Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet
The 2019 season finale from the Sydney Youth Orchestra brings together young love, a testimony to friendship, and heart-stopping action in a program directed by SYO Chief Conductor Alexander Briger.
A huge orchestra draws upon a vast sonic palette to describe the grandeur and pomposity of nobility, the heart-stopping cut-and-thrust of the street sword fights, and a Balcony Scene of pure sound that transcends the Bard’s immortal words. Prokofiev’s moving response to the story has been danced by many balletic stage legends, but SYO demonstrates that even without the presence of a Fonteyn or Nureyev the music loses none of its impact, especially in the hands of orchestral players identical in age to Romeo and Juliet themselves.
Earlier in the program, SYO mystery posed by Edward Elgar in his famous set of Variations on an Original Theme from 1899, known ever since as the Enigma Variations. Coded allusions to friends are arrayed like frames on a Facebook page around the enigma theme, its provenance still debated by musicologists. The so-called Nimrod variation from the set has been used in countless films and documentaries, all drawing upon its sense of end-of-Empire melancholy.