On the 26 August, there will be a single performance only of Johan Kobborg’s new production of Romeo and Juliet with Sergei Polunin and Alina Cojocaru in the title roles. But when the theatre in Verona’s vast Arena with 30,000 seats it is the equivalent of a 15-performance run in an opera house.
Joining them on stage will be The Royal Ballet’s First Soloist, Valentino Zucchetti.
Zucchetti’s family are from Palazzolo sull’Oglio which is just over an hour away from Verona (driving towards Milan), so it’s a convenient gig for the dancer.
Sergei [Polunin] and I have been friends since we were 15. We’ve studied, danced and lived together, going out with the same group of friends.
Zucchetti left La Scala’s ballet school in Milan when he was 16 for The Royal Ballet Upper School where the two dancers met, and he’s been dancing with The Royal Ballet since 2010.
I’m always off to different countries – The Royal Ballet has just returned from Tokyo – and now I don’t even consider myself to be Italian.
In fact, he has a ‘foreign’ accent when speaking in Italian.
It’s back in Italy, however, that he has a chance to team up with his old school chum and colleague.
[Polunin’s] an enigmatic figure artistically, and as a person, he is the most genuine and generous I know, though I don’t share some of his ideas.
To help him in this new production is a great pleasure: he is an outstanding talent, something I’ve always recognised in him even when no one else was aware.
And the voices against him?
Criticism is part of fame.
Kobborg asked David Umemoto, a sculptor and visual artist, to design the sets for Romeo and Juliet.
It will have a cinematic style of choreography, without pauses, so it will be like seeing the tragedy in a 3D film.
Zucchetti’s passion for dance, at 31, remains all-consuming.
I dance for 17 hours a day, and when I’m not, I’m busy preparing new projects. I might seem possessed, but dance is my life, not going to the bar or watching a football game.
From an early age… I devoted all my time to dancing, not even having a Sunday off – my friends thought I was fanatical. But I’ve always been happy, even though there were sacrifices to be made and a lot of discipline needed.
Dance expresses emotions that cannot be transmitted in words.
Valentino Zucchetti’s words were taken from an interview for the Bergamo insert of the Corriere newspaper.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.