Boston Ballet started its spring season with Nureyev’s Don Quixote (March 16-26), a full-length, three-act story ballet with a long history with the company. (Music by Ludwig Minkus, adapted and arranged by John Lanchbery).
Don Quixote the ballet is only loosely based on the namesake book by the 17th century Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes about the ill-fated adventures of a self-proclaimed knight on a mission to save his lady love. However, as a ballet, Don Quixote offers every possible delight of the genre – colorful characters, dreamy sets of foreign lands, spirited group dancing with lots of Spanish flair, romantic pas de deux and the happy ending with the glorious wedding.
We celebrated the Opening Night on March 16 with Mom, my son Dennis and our three lady friends; everyone was quite taken with this production. Mom most enjoyed the energy of the group dances, I loved the technical virtuosity of the main characters (including all 32 of Kitri’s fouettes) and we all cherished every musical note of the highly melodic and engaging score (by Mischa Santora-led Boston Ballet orchestra). An almost 3-hour long production went by so quickly. As Dennis summarized, physical artistry of the dancing accentuated by the stage setting – all worked together to bring the audience to a different realm- which is a hallmark of a ballet performance! Do not miss it and be sure bring the family!
Here is everything you need to know to help you appreciate Don Quixote at the Boston Ballet even more:
It is inspired by – but not really based on the novel
In the prologue scene, lying in his castle in Barcelona, Don Quixote has a vision of Dulcinea, the lady of his dreams, so his enlists his neighbor Sancho Panza as his squire, and they set out on an adventure through the Spanish countryside to look for her. (Read full ballet synopsis here).
While the ballet is based on Cervantes’ novel considered one of the best novels ever written (full title: the Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha), the two main characters on stage- (innkeeper’s daughter) Kitri and (barber) Basilio play only a small part in the book devoted to Don Quixote and Sancha Panza’s quest to find Dulcenea (and save the world along the way). In contrast to the book, in the ballet version, Don Quixote and his Sancho Panza are mostly observers as Kitri and Basilio overcome the obstacles to celebrate their love. (It would not be a Don Quixote without the Windmill scene- it is there in all its tragicomedic glory!).
It is staged by one of ballet’s greatest – Rudolph Nureyev
This 3-act version is choreographed by Rudolf Nureyev (who in turn staged his version after the classic 4-act Marius Petipa’s (and later Alexander Gorsky)19th century Russian version).
Although Nureyev’s shortened the ballet to three acts, he actually added several scenes (the prologue and gypsy camp as a pretext for developing an amorous meeting between Kitri and Basil: moonlit pas de deux under the sails of a giant windmill, according to Nureyev’s Foundation website.)
Nureyev’s version has also expanded the comedy aspect. In his version, according to the Foundation, “he introduced the spirit of “Commedia dell’Arte”, where Don Quixote would be Pantaloon, Kitri would be Columbine, and Basil, Harlequin, a brilliant, fast moving, leaping master of ceremonies, who runs from one end of the ballet to the other”.
As you watch the ballet, notice that the “inner” rooms, the house (Don Quixote’s palace) is a private (gloomy) world where a hero is dealing with their internal demons while in contrast, the “life on the outside” is packed with action and cheerful (the square in Barcelona.) This is a frequent feature in Nureyev’s choreography.
It has some of the most intricate classical choreography you will ever see on stage
There is an abundance of colorful Spanish flared character group dances in Don Quixote (think fans, swirling capes and castanets), but the choreography for two main characters is some of the most complex in the classical ballet. On the Opening Night it was performed by outstanding (sensual yet mischievous) Ji Young Chae (Kitri) and (technical virtuoso) Jeffrey Cirio (Basilio). (See here full Casting information). I heard Viktorina Kapitonova and Lasha Khozashvili on the second night were amazing too- I so wish I could have seen that pair as well (Viktorina played charismatic queen of the Dryads on the Opening night).
Also memorable on the Opening Night were Lia Cirio as street dancer Mercedes and Tigran Mkrtchyan as matador Espada.
Don Quixote has a special place in Boston Ballet history
Nureyev first staged his Don Quixote for Boston Ballet in 1982; he also danced Basilio in that version. “…. Nureyev was a dear friend and professional idol, and I am thrilled to bring his ballet back after 10 years,” said Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen. “Rudolf staged the ballet here in 1982, and he toured extensively with the Company in the role of Basilio, capturing the attention of American and international audiences. Nureyev’s adaptation of Don Quixote is one of the best, and I am excited for audiences to experience it and for our dancers to take on the challenging and fun choreography.”
There were so far 9 productions over the years (since 1982) and (principal dancer) Jeffrey Cirio (Basilio in the current run) first debuted in the role in 2012 (Boston Ballet’s last staging of the ballet before this one).
Be sure to come back here to tell me what you liked about the performance!
Remaining performances (Citizens Bank Opera House (539 Washington St, Boston, MA 02111):
Wednesday, March 22 at 7:30 pm
Thursday, March 23 at 7:30 pm
Friday, March 24 at 7:30 pm
Saturday, March 25 at 1:30 and 7:30 pm
Sunday, March 26 at 1:30 pm
Use my promo code “BBFriends” for $40 tickets March 22, 23 and 24th 7 30pm performances. For more information, visit bostonballet.org or call 617.695.6955.