Don Quichot

[Special note: this title is now available in both the original, full-price version and as a bargain in the Arthaus "Elegance" budget-priced series. See the end of this review for information on both versions.]

 

Don Quichot ballet. Music by Ludwig Minkus. Choreography by Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky, updated for this production by Alexei Ratmansky. Directed 2010 by Adrienne Liron & Jeff Tudor at the Dutch National Ballet (Amsterdam Music Theatre). Stars Anna Tsygankova (Kitri), Matthew Golding (Basilio), Peter de Jong (actor as Don Quichot), Karel de Rooij (actor as Sancho Panza), Dario Mealli (Gamache), Altin Kaftira (Lorenso), Natalia Hoffmann (Mercedes), Moises Martin Cintas (Espada), Maiko Tsutsumi (Piccilia), Nadia Yanowski (Juanita), Maia Makhateli (Cupid), and Sasha Mukhamedov (Queen of the Dryads). Kevin Rhodes conducts the Holland Symfonia. Set and costume design by Jérôme Kaplan; lighting design by James F. Ingalls. Released 2011, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A-

Alexei Ratmansky is a Russian choreographer who is fond of hyperactive non-stop action and likes to give every member of the corps plenty to do. He is not afraid to try new things: here he took the unusual step of casting Don Quichot and Sancho Panza with Peter de Jong and Karel de Rooij, a well-known team of Dutch actors who specialize in physical comedy. This was a stroke of genius because de Jong, tall, imposing, and loony, looks exactly like Don Quichot and de Rooij, squat, pitiful, and goofy, makes the perfect side-kick. They never try to dance a step; their job is to gracefully co-exist with the dancing cast while getting a lot of mostly slapstick laughs. (In other productions of Don Quichot, I think older dancers are given the roles of Don Quichot as a kind of retirement present. These retiring dancers have little to do on stage and no idea how to be funny. So you usually just wind up feeling sorry for them.) Enough said; let's plunge into some screenshots.

Meet Don Quichot ( Peter de Jong) dreaming of things he reads in his books:

And especially of Dulcinea, whom he saves in his fantasies:

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The servants bring to Don Quichot a thief, Sancho Panza (Karel de Rooij), who took a chicken from the kitchen. Rather than punish him, the Don forgives Sancho and hires him as a squire. (You can still see the chicken in Sancho's bag.):

Now that he has a squire, Quichot is ready to set forth to do good in the world and save maidens in distress:

Now we meet such a maiden, Kitri (Anna Tsygankova) and her sweetheart Basilio (Matthew Golding). (In real life Anna and Matthew are married and they often appear together.) Kitri and Basilio want to get married. But Kitri is in distress because her father is opposed to the impoverished Basilio:

The couple show all due respect for Lorenzo (Altin Kaftira), Kitri's father. Here they beg for permission to marry. But Lorenzo says Kitri must marry a wealthy landowner whom Kitri despises:

People are always dancing in the square. One of the favorites of the crowd is Mercedes (Natalia Hoffmann):

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Soon Mercedes is dancing with all the bullfighters:

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A fight breaks out in the square. Quichot and Sancho arrive. They are such a strange-looking pair that all the fighters stop to gawk. Of course, Quichot believes he has put down the riot with his commanding appearance:

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After many more dances, Kitri and Basilio flee the city for the mountains. Kitri's father is in hot pursuit, and Don Quichot follows also. After several adventures in the mountains including tilting at windmills. Unfortunately, these mountain adventures are at night, the stage is dark, and it's usually impossible to get decent screenshots. But when Don Quichot goes to sleep on the ground, he has a beautiful dream and the lights go up some:

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The Queen of the Dryads (Sasha Mukhamedov) dances for Don Quichot:

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Lorenzo finally catches Kitri and takes her back home where she will marry the landowner. The wedding festivities begin:

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Basilio pretends to commit suicide:

Thinking that Basilio is dead, Lorenzo says Kitri can marry anyone she wants. Basilio then jumps up alive and Kitri gets her man: 

The wedding party continues, just Kiki has a different groom. Here Mercedes dances with her groom, the bullfighter Espada (Moises Martin Cintas):

The Fandango:

The Grand Pas Entrée. On the front row left is Piccilia (Maiko Tsutsumi) and on front row right is Juanita (Nadia Yanowski):

The pas de deux for the new married couple features a long display of balance by Anna that wins applause from the audience:

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Success has gone to their heads, and both our heroes have become rather debonair:

Mission accomplished! Sancho plays the violin (really, I think). But Don Quichot doesn't hear anything. He is already far away with another vision of Dulcinea:

These screenshots give you a fair idea what this title is like. But I point out there are about 46 chapters of dancing in this recording. The recording on the disc has a lot more dancing than the pictures here would lead you to expect. I once thought there's more dancing crammed into this than the slender libretto can support. Well, I now have backed away from that assertion. But when I watch this, I sometimes (like poor Don Quichot) find my mind wandering into dreams of Dulcinea. If I were producing this in my own ballet house, I might cut it a bit. Still, the public seems to adore every scene in this popular work.

There are three bonus recordings, all uniformly worthless; it would have been better to ship the product without extra features. The music is well played and recorded. This is noteworthy since playing the peppy and mindless tunes of Mincus for two hours straight would have to be wearisome to any pit musician. No credit is given for the making of the video. This suggest that nobody wanted credit. And this in turn supports an odd impression I have that the video is slightly soft and affected from time to time by subtle motion artefacts. Thanks to Arthaus for including with the keepcase booklet a description of the content of each chapter number; many publishers have quit doing this. (I'm pretty sure the editors got Juanita and Piccilia reversed in Chapters 46 and 49.) Based on fine dancing and good laughs from the non-dancing stars, I could give this an A, but I adjust the grade down to an A- for the unclaimed, slightly kinky video.

And here's the keepcase art for this recording in the Elegance series from Arthaus: