Antonino Sutera as Mercutio © Brescia-Amisano, Teatro alla Scala


Antonino Sutera on the fun-loving, impetuous character from “Romeo and Juliet”

by Alessandro Bizzotto

Not everyone knows who are the most memorable characters of the dance world. About this, in every issue we talk with a dancer of a renowned ballet company to find out the who’s who amongst the most famous and iconic of ballet figures.

Mercutio has always been such an interesting and fascinating character in my eyes” says Antonino Sutera. The Principal of La Scala Ballet is really emotionally attached to this role. “It is one of the first important ones I was given. Furthermore, from the very beginning I realized that a part of Mercutio’s personality matches mine exactly: he is always quick with a joke and good for a laugh, he is cheerful and he is a leader in many ways. Of course, I have always portrayed the character in my own way, being faithful to the story yet using my own life experience to recreate it. We are different in one respect, though – I am not a brawler!”.

As we talk over a spritz at one of the Swiss Corner’s open-air tables in a cloudy Milan, his voice sounds full of fondness while he describes Romeo’s close friend in Romeo and Juliet. “I danced Mercutio during our tour in Moscow too. I still remember that opening night, stepping on stage at the Bolshoi. Another reason why I truly care for this character!”.

Sutera has danced the role many times in MacMillan’s version, yet his repertoire includes Romeo as well. “I was promoted to Principal after dancing Romeo alongside Alina Cojocaru: it left a beautiful memory” he tells me. “I can tell you I am as romantic as Romeo in real life, but I am more of a Mercutio than a Romeo. Mercutio is artistically more intriguing a character than Romeo – a role with a thousand facets”.

The first time Antonino danced the role, Julie Lincoln and Monica Parker coached him for the death scene. “Julie definitely left a mark on me while rehearsing Mercutio: I worked with her many times and she immensely helped me with details. I won’t forget the way she suggested me to hold the sword during the death scene, as if the sword itself was the great love of my life. ‘Pull the sword close with tenderness’ she told me… suggesting me to behave as if it was the most important thing”.

According to Sutera, the pas de trois and the variation in Act One are the most challenging moments. “The variation has several en dedans turns and some steps can be tricky” he explains, “but I think that variation suits me: en dedans turns come naturally to me, yet executing them quickly and perfectly is not always easy. Nevertheless, every time I dance it, I get so involved with the story! Mercutio dances that variation as he has a very real purpose: he wants distract everyone to cover the damage Romeo caused by falling madly in love with Juliet”.

I am someone who always try to look at the silver lining of life” he adds, “and I think Mercutio is like that too. Just think about his death scene – he is about to die, yet he keeps joking and deals with it ironically. I am not a very ironic person, but I love the fact he remains true to himself till the end, goofing around in spite of the pain. Julie Lincoln explained me more than once how to keep my elbow, in order to make the audience understand both how the wound is causing pain to Mercutio and how he tries to hide the wound itself. As an artist, in that scene you can never forget your character is deadly injured and his body aches”.

If Antonino Sutera could meet Mercutio in real life, what would he tell him? “I’d love to shake hands with him. I would congratulate him on the way he was always ready to bite the tail of the dragon, and I would ask him how he was able to take everything with lightness, being a nonconformist and facing even the worst tragedy without stopping smiling”.