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Dec032014

Don Quixote

Don Quixote ballet. Music by Ludwig Minkus arranged and orchestrated by Martin Yates. Directed and choreographed (after Marius Petipa) in 2013 by Carlos Acosta in his first work for the Royal Opera House in those capacities. Stars Marianela Nuñez (Kitri), Carlos Acosta (Basilio), Christopher Saunders (Don Quixote), Philip Mosley (Sancho Panza), Gary Avis (Lorenzo), Bennet Gartside (Gamache), Ryoichi Hirano (Espada), Laura Morera (Mercedes), Melissa Hamilton (Queen of the Dryads), Elizabeth Harrod (Amour), Christina Arestis (Dulcinea), Yuhui Choe and Beatriz Stix-Brunell (Kitri's Friends), Valeri Hristov and Johannes Stepanek (Two Matadors), Itziar Mendizabal and Thomas Whitehead (Gypsy Couple and Fandango Couple), and Kristen McNally (Tavern Girl). Martin Yates conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House (Co-Concert Master Sergey Levitin). Stage designs by Tim Hatley; lighting by Hugh Vanstone; directed for screen by Ross MacGibbon. Released 2014, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: B-

Don Quixote is one of the most popular ballets. Audiences have a good idea what the story is about, and they love the setting in Spain with bullfighters, Gypsies, flamenco, and beautiful girls with fans. The real story is the romance of Kitri trying to get married to her Basilio. But unfortunately, the director also has to do something with the comic roles of Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, and that windmill. All ballet companies have plenty of sexy girls and handsome boys to dance the romance. But there aren't many dancers who know how to get laughs.

This production stars Carlos Acosta as Basilio. Carlos has had a fabled career. But he is close to retirement as a dancer, and he is now trying his hand at directing and choreography. As usual, the show had to be done using only in-house artists. So Carlos had his hands full; let's turn to screenshots to get some idea how well he did.

We start with three shots of Christopher Saunders as Don Quixote. Saunders is an older character dancer who has in recent years appeared in innumerable ROB shows as a King or Duke. All he has to do is to move about gracefully looking noble. Here we see him in a dream scene, on horseback entering the nearby town, and dancing a few steps with Kitri. The problem is that Saunders is too handsome to look funny.  Acosta tries to create humorous situations for Saunders, but they all fall flat. So this Don (and this Sancho Panza) are dead weight for the ballet from start to finish. Contrast this to the solution Alexei Ratmansky came up with in his Don Quichot with the Dutch National Ballet when he cast comic actors (who don't dance at all) as the Don and Panza:

Here's a shot of Marianela Nuñez as Kitri with her friends danced by Yuhui Choe and Beatriz Stix-Brunell. There might be prettier girls in the company to consider for the lead, but Nuñez would appear to be the best qualified dancer for this role. She can also act:

Carlos as Basilio still has his million-pound smile:

A Kitri and Basilio pas de deux:

The matadors dance to compete for the attention of Mercedes (Laura Morera) seen standing in lower right:

Kitri and Basilio have run away and are now in an area frequented by Gypsies. How did Acosta and MacGibbon let that scrim get in this picture?

The Gypsy King (Thomas Whitehead) and Queen (Itziar Mendizabal):

 After losing his battle with the windmill, Don Quixote has a fantastic dream:

Below is the Queen of the Dryads (Melissa Hamilton). These tutus may look fine to the live audience, but in HDVD they look to me a bit out-of-date and shopworn:

Now we are at the tavern where Kitri's father Lorenzo (Gary Avis) finally catches up with the fugitive young couple. We get a better look at the bullfighter Espada (Ryoichi Hirano) and Mercedes, danced by the great Laura Morera. Laura can dance the famous lead roles. But we have encountered her on HDVDs mostly in  supporting roles like the Head Harlot in Romeo and Juliet. Anytime there's a "flashy" or "bad" girl in a show, Laura's spunky personality and amazing atheticism will get her into action:

Lorenzo thinks Basilio is dead, so he tells Kitri she can marry anyone she desires:

Gamache (Bennet Gartside) is the wealthy landowner who wanted to marry Kitri. But he rebounds fast by proposing to the incredulous tavern wench (Kristen McNally):

Scenes from a triple wedding (I guess):

The Royal Opera House orchestra performs and is recorded well. The videography is adequate.  Although Acosta is past his prime, the dancing is generally fine. But I was not that well impressed by the directing, the lackluster comic performances, and the somewhat out-of-date sets and costumes. If I were going to show DQ to my friends during the upcoming holidays, I would pick the Dutch Don Quichot version over this show from the Royal Opera Ballet. Grade:" B-."

Here are 2 clips from this Don Quixote:

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