in 1935 in collaboration with innovative Soviet dramatist Sergei Radlov, who re-imagined the familiar tragedy “as a struggle for the right to love by young, strong, and progressive people battling against feudal traditions and feudal outlooks on marriage and family.” Much of Prokofiev’s score addresses the theme of love’s transcendence over oppression. However, in a radical gesture that caused a scandal in the Soviet ballet circles, Prokofiev and Radlov gave the ballet a happy ending. In the final scene, Juliet rouses from her potion-induced sleep just as Romeo begins to conclude that she has died. The two lovers express their feelings of relief and joy in a final dance. The music represents the two lovers willing away their world — the Verona square and palace — and entering another, greater one.


But this final act has never been staged. Prokofiev presented his score to Soviet cultural officials, who responded by canceling the premiere productions in Leningrad and Moscow. Prokofiev at first defended his and Radlov’s ending, arguing that “living people can dance, the dying cannot” and that “Shakespeare was himself said to be uncertain about the endings of his plays.” However, had he not rewritten the score, he would never have seen it staged.


The artistic climate in Stalin’s Russia darkened: in dance, music, and drama, conservative neoclassicism supplanted accessible innovation. Not only was Prokofiev forced to rewrite the ending of the ballet – replacing the entire fourth act with an epilogue, he was forced to insert large-scale solo dances for the Ball and Balcony Scenes, the result being a break-up of the dramatic flow. A divertissement involving three exotic dances in Act III was scrapped for logistical reasons. The Kirov Theater dancers complained about the difficulty of the rhythms and the original choreographer, Leonid Lavrovsky, insisted on thickening the orchestration. As the demands piled up, Prokofiev became increasingly frustrated, but each time, he acquiesced in an effort to see the work performed.  The ballet received its Russian premiere in 1940. When Prokofiev saw it, he had a hard time recognizing parts of his own music. He pleaded to no avail to undo the changes that he had not sanctioned.


The presenters express their sincere gratitude to the director and assistant director of the Russian State Archive of Literature (RGALI), Tatiana Goryaeva, and Galina Zlobina, for making this event possible. The archival materials used in this production remain solely under the jurisdiction of RGALI.


Special thanks to G. Schirmer, Associated Music Publishers, Inc. for their support of these performances.


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Contacts: William Murray

Mark Morris Dance Group



Mark Primoff

Bard College



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This event was last updated on 02-14-2008