Montagues and Capulets, (Russian: Монтекки и Капулетти) also known as Dance of the Knights,[a] is a work of classical music written by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. The piece is the first one in the Suite No. 2 from Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64ter, which consists of two parts from his 1935 ballet Romeo and Juliet. He wrote versions for both orchestra and piano.
Origin of nickname
The introduction of the piece corresponds to No. 7 of the complete ballet score, The Prince Gives His Order, which is following The Fight between the Montagues and the Capulets. This theme is related to death and later served as the Introduction of Act III, after the fatal duel between Mercutio and Tybalt. It begins very loud, then drops to pianissimo, which is played by the strings. The horns and woodwinds then layer on top of the strings and the dynamics return to fortissimo. It then drops to piano again. Prokofiev creates the dark and foreboding mood through the extreme dynamic range and very dissonant harmonies.
The following section is identical with No. 13 of the complete score, Dance of the Knights. The A section begins with a strong pulsating beat from the brass section. This shows motoric rhythm, one of Prokofiev's signatures. The texture of this opening is almost metronomic, and provides a strong foundation for the dramatic string theme that comes out on top of it. Later on, the brass also takes up a soaring counter theme, and also punctuates the original string theme. In the ballet, this section would show the Capulets dancing in a very slow and dignified way, as this is the music for the Capulet Ball.
The B section provides a stark contrast, as it is in the pianissimo dynamic range and is played by the flutes. Together with the violas, they repeat a glissando throughout the section. It is marked adagio, and is very calm and serene. Prokofiev also utilizes touches of celesta in this section, which was highly unusual in orchestral works. In the middle of this section, there is an oboe solo accompanied by pizzicato strings. This section is meant to represent Juliet's entrance to the ball, as she flits about and meets various people. She eventually dances with the Count Paris until the close of this section.
When the A section comes back, it is when Juliet has laid eyes on Romeo. It is much abridged, and the first re-presentation of the theme is done as a tenor saxophone solo, which was highly unusual for the time period. Eventually, the strings join in, and the piece ends with a very strong cadence.
Other uses and adaptations
Bands such as The Smiths, Muse, Iron Maiden, Tears for Fears, and Deep Purple have all used it as walk-on music, and on the intro to Muse's album HAARP. The composition is also used as the entrance theme for Sunderland A.F.C..
It has also been sampled by American hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest in "Can I Kick It?", quoted in German metal band Necrophagist's "Only Ash Remains", Austrian metal band Hollenthon's "Lords of Bedlam", American neofolk group Blood Axis's "Reign I Forever", Finnish rapper Mariska's "Hei Mama", sampled by British rapper Life MC on "Time Crisis" & British drum & bass group The Qemists on "Got One Life". It features heavily in the song "Taken for Granted" by Sia. It has also been used in Norwegian metal band Satyricon's video for "Mother North" and as the intro to electronic group VNV Nation's live concert DVD Pastperfect. It has been performed with an orchestra by metal band Epica at the Miskolc Opera Festival, included on their live album The Classical Conspiracy. Emerson, Lake, and Palmer recorded a cover titled "Romeo and Juliet" for their 1992 album Black Moon. Robbie Williams' single "Party like a Russian" of his album Heavy Entertainment Show also features several samples from Prokofiev's original dance.
This work has been used in television as the theme of the British and Irish versions of the reality series The Apprentice, in the opening of BBC children's drama God's Wonderful Railway, in the Canadian comedy reality series Kenny vs. Spenny, and as the title theme for Channel 4's 1980s National Football League American Football coverage in the UK. It has also been used in film as the overture for Caligula, and during the ballet theatre sequences of Exotica. It was also featured in Adam Elliot's 2009 Australian film Mary and Max, in The Simpsons episode "The Falcon and the D'ohman" and as the closing piece for the Season 1 finale of Gotham. Montagues and Capulets has reached popular association in the UK as the theme to The Apprentice, with The Times’ reviewer Caitlin Moran writing that this sense of recognition went "round the room like a Mexican wave," after its inclusion in the 2008 Doctor Who Prom in the Royal Albert Hall. In the video game Civilization V, it is used as the theme for the Russian civilization.
- "An Expert's Guide to Sergey Prokofiev's Dance of the Knights". ThoughtCo.
- "Let's Race". 2013-12-02. Retrieved 2014-07-22.
- Moran, Caitlin (July 28, 2008). "Time Lord opens the Tardis to a new generation of Prom-goers". The Times. Archived from the original on June 16, 2011.