Last night, Rose and I watched the streaming performance of “Romeo and Juliet” by the English National Ballet. It was an exuberant performance of the Rudolf Nureyev production with the music of Sergei Prokofiev.
Alina Cojocaru and Isaac Hernández are the young lovers of Verona. The ballet was filmed in October 2015 at the Bristol Hippodrome.
Quite by coincidence, it was exactly 10 years ago — to the day — that we attended a performance of “Romeo and Juliet” by the San Francisco Ballet at the stately War Memorial Opera House.
Like I said, to the day.
I know this, because: Facebook Memories.
On May 6, 2010, at 11:50 pm, I had posted on Facebook, “Ready for Act III, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at San Francisco Ballet with Rose.”
Facebook also tells me that before the performance we went to dinner at the Mediterranean / Middle Eastern bistro Paul K, an easy walk from the opera house.
Rose looked beautiful that night. This I know from memory but also because I posted a photo of her toasting the evening with a glass of white wine as we waited for dinner. That has shown up on Facebook Memories, too.
I also remember how very nervous I was. We were only six months into a long-distance relationship — me in San Diego, Rose in the Bay Area and, holy cow, a ballet performance in a big city. I really felt like the farm boy come to The City.
I don’t have to imagine how happy Rose was to discover that our seats were 12th row, center. I have a picture of that, too. It is posted right here.
I also remember being advised ahead of time that Rose watches ballet performances in a very specific way. She sits on the edge of her seat, shoulders squared, posture rigid and erect, and NEVER talks or takes her eyes off the stage. She also, I observed from the corner of my eye, counts out timing and steps on her fingers; she critically eyes the postures and minutest details of each ballerina.
I was asked, oh so politely, to not break through that wall during the performance. And to bring a handkerchief because, in the end, there will be tears.
May I say, attending a performance of “Romeo & Juliet” with a former ballerina is both fascinating, a little terrifying, and a bit lonely. I was on my own for the night, sitting next to the woman I was still falling madly in love with.
A curious experience.
But not the most curious.
The principles that night, the young star-crossed lovers, were an exhilarating duo, Davit Karapetyan as Romeo and Vanessa Zahorian as Juliet. Believe me when I say that, when they danced, they sold the passion in this fatal relationship.
So, what Rose and I both remember fondly from that night is that during one of many encore bows, Karapetyan got down on one knee and proposed marriage to his Juliet.
She accepted. The audience went mad with applause and joy.
When we think of “Romeo and Juliet” we often recall that night.
Only it didn’t happen.
Not like that.
My first clue was, again, Facebook Memories.
The day after the performance, our friend Susan Shores had responded to my Act 3 post: “I hope you didn’t fidget.”
To which I replied: “I was fidget-free, brought out the hankie at just the right time, and didn’t clear my throat once. It was almost as if I wasn’t there — the perfect Rose date for ballet! (Besides which, the ballet was absolutely beautiful.)
“… I also liked walking up to the mezzanine area at intermission and finding a glass of champagne and a gin ‘n tonic already waiting for us on a white-cloth table for two….”
Rose had pre-arranged the table as a special treat.
As I read this conversation last night, I couldn’t help but think that something was missing. There was no mention whatsoever of the proposal. Surely an old newspaperman as myself would have made that the lead …
As it turns out, Karapetyan did indeed propose to Zahorian.
Two nights later.
It came during their last performance in the roles, the season closer for them. Saturday, May 8, 2010.
I went back over San Francisco Ballet’s schedule for 2010. I checked out postings about the proposal — and videos and news reports.
Like this one from an SF Ballet fan blog called Odette’s Ordeal: “according to someone I spoke with at today’s performance (5/9/10) at last night’s show, during the curtain call, Davit Karapetyan proposed marriage to Vanessa Zahorian! He got down on bended knee and asked her to marry him! Wish I could have seen that one. I’m assuming she accepted but… ouch, that would be humiliating if she said no.”
“Wish I could have seen that one.”
Yeah. Me, too.
How is it that we both vividly recall Zahorian saying yes?
I can only think that we conflated two almost identical events. We watched Zahorian and Karapetyan completely own their roles as young lovers and then we felt the affection they held for each other during the many encore bows.
And several days later, our emotions still running high, we read about the proposal, saw the pictures, and watched the many videos. In time, they became one evening, with us sitting in Row 12, center.
In July 2011, the storybook ballet couple got married in a ceremony befitting Ballet Royalty. The wedding was in Armenia, land of their shared heritage.
No, Rose and I did not attend.
I can say that with absolute certainty.