Metropolitan Opera House, New York, NY; May 17(m), 2014
‘Don Quixote’ is not really about the befuddled knight who is always fighting windmills. The Don is not the main character in the ballet. It is actually about two Spanish lovers, Kitri and Basilio. The plot of ‘Don Q’ is of secondary importance. ‘Don Q’ was choreographed by Marius Petipa, a 19th century Frenchman living in St. Petersburg, Russia. Petipa’s main goals for his ballet were remarkable dancing, spirited music and a good time for the audience. American Ballet Theatre’s production of ‘Don Q’, staged by Kevin McKenzie and Susan Jones, shows off Petipa’s famous comedy to its best advantage.
‘Don Quixote’ is the story of Kitri, a feisty young woman living in Seville, Spain. In Act I Kitri wants to marry Basilio, a poor barber, but her father wants her to wed the foolish but incredibly wealthy Gamache. At the same time Don Quixote and Sancho Panza arrive in Seville. The Don is in search of his elusive Dulcinea.
In Act II Kitri and Basilio run away and hide out in a Gypsy camp where Don Quixote and Sancha Panzo find them. The Don, ever the romantic, is trying to help Kitri and Basilio get married. While at the camp the Don attacks a windmill, believing it to be a giant threatening Dulcinea. During the “attack”, the Don falls and is rescued by Basilio and Sancho Panza. Quixote falls asleep, dreaming that Kitri has become his Dulcinea. His reveries come alive on the stage.
Kitri’s father, Lorenzo, and Gamache arrive at the Gypsy camp in search of the two lovers. Kitri and Basilio have already returned to Seville. Soon Lorenzo and Gamache find them there. Lorenzo informs his daughter that she has no choice but to wed Gamache. Basilio then commits “suicide”. The whole town begs Lorenzo to let Kitri marry the “corpse”. Lorenzo grudgingly agrees to this and Basilio comes back to life. In Act III Kitri and Basilio are married. All Seville celebrates the young couple’s bliss.
Saturday’s matinee perfomance of ‘Don Quixote’ is thoroughly entertaining. I don’t think anything can live up to my memories of last year’s ‘Don Q’ starring Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev, but at the May 17th matinee there is magnificent dancing to be found from the entire company.
Let me start with the leads. ABT soloist Isabella Boylston is a high-spirited Kitri. She stands out for her soaring leaps and lightning fast turns. Boylston is a very musical dancer. In the fan solo during the Act III grand pas she plays delightfully with the tempo of the music. Her fouettes at the end of the grand pas are very well executed. Boylston does travel a bit, but she alternates between very secure single and double turns. My only complaint about Boylston’s performance is that she does not hold her balances during the grand pas. All five times she looks as though she is going to attempt the balances then thinks better of it. I can’t forget Natalia Osipova’s balances in Don Q. They went on for so long that it was as though time stood still.
Daniil Simkin is a spellbinding Basilio. As a dancer he is a marvel of ebullient virtuosity. His high flying leaps with amazingly soft landings, his spins and turns – all are outstanding. In the coda of the Act III grand pas Simkin’s revoltades stop the show. Revoltades are turns where one leg flips over the other in midair. Simkin performs these easily and effortlessly. For the most part Simkin’s partnering skills are fine. He does have a bit of trouble with the two one-handed lifts over the head in Act I. Both lifts are quite wobbly. Simkin is also a fine comic actor and his miming is spot on.
One of the great things about Saturday afternoon’s “Don Q” is how in sync Boylston and Simkin are. Their levels of energy and the way they approach their roles all mesh. The chemistry between them is delightful. I hope Boylston and Simkin continue to dance together for a long time.
Other dancers stand out as well. Sascha Radetsky performs the role of Espada, the matador, with precision and Spanish flair. Stella Abrera shines in the dual role of Mercedes/Queen of the Dryads. Abrera dances Mercedes with a sultry steaminess but her Queen of the Dryads is a model of classical elegance. Abrera’s Italian fouettes in the vision scene are flawlessly executed.
As the foppish Gamache, Craig Salstein shows his comic genius. He does so many entertaining bits of business that it is hard for me to focus on the dancing (unless it is being performed by the two main couples). Gemma Bond’s Amour impresses with her sparkling footwork and lovely light leap. Arron Scott is an exciting and high flying Gypsy King. In my opinion Scott’s promotion to soloist is long past due.
I hope to see ABT’s enchanting production of ‘Don Quixote’ for many years to come. I also wish that Isabella Boylston will be promoted to principal dancer soon.