Romeo and Juliet


Chan Hon Goh as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet (1997). Photo by Joseph Ciancio.


Our History

 Celia Franca as Lady Capulet copy 1 


The National Ballet of Canada first performed Romeo and Juliet at Montréal’s Place des Arts on April 14, 1964, with guest artists Marcia Haydée and Ray Barra from Stuttgart Ballet in the title roles. The company then took Romeo and Juliet home to Toronto and marked the National Ballet’s debut at the O’Keefe Centre. It was the first large-scale 20th-century ballet as well as the most lavish to enter the company’s repertoire and was deliberately chosen to suit the large stage of the O’Keefe Centre. The first Toronto performance was on April 21, 1964 and featured Galina Samtsova and Earl Kraul in the lead roles. 

Celia Franca as Lady Capulet (1964). 

 Earl and Veronica balcony copy 1   



Following its successful premiere, Romeo and Juliet was filmed for CBC television by Norman Campbell starring a 19-year old Veronica Tennant as Juliet and Earl Kraul as Romeo. It aired on September 15, 1965 and later won the Prix René Barthelemy at the International Television Festival in Monte Carlo in 1966. 

Earl Kraul and Veronica Tennant in the CBC film of Romeo and Juliet (1964). 


 Romeo jacket copy 1   



In 1973, a fire in the National Ballet’s wardrobe department destroyed all of the costumes for Romeo and Juliet. The production was rebuilt in 1976 and returned to the National Ballet’s repertoire as part of the 25th anniversary season. It was first performed at the Olympic Arts Festival in Montréal in July of 1976 and then performed in Toronto in November. Many former National Ballet dancers came out of retirement to appear for a special performance on November 14, 1976 including Lilian Jarvis as Juliet, Hazaros Surmeyan as Romeo, Yves Cousineau as Tybalt and Celia Franca as Lady Capulet. 

Romeo’s ball jacket (1976). 


 Veronica shoes copy 1 




After 25 years with the company, Principal Dancer Veronica Tennant danced her farewell performance with the National Ballet as Juliet on February 12, 1989. Ms. Tennant has gone on to achieve international acclaim for her documentary films on The National Ballet of Canada. 

Pointe shoes worn by Veronica Tennant in her final performance of Romeo and Juliet (February 12, 1989). 


 Piotr Stanczyk and Rebekah Rimsay in Romeo and Juliet before parting (2006). Small.   

James Kudelka created Romeo and Juliet before parting as one of a suite of dances specially commissioned in 1990 by Rhombus Media in association with the CBC for a film entitled Prokofiev by two: Romeos and Juliets. It received its concert premiere on June 30, 1990 featuring Peggy Baker and Sylvain Lafortune in the lead roles. The National Ballet of Canada premiered the work on August 23, 2005 at Harbourfront Centre’s outdoor CIBC Stage featuring Tanya Howard and Patrick Lavoie.  

Piotr Stanczyk and Rebekah Rimsay in Romeo and Juliet before parting (2006). 

 Staff orchestra dancers on stage copy 1 

In 1995, Romeo and Juliet was given a fresh look with totally redesigned sets and costumes by celebrated Canadian designer Susan Benson. The new production was generously underwritten by long-time supporter Walter Carsen and premiered on February 8, 1995. 

In a tribute to the premiere performance of Romeo and Juliet at the O’Keefe Centre, The National Ballet of Canada’s farewell season at the renamed Hummingbird Centre featured Romeo and Juliet as the final full-length production. The farewell Romeo and Juliet show was performed on May 7, 2006 featuring Sonia Rodriguez as Juliet and Aleksandar Antonijevic as Romeo. 

Dancers, orchestra members, artistic staff, production staff, wardrobe and crew of The National Ballet of Canada onstage following a performance of Romeo and Juliet (2006). 

 David Briskin conducting and Guillaume Côté rehearsing with members of the orchestra (2007). Small.  There are many adaptations of William Shakespeare’s works, perhaps one of the most enduring is West Side Story inspired by Romeo and Juliet. The Broadway musical premiered in 1957 to music by Leonard Bernstein with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and was directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins. On November 8, 2007 the National Ballet premiered West Side Story Suite as part of a program dedicated to the celebrated choreographer Jerome Robbins and became the only company aside from New York City Ballet to perform the work.  

Leonard Bernstein’s score for West Side Story Suite features a number of different musical styles including Latin, Jazz and Swing - music The National Ballet of Canada Orchestra does not get to perform often. Additional musicians were brought in to help round out the sound including saxophones and an expanded percussion section. West Side Story Suite is also the first production in the National Ballet’s repertoire in which the dancers are required to sing and talk as well as dance.

