Don Quixote, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, 30 September 2013Posted on 1 October 2013
The Royal Opera House knows how to put on a celebration, and on this Gala opening for Carlos Acosta’s new version of Don Quixote the House was decked with hundreds of red carnations. As the ballet ended scores of flowers were thrown down onto the stage, a fitting end to the final scene, in which Acosta as Basilio and Marianela Nuñez as Kitri danced superbly. There were huge cheers while she was doing a series of fouettés en tournant, and cheers for him as he followed her.
It was good that things gelled at the end because it got off to a somewhat shaky start with Acosta looking preoccupied, and Nuñez slipping over at one point. The Act I drama only really got started when Gary Avis entered as an excellent Lorenzo, innkeeper and father of Kitri. The goodwill of the audience was palpable, but despite a glorious solo by Ryoichi Hirano as the toreador and some lovely pas-de-deux from Acosta and Nuñez later in Act I this first night somehow didn’t quite come to life until later.
Act II starts with a beautiful scene where the sun slowly sets on Kitri and Basilio, after they have strayed into a gypsy encampment. Designer Tim Hatley, who has worked on musicals and operas and is now trying his hand at ballet, evokes the magical dreamlike atmosphere that Acosta is at pains to represent in the world of the Don himself. As the gypsies play guitars on stage, letting out occasional boisterous shouts, the windmill moves and grows larger, yet only the Don notices it, and after being knocked down by its blades falls asleep, finding himself in a dream-world of dryads and huge flowers. This interlude showcased fine corps de ballet work and glorious fairy variations by Melissa Hamilton, Elizabeth Harrod and Marianela Nuñez, ending with the Don waking up and bringing the Act to a close.
Act III starts with the tavern scene where Hirano, now in a glowing green outfit, gave a superb toreador solo, and we are then back in town for the wedding celebrations. The pretty Spanish houses, which moved back and forth in Act I, are now entirely stationary, providing a vast space for dancing, where Acosta and Nuñez dominated the action.
Among the rest of the cast, the versatile Bennet Gartside was a delightfully foppish Gamache, the wealthy would-be suitor to Kitri, Christopher Saunders a noble Don, Thomas Whitehead a convincing gypsy chief, Laura Morera a terrific street dancer, and Kitri’s friends in their oddly mauve dresses were beautifully danced by Yuhui Choe and Beatriz Stix-Brunell.
Huge expense and effort has gone into this new production, and great praise to Carlos Acosta for bringing it all to fruition. Minkus’s music, for which no original orchestral score exists, was re-orchestrated by conductor Martin Yates, and the range of costumes was huge, from the black pointed hats of the Don’s demons and dark rags of four ragamuffins, to the stunning outfits for toreador, matadors and others.
Perfect? Not yet — some of the corps work seemed a bit under-rehearsed in Act I, and though this new production still shows some rough edges it will surely gain from future performances, and become a standard in the Royal Ballet repertoire. In this performance, Acosta’s stage presence and partnering of Nuñez was a joy and they have shown how sensational the last scene can be.
Performances with varying casts continue until November 6, with a live cinema screening on Wednesday, October 16 — for details click here.