Acosta’s Don Quixote is a comic romp with much to recommend it, alongside a few ‘issues' that nevertheless cannot diminish the sheer pleasure it brings audiences.
Set in a sun-bleached village in Southern Spain (lighting design by Hugh Vanstone), its numerous and vivid cast draws on all the cliches attached to the exotic south: jolly villagers, cheeky ragamuffins, dashing matadors, the prissy rich fop Gamache (Bennet Gartside in fine character form), and the local innkeeper Lorenzo (Gary Avis, ditto).
The village belle is Lorenzo’s daughter Kitri, all sass and joie de vivre, danced on press night by the ravishing Marianela Nuñez. Kitri is in love with the penniless barber Basilio – the nobly elegant dancer Vadim Muntagirov, trying his hand at brash comedy and mostly succeeding.
The course of true love doesn't run smooth, of course. Lorenzo is determined to marry Kitri off to the ludicrous Gamache. That Kitri and Basilio end up together is largely due to the intervention of the titular Don Quixote.
This impoverished nobleman, with his fixation on the ideal maiden Dulcinea, and his dreams of great feats of chivalry, bears only a passing resemblance to the hero of Cervantes’ acclaimed novel. Here, as shaped by Acosta and performed by character dancer Christopher Saunders, he is an endearing blend of delusion, nobility and profound humanity.
The Don’s foil is his faithful servant Sancho Panza, a fine turn by the young First Artist David Yudes, encased in a fat suit and showing impeccable and highly effective comedic timing.
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza’s arrival in the village creates as many problems as it eventually solves; but love prevails, and the ballet ends with a vigorous wedding feast.
One of the virtues of this production is that it shows off the remarkable depth of the Royal Ballet, both in its well drilled ensembles, and in numerous solo roles. Thus, we had the mesmerising Laura Morera as Mercedes, a street-dancer full of the proverbial Spanish ‘salero’; the enchanting up and coming Anna Rose O’Sullivan as a spirited Amour in the Don’s Act II vision scene; Yuhui Choe and Beatrix Stix-Brunell as Kitri’s carefree friends, to name but a few thoroughly engaging performances.
Alternative casts will give other dancers the opportunity to make these scrumptious roles their own.
This is by no means a perfect production. Often there is too much going on, so that although the business conveys the bustle of this Spanish village, at times it’s hard to know where to look. Tim Hatley’s designs are easy on the eye, but they, too, are busy – sliding on and off stage quite unnecessarily. And the requirement for much vigorous shouting and clapping and ‘Olé-ing’ from the dancers is perhaps excessive.
In the end, though, does it matter, when we have performances of the calibre of those produced by Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov? The answer is a resounding no.
Throughout, the pair dazzled with solid technique and good chemistry. The final pas de deux in the wedding scene is a ‘show us what you can do’ sequence, and did they! Nuñez effortlessly held her balances, turned her 32 fouettés, and produced soaring grand jetés and delicate steps en pointe with that trademark radiant smile that always lights up everything around her. Muntagirov, whose every gesture, every line is imbued with rare elegance, delivered prodigious technical feats and jumps for which there may not even be a name yet, his smile uncharacteristically cheeky.
The Royal Ballet's Don Quixote makes for an exhilarating night out; or so the audience who gave the first night performance a rare extended standing ovation clearly thought.
Don Quixote will be broadcast to cinemas worldwide on Tuesday, 19 Feb 2019 as part of the Live Cinema season
|What||The Royal Ballet, Don Quixote Review|
|Where||Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
15 Feb 19 – 04 Apr 19, 19:30 Sat mats 13:30, Sat eve 19:00 Dur.: 2hours 50 mins approx (TBC)
|Website||Click here to book tickets|