David Briskin conducting and Guillaume Côté rehearsing with members of the orchestra (2007). 

 Alexei Ratmansky with Elena Lobsanova and Guillaume Cote in rehearsal for Romeo and Juliet. Small. Photo by Sian Richards. 


In celebration of The National Ballet of Canada’s 60th Anniversary season, Artistic Director Karen Kain commissioned a new full length production of Romeo and Juliet from choreographer Alexei Ratmansky. The production, featuring sets and costumes by Tony award winning designer Richard Hudson, opened November 16, 2011 to rave reviews. The creation of the production was also the subject of a CBC documentary Romeos and Juliets 

Alexei Ratmansky with Elena Lobsanova and Guillaume Côté in rehearsal for Romeo and Juliet (2011). 


Your Stories

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"Today we saw the last March Break performance of Romeo and Juliet. It was perfect date for my mom and I. I was very pleased with the fact that Brendan Saye and Chelsy Meiss performed the leads. Considering that they haven't been in the company very long and are both in a lower ranking (Corps de Ballet member and Second Soloist) is definitely a big step. But they performed like Principal Dancers! I hope you will have both do lead roles in more productions. Thanks!"

Ms. Nicole Bezeau, Audience Member, Less than 5 years  

“It was the year we toured Romeo and Juliet to Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre (1977) and Karen Kain was Lady Capulet to my Lord. During a performance at the Queen E., of my sword fight in the first scene between Lord Montague and myself, the drama became terribly realist. Suddenly, my broad sword ricocheted off his and caught me, sinking edge first into my forehead, slashing it open. I didn’t realize I had been cut until we had to kneel in front of the Duke of Verona. As I dropped my head, blood started dropping onto the stage. As I turned to Karen, she said, ‘Charles, don’t look at the audience, your face is a mess.’ At the end of the scene, I was given something to stop the bleeding and then finished the show. After the performance I was rushed to the hospital. As you can imagine, the surgeon was in disbelief when I recounted my adventure and proceeded to put in 13 stitches! The end of the story is that the stitches were removed in Edmonton at a party, by a visiting physician, at the home of the Premier of Alberta, Mr. Lougheed, on that same tour.”


Charles Kirby, Alumni, Dancer 1965-1998  

"The greatest wave of emotion I can recall at any National Ballet performance came with Veronica Tennant's farewell appearance in Romeo and Juliet. The cheering nearly brought down the roof of the Hummingbird Centre as the flower bouquets piled up steadily around her on the stage. I especially remember one bouquet that came flying like a rocket from somewhere in the audience and landed right at her feet just as she was taking her umpteenth curtsey. What an amazing display of love from audience to artist!"

Ken Stephen, Subscriber & Donor, 25+ Years 

"My Memory: Sharing the joy of the ballet with my daughter Amy. The ballet has become our true love of the arts. Our favorite production so far has been Swan Lake. I am looking forward to the new Romeo and Juliet and am coming to the performance on November 18th, this time with a friend. I have to travel from my new home in Elliot Lake, Ontario and wouldn't miss it for the world. Thank you once again for your performances - they have become a regular part of my life."

- Maureen Cameron, Audience Member, Less than 5 years 

"Despite having small children at home and very little money, we HAD to see the 1965 performance of Romeo and Juliet. We will never forget seeing Veronica Tennant's perceptive interpretation of Juliet and Celia Franca's passionate display of grief over Tybalt's death in the ballet."

- Sylvia Murray and Jane Ameline, Audience Members, 40+ Years 

"My favourite ballet is Romeo and Juliet and my favourite Juliet was and is Veronica Tennant. Her retirement performance belied her age. Through her leg and body motions and pure acting ability she transformed herself into an innocent and lovestruck 14 year old."

- Leon Steinberg, Audience Member, 40+ Years 

"Having become a Canadian citizen in the beginning of April 1964, as a special gift my mother surprised me with tickets to see the first performance of Romeo and Juliet at the O'Keefe Centre. The performance by Galina Samtsova and especially Earl Kraul was absolutely superb. Now every April I have to think of this special month in my life and the most wonderful introduction to The National Ballet of Canada."

- Dieter Reimers, Audience Member, 40+ Years 

"My favourite memory of The National Ballet of Canada is the last time Karen Kain and Frank Augustyn danced Romeo and Juliet. Between the choreography, the dancers and the score there was not a dry eye in the house. I learned once and for all the ability of dance to move people's emotions."

- Stephen Stein, Audience Member, 30+ Years