Of course, love eventually conquers all, with a little help from Don Quixote, an impoverished nobleman fixated on the ideal maiden Dulcinea and dreaming of great feats of chivalry.
This has been the gist of the ballet (which bears but a passing resemblance to Cervantes’s classic novel) since the 19th century, when choreographer Marius Petipa created it for the Bolshoi Ballet and set it to a lively, cod-Spanish score by Ludwig Minkus.
The current Royal Ballet production, though, adds a lot of new detail to Petipa’s original. Created by Carlos Acosta just under a decade ago, as he was approaching the end of his glittering dancing career, it is re-energised and latinised, made more boisterous, more vibrant, more in-your-face. Most of it works, some doesn't quite (I could really do without the frequent shouting demanded of the ensemble, and less busy sets would also be a plus); but what is undeniable is that it makes for a full evening of glorious, transporting entertainment.
And, of course, dancing of the calibre offered by the Royal Ballet on opening night lifts the whole thing to soaring heights.
Marianela Núñez and Vadim Muntagirov have a well-established partnership, their chemistry always thrilling. As Kitri and Basilio, they tell a totally engaging story of great complicity and mutual teasing with some laugh-out-loud moments, but also of heart-warming love. Throughout their pas de deux, culminating in the wedding scene are breathtaking, Muntagirov (pictured top) blending sublime elegance with feats of rousing virtuosity, Núñez’s technical assurance entirely effortless.
Marianela Núñez as Kitri in Don Quixote, The Royal Ballet. Photo: Andrej Uspenski ROH
As well as the leads, Don Quixote has a number of meaty solo parts. Sae Maeda sparkled as Amour in the Act II vision scene; Leticia Dias and Isabella Gasparini enchanted as Kitri’s friends. However, it was Ryoichi Hirano as an impossibly sexy Espada, the famous matador, who set the stage on fire, in process causing a fainting fit in one the the female characters and surely setting many hearts in the audience aflutter.
Ryoichi Hirano as Espada in Don Quixote, The Royal Ballet. Photo: Andrej Uspenski ROH
Among the character roles Gary Avis stood out as Lorenzo, his mime eloquent, his always in-character presence sometimes a scene stealer. Thomas Whitehead was very funny as the ludicrous Gamache. As Sancho Panza Philip Mosley opted to accentuate the character’s buffoonish traits. Christopher Saunders’s Don Quixote, however, seemed one-dimensional and failed to capture the character’s complexity.
With its huge cast and profusion of solo roles, this Don Quixote is an ideal season opener, where the company from top to the lowest ranks have to hit the ground running. To the last dancer they seemed to relish the challenge.
Don Quixote (starring Mayara Magri and Matthew Ball) will be relayed live to cinemas nationwide on on Tuesday 7 November at 7.15pm
Encores from Sunday 12 November at 2pm
To find a participating cinema near you click here
|What||The Royal Ballet, Don Quixote (2023) review|
|Where||Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
30 Sep 23 – 17 Nov 23, 19:30 Sats at 13:00 & 19:00. Dur.: 3 hours inc two intervals
|Website||Click here to book|