If you usually think of ballet as a pretty but dated art form, Boston Ballet's passionate "Don Quixote" just might change your mind. The company's performance offers brilliant dancing and a captivating interpretation of Cervantes' classic novel.
The frenzied, festival atmosphere of the seaport city of Barcelona sets the stage. After reading a few too many legends of gallant knights and fair maidens, the eccentric old Don Quixote wanders here with his sidekick Sancho Panza. As he arrives on the scene clad in makeshift armor, he discovers his fictitious Lady Dulcinea in the personage of the lovely peasant girl Kitri and vows to rescue her from peril. Kitri is indeed in trouble, for her father Lorenzo has tried to force her to marry the rich aristocratic fop Gamache over her sweet-heart, the young barber Basilio. Pursued by Lorenzo, Gamache and everyone else in the massive cast, Kitri and Basilio flee on a romantic adventure that takes them to a gypsy camp and then to a tavern and even transforms them momentarily into spirits in a dream. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza follow, determined to save their Lady Dulcinea.
The title of the ballet may be "Don Quixote," but most of the action and dancing centers around the young lovers Kitri (Trinidad Sevillano) and Basilio (Patrick Armand). Sevillano dances the flirty Kitri with technical brilliance and girlish charm. What Sevillano lacks in sauciness, Armand more than compensates for with his sexy, Don Juan appeal and spicy leaps and turns.
A number of other individual performances stand out in this overwhelming entourage of fishers, matadors, nobility, courtesans and pixies. Jennifer Gelfand (who, incidentally, plays Kitri in several performances) shines as both Kitri's spirited friend and as the impish twinkling Amour in the dream sequence. Vadim Strukov plays the ridiculous Gamache with just enough clownishness to add some comic relief to the otherwise melodramatic plot. And Adriana Suarez bewitches Barcelona townspeople and audience members alike with her Flamenco elegance as the sultry Street Dancer.
The production also includes a number of students from the Boston Ballet School. While their names are not highlighted in the program, their youthful energy enhances the magic of the ballet. The live puppets of the gypsy camp and the tiny sprites of the dream sequence are particularly delightful.
Designer Nicholas Georgiadis' lavish costumes and elaborate, larger-than life scenery embellish the ballet's sensual Spanish flair. The glowing hues of land, sea and sky in the Barcelona port scene and muted whites and silvers of the mystical forest fantasyland in the dream sequence echo the vibrance of the dancing itself. The fervid tangos and airy waltzes of Ludwig Minkus' original 19th century score capture the colorful folk mood of Old World Spain. Assistant Director Anna-Marie Holmes' staging is for the most part fast-paced and engaging, but sometimes lacks the vigor necessary to maintain the intensity of this three-act, two-and-one-half hour show.
Although the initial port scene--flooded with whirling gypsies, swaggering sailors and cape-swirling bullfighters--is action-packed, the show loses some of its power by the Gypsy camp scene. Here, the Gypsy dances lag on; the onlookers seem bored rather than entertained; and Don Quixote's famous battle with the windmill fails to recreate the hilarity and excitement of the scene in Cervantes' masterpiece.
Perhaps earlier versions of this ballet did a better job. Holmes' current interpretation made its debut at Boston Ballet in 1989, and is based on the 19th century choreography of Russians Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky. Although Boston Ballet no longer performs the 1982 version staged for them by Rudolph Nureyev, they dedicate their performance to this late ballet virtuoso.
Holmes' version does regain its gusto by the final scene, when Kitri and Basilio marry after successfully foiling Gamache and Lorenzo. The townspeople join in the extravagant celebration with waving fans and clattering castanets, but the highlight of the finale is the grande pas de deux. Sevillano enchants Armand with her coquetishness and bedazzles the audience with her technical skill. She skips delicately across the stage en pointe, slices through the air with split-second leaps and performs multiple pirouettes and fouette turns with luscious ease. Armand tosses his head more sexily than ever while leaping in furious circles about the stage and turning as many as six times in his perfectly executed pirouettes. Together, the pair moves as if they were truly made for each other, their graceful embraces and lifts expressing the innocent joy of young love.
From the flight of two young lovers against the odds to old Don Quixote's follied pursuit, this ballet attests to the power of imagination and efficacy of idealism. At once an evening of high drama, rollicking comedy and lusty Spanish romance, "Don Quixote" has more excitement and vigor than you would ever expect from a ballet.
At once an evening of high drama, rollicking comedy and lusty romance, 'Don Quixote' attests to the power of imagination.