Romeo and Juliet
by Sergei Prokofiev
Based on a synopsis created by Adrian Piotrovsky (who first suggested the subject to Prokofiev) and Sergey Radlov, the ballet in its original form was completed by Prokofiev in September 1935, on commission by the Kirov Ballet, since when he first presented the music to the Bolshoi Ballet that year, they claimed it was undanceable. The original version had a happy ending, but was never publicly mounted, partly due to increased fear and caution in the musical and theatrical community in the aftermath of the two notorious Pravda editorials criticising Shostakovich and other degenerate modernists including Piotrovsky. Suites of the ballet music were heard in Moscow and the United States, but the full ballet premiered in the Mahen Theatre, Brno (then in Czechoslovakia, now in the Czech Republic), on 30 December 1938. It is better known today from the significantly revised version that was first presented at the Kirov Ballet in Leningrad on 11 January 1940, with choreography by Leonid Lavrovsky and with Galina Ulanova and Konstantin Sergeyev in the lead roles.
Sergei Prokofiev himself made the first recording of music from the ballet, with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra in 1938. Since then, there have been recordings of the full score, as well as various excerpts such as the orchestral suites the composer prepared. Leopold Stokowski conducted the NBC Symphony Orchestra in a rare stereo recording in 1954 and Michael Tilson Thomas conducted the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in 1995, in selections from the score, both for RCA Victor. Lorin Maazel also made a noted complete recording of the score with the Cleveland Orchestra in 1973.