Born 1954 in Zimbabwe
When Karen Kain commissioned Alexei Ratmansky to design a new production of Romeo and Juliet for The National Ballet of Canada, Ratmansky needed the perfect designer to match his vision. Once Richard Hudson was recommended as a leading contemporary stage designer, the partnership between Ratmansky and Hudson soon flourished.
After he learned that Ratmansky wanted a Romeo and Juliet set in its original period of the early Italian Renaissance, Hudson recognized that he would need to avoid creating a clichéd production that, in his words, would become “how people would expect Romeo and Juliet to look.” He looked to various Renaissance painters for inspiration, taking note of the period’s bright colours and highly detailed architecture. From his extensive research and his own creative style emerged a new design for Romeo and Juliet.
The ballet opens in Verona with a vibrant red manor in its centre and terra cotta structures flanking either side. Once inside the Capulets' ballroom, an intricate frieze behind a wall of windows adds layers of detail to the scene. The costumes are equally vivid and varied, with Hudson’s designs avoiding a dichotomous colour division between the Capulets and Montagues.
Although Romeo and Juliet is the first production that Hudson has designed for the National Ballet, he is widely accomplished in theatre design. He is renowned for his set design of the Broadway production The Lion King, for which he won a Tony Award in 1998. In addition, he has designed sets and costumes for opera, theatre and ballet companies worldwide, including The Metropolitan Opera, the English National Opera, Wiener Staatsoper, The Royal Ballet and The Royal Shakespeare Company, among others.
By engaging contemporary designers like Richard Hudson, the National Ballet continues to invite new perspectives and aesthetics on its stage and remains at the forefront of design in ballet.
View the exhibit
Romeo and Juliet (2011)
Top image credit: The National Ballet of Canada tutus on display. Photo by Setareh Sarmadi.