DUBROVAČKI VJESNIK magazine, 21 September 2019
Review by Sanja Dražić
Romeo and Juliet Choir of the Royal Dramatic Theatre of Stockholm
DUBROVNIK MISSED YOU!
No other ensemble fills the Rector’s Palace in such a relaxed and ingenious way. It looks as if the popular Swedes live there, and occasionally and joyfully provide entertainment for audiences as well.
Did the members of the Romeo and Juliet Choir of the Royal Dramatic Theatre of Stockholm reconstruct the Rector’s Palace in the North of Europe so that they could rehearse their musical and theatrical projects for Dubrovnik there? Because their perfect use of its stage, stairways, columns, exits and entrances makes you conclude that every distance was measured with centimetre precision, and that everything functions perfectly. Or that they have, during the past fifteen years, cherished the Rector’s Palace as the most beautiful memory? In spite of the collaboration breakdown?
Renaissance and Baroque
The Dubrovnik audience waited impatiently for this year’s arrival of the popular Swedes, who gave two performances at the Dubrovnik Late Summer Festival two days in a row. The first one was entitled The Decameron. The Choir, led by its Artistic Director Benoît Malmberg from the ensemble’s foundation, staged five Boccaccio’s novellas (Filippo Baldano, Punishment for Love in Prato, The Abbes with the Trousers, Masetto in the Convent, and Girolamo and Salvestra). Between the novellas, the Choir performed Renaissance music by O. di Lasso, O. Vecchi, G. da Nola, J des Prez, R. Mantovano, F. Patavino and A. Willaert, the finest masters of that period.
The second performance was divided into two parts. The first included Renaissance music, mainly by O. di Lasso, C. Janequin, P. Certon, P. Passereau, J. Arcadelt and C. de Rore. In the second part we listened to Baroque pieces by the great masters of this époque H. Purcell, G. F. Handel and C. Monteverdi. The Choir members wore different costumes that matched each style period.
Concert concluded with song and dance with the audience
The ensemble includes fourteen members, while the accompaniment consists of two lutes, a double bass and percussions. Its performances marvellously combine excellent acting, superb singing, relaxedness, ingenious stage movement with plenty of comical and funny situations and dramaturgical solutions. They are often humorous images that employ mime and movement to keep the audience convulsed with laughter. Laughter is often caused by occasional overacting as well. It does not matter whether it is the result of the ensemble’s playfulness, or the need to comment on its less talented colleagues. What matters is that both the audience and performers feel great. In spite of the permanent movement, walking, dance, running, love glances and complete acting concentration, the ensemble’s singing is impeccably synchronised. Worth mentioning is that the colours of the voices, dynamics and articulation are in the perfect balance. Regardless of the top quality performances, we prefer listening to R&J Choir as ensemble than as soloists. Perhaps the Swedes improvise as well – they reacted to the Green Men striking the hours, the airplane and the live music in the vicinity of the Rector’s Palace – but even this segment of their performance is perfectly coordinated. Although their first performance lasted an hour and a half and the second two hours, the Swedes were in the mood for encores. After the first performance, they sang Renaissance compositions. At the end of their second concert, they performed the ABBA hit Dancing Queen, playing, singing and dancing with the audience. A true festivity at the Rector’s Palace!
The Romeo and Juliet Choir was founded by Benoît Malmberg for the Royal Dramatic Theatre of Stockholm production of Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. The Choir arrived in Dubrovnik for the first time in 1994, at the time when both Croatian and foreign ensembles were rare guests. After that, it performed permanently at the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, in the venues such as Sponza Palace, Rector’s Palace and Fort Lovrjenac. The popular Swedes prepared many thematic projects particularly for Dubrovnik. After that, they gave repeat performances all over the world – which should be the proper sequence of events where the Dubrovnik Festival and other festivals are concerned! After 2004, the Dubrovnik Summer Festival terminated the cooperation with the Choir – we do not know the reasons why. In 2009, aiming at correcting this mistake and injustice to a certain extent, Petar Mišo Mihočević, the then Director of the Marin Držić Theatre, played host to the Swedes in this theatre. Luckily, Damir Milat, the current Director of the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra, invited the Choir to perform at the Rector’s Palace within the 2019 Dubrovnik Late Summer Festival.
Closeness with the audience
After both performances, the popular Swedes saw off the audience who had obviously missed them. In front of the Rector’s Palace they mingled with the audience for a while like true hosts. They talked with the audience, laughed, revived memories and took photographs. After that they returned to the Palace to change clothes, of course. Although it seemed that they would also stay overnight. Because they belong there.
Come Back Again!
There is a special love between the Dubrovnik audience and the R&J Choir members. The Swedes have awarded the loyalty of the people of Dubrovnik with original and amusing musical and theatrical projects. They have obviously paid particular attention to their appearances at Fort Lovrjenac and the Rector’s Palace, where they literally felt ”at home“. This year too, the Swedes were seen off with flower petals falling from the upper gallery. Thanking the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra for inviting them, we can only say: „Come back again!“