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The Boston Ballet’s showing of the iconic ballet “Don Quixote” fully lived up to its grand reputation with a cast that utterly dazzled, radiating pure technical precision and fierce energy. The show ran from March 16 through 26 and was the company’s first performance of the famous ballet in over a decade.
The show was staged by Rudolf Nureyev in 1982 for the Boston Ballet — with the famous ballerina and choreographer starring as Basilio in their original production — and features a larger-than-life cast of characters and a plot brimming with just the right balance of story and dance. An ailing Don Quixote (Paul Craig) follows his fancies of saving the beautiful Dulcinea (Chisako Oga) from wicked monsters, traveling into the village with his squire Sancho Panza (Isaac Abika). There, the headstrong Kitri (also played by Oga) wishes to marry flirtatious barber Basilio (Derek Dunn), but her father Lorenzo (Alec Roberts) won’t allow it, instead insisting that she marry a nobleman (Lawrence Rines Munro). Various hijinks ensue as Don Quixote involves himself in the conflict and the pair elope, following a wild chase through the Spanish countryside that culminates in a faked death, a hilarious duel, and a glorious wedding.
Everything was utterly exemplary, from the spectacular performances of the leads to the beautiful sets and costumes to the stunning soloists and corps de ballet who danced with great technique, artistry, and flair.
The prologue started off strong, with the ailing but chivalrous Don Quixote dreaming of adventure and damsels in distress among the books of his study. The performance was immediately captivating — the costumes and sets were utterly gorgeous, perfectly complementing the dynamic, expressive dancers on stage.
Craig captures the essence of the eponymous character amid his delusions of grandeur, at once embodying a silly old man and a dashing knight. Akiba’s animated performance as Sancho Panza was also superb as the focus of hilarious pantomimes and slapstick throughout the ballet. Ballet is an inherently performative art, and pantomiming is thus a crucial part of telling the story of the ballet. “Don Quixote” utterly succeeded in this aspect; the humor was sharp and witty, garnering lots of laughs from the audience throughout the ballet.
The opening scene of Act I was bursting with energy, with every dancer at the top of their game. “Don Quixote” is an incredibly difficult ballet, requiring its dancers to have impeccable technique, precision, stamina, and artistic flair, and the Boston Ballet dancers rose to the challenge. Munro’s performance as the preening nobleman Ganache was especially memorable, and his affected mannerisms and self-important airs perfectly captured the frivolity of his character.
However, the leads stole the show. Dunn’s energetic performance as Basilio exuded charisma and charm, and he demonstrated the breadth of his skill in the many challenging yet flawlessly executed jumps, turns, and partnering sequences performed by his character. His dramatic faked death in the third act was a delight to watch, and the audience was in an uproar as he leapt back to life.
Oga was radiant as Kitri; her energy and spunk were infectious, imbuing each scene with greater liveliness. A naturally petite dancer, Oga nonetheless captured all attention when she leapt on stage with her gravity-defying leaps, whip-fast turns, precise petit allegro, and expressive acting — with many well-placed moments of sass. Her execution of the famous Kitri solo at the end of Act I was utterly spectacular, exhibiting both her explosive energy and phenomenal control as she hit every single beat in the iconic turn sequence.
A soloist at the Boston Ballet, Chisako Oga has been featured in several prominent roles already. Fans of the Boston Ballet may recall her role as the elegant, sylphic Snow Queen in this past Nutcracker season, where she stood out among a sea of soloists. It was immensely satisfying to see such a deserving ballerina be given the opportunity to perform such a star role, and she absolutely blew it out of the water.
Thanks to the superb acting and artistic directing, the audience could clearly sense the romantic tension between Kitri and Basilio, witnessing the characters’ growth from amorous, fickle lovers to a mature young couple.
The second act was excellent as well, and the audience enjoyed more humor and pantomime with the troupe of travelers, although some of the acting scenes became slightly harder to follow as the story’s complexity grew.
Another phenomenal aspect of Act II were the special effects, especially in the dream scene when a ghostly specter of Dulcinea emerged to tempt Don Quixote into adventure. The glittering dryads also performed several lovely variations, including the Queen of the Dryad’s carefully controlled Italian fouettes (Viktorina Kapitonova).
The wedding scene in Act III in this production felt a tad too long. The ballet ran a full two hours and 48 minutes, including two 20 minute intermissions. Nonetheless, the dancers were still at the top of their game, demonstrating their remarkable stamina. However, the audience may not have that kind of endurance, and the ballet certainly could have benefited from trimming down the intermissions quite a bit.
Boston Ballet truly goes above and beyond in all aspects of the performance. The dancing was flawless and full of energy, the orchestra swelled at just the right moments, and the props and sets were vibrant and evocative of the whimsy of Don Quixote — such as an amusing two-person horse costume and the 30-foot tall mobile windmill. “Don Quixote” is not a show to be missed, and audiences will utterly enjoy this delight of a ballet.
—Staff writer Arielle C. Frommer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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