Don Quixote, with McRae and Salenko, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, October 2013Posted on 9 October 2013
When Carlos Acosta’s new Don Quixote opened at the end of September, most critics were cautiously optimistic but only gave it three stars. Making the opening performance a Gala may have been a good idea for ticket receipts but not for the dancers, and nothing really gelled until the final scene. By contrast, last night’s performance, the fourth in the run, was of quite different calibre, and Act I had a buzz entirely missing from opening night.
Steven McRae and Iana Salenko as Basilio and Kitri formed a glorious couple, he providing sure partnering, and she exhibiting superb precision and hauteur right from the start. Later on, after the cheerful sassiness of the tavern scene in early Act III, they delivered bravura performances for the wedding celebrations. His splits during a tour-en-l’air, and her remarkable attitude en point, held to perfection before she very slowly released it, were just two features that took one’s breath away. Fine precision too from Akane Takada as one of Kitri’s two friends, and as the other friend, Elizabeth Harrod did well to dance while injured, before being replaced by Beatriz Stix-Brunell in Act III.
Fine solo performances by other cast members could not always equal those on the first night, but among ones that did were Yuhui Choe as queen of the dryads in the second scene of Act II, and of course where would Don Q be without the Don himself, portrayed here with grandly faded deportment and superbly underplayed authority by Gary Avis.
A second look at this production reveals small treasures I hadn’t noticed before, one being the fact that Don Q’s elaborately carved spear is simply a post from his four-poster bed, a nice touch. And I love the final vignette as the Don mounts his cleverly designed horse — full marks to the props department for that — and Kitri is lifted up to give him a farewell kiss.
Martin Yates again conducted his own orchestration of Minkus’s score, and it came over more convincingly on this occasion, probably due to increased orchestral rehearsal time. This confirms my opening night judgement that the new Don Q is a keeper.
Performances with varying casts continue until November 6, with a live cinema screening on Wednesday, October 16, featuring Acosta and Nuñez — for details click here.