Boston Opera House
March 16, 2023
There was a lot to love about the Boston Ballet opening-night performance of Rudolf Nureyev’s Don Quixote, not the least of which was Rosinante, the two-person horse that carried the Don onstage with quiet dignity, even if the latter’s sliding dismounts were less than elegant.
In the lead roles were Ji Young Chae as Kitri and Jeffrey Cirio as Basilio. Having acquitted herself magnificently in a huge variety of choreographic styles since she joined the company in 2013, it seems as if there’s nothing Chae can’t do. In Act 1 she was at first a flamenco diva, with jumps that sprang off the floor as if it were a trampoline, then in an instant she transformed herself into a lyrical ballerina, complete with balances and promenades in perfect position.
A superb comedienne, she did all the expected (and adorable) pouting and stomping around when Gamache was presented to her as a suitor, but her prowess as an actor was perhaps best displayed when she partnered the Don in a minuet while Basilio danced with another lady. As she executed the stately movements while sneaking peeks at her lover, who was flirting with his partner, Chae’s face alternately registered serene grace and fuming jealously. The whole process was subtle but unmistakable – a triumph of controlled and articulate acting.
Nureyev gave Basilio many jumps, and Cirio did them with panache, achieving impressive height and hang time as well as elegant lines and leg beats in the air. He too is a skillful comedian, making the faux suicide of Act 1 both funny and poignant. The one-handed lifts in Act 1 were not rock solid, however, perhaps due to first-night jitters.
In Act 2 Nureyev’s interpolation of music from La Bayadere came as a surprise. Maybe it was sheer prejudice, but I preferred the music in its original setting. On the other hand, the accompanying pas de deux was sufficiently romantic, with Cirio and Chae believable as ardent lovers (although Nureyev’s decision to have them roll around on the floor struck me as ill-advised).
Daniel Rubin made a worthy Don whose mental anguish in the prologue was convincing. As his side-kick, Sancho Panza, Isaac Akiba soared upward while being tossed in the air by a group of fishermen, but he is no stranger to heights, given that his signature moves are the multiple split leaps he performs every year as leader of the Trepak trio in The Nutcracker.
Other dancers of note included Sun Woo Lee as the lead traveler. This sequence featured Russian-style squatting spins, and his ease in pulling them off, not to mention further strenuous moves, was memorable. As an insouciant “Amour” (a.k.a. Cupid) Chisako Oga executed her head-swiveling balances with authority and charm. Haley Schwan, one of the lead “friends of Kitri” in Act 1 was notable for her attention to detail in the way she used her head, shoulders, and hands; in addition, she seemed truly happy to be onstage. Daniel Durrett, as one of the fisherman, proved himself to be not only technically accomplished but also hilarious when he leapt onto the back of one of the matadors and started whaling away at him in frenzy of comic hostility.
The Boston Ballet Orchestra, under the direction of Mischa Santora, adds depth and dimension to every production. Like its peer ensemble at Symphony Hall, this orchestra is a genuine treasure in the land of the bean and the cod.