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Ballet Essentials: Don Quixote

A guide to Carlos Acosta's staging of Marius Petipa's joyous comedy.

By Ruth Garner (Former Content Producer (Ballet))

3 October 2013 at 1.13pm | 12 Comments

A Tale of Friendship, Love and Loyalty

This exuberant ballet is an adaptation of an episode from Miguel de Cervantes's classic picaresque novel of the Spanish Golden Age. The deluded knight Don Quixote – accompanied by his ever-faithful squire Sancho Panza – is on a quest for adventure and in search of his ideal chivalric lady, whom he believes to have found in an innkeeper’s daughter, Kitri. She, however, has her own problems, since her father wishes her to be married to a rich nobleman rather than her sweetheart, the penniless barber Basilio. Will Don Quixote help to set wrongs to right?

From Russia to The Royal Ballet

Nineteenth-century French choreographer Marius Petipa created the best-loved and most enduring version of Don Quixote in 1869 for the Bolshoi. In spite of its popularity in Russia, the ballet remained largely unknown in the West. Nearly a century later Rudolf Nureyev played a significant role in bringing the work to audiences worldwide; Vienna State Opera first staged his production in 1966 and, following revisions for companies internationally, it was eventually performed by The Royal Ballet in 2001.

The New Production

Royal Ballet Principal Guest Artist Carlos Acosta, who has danced the virtuoso role of Basilio many times during his career, has brought this classic ballet up to date in a vibrant new production for The Royal Ballet. He has collaborated with award-winning West End designers Tim Hatley and Hugh Vanstone, who both make their Royal Opera House debuts with the production.

Colourful Melodies and Spanish Flair

Ludwig Minkus’s compositional output includes music for more than twenty Russian ballets, including La Bayadère. His score for Don Quixote is considered one of his most successful, and is cheerful, light-hearted and full of Spanish flair. Like many 19th-century Russian ballet scores, it has been revised many times since its creation, including in an arrangement for Nureyev’s production by John Lanchbery. Acosta’s production uses a new arrangement by Martin Yates, who also conducts.

Choreographic Highlights

Don Quixote’s large-scale female ensembles, such as the famous garden of the Dryads scene in Act II, were the foundation of the major corps de ballet scenes in Petipa’s later works – La Bayadère, The Sleeping Beauty and Raymonda. These ensembles, along with the famously bravura grand pas de deux between Kitri and Basilio in Act III, are highlights of this high-energy, gloriously entertaining ballet.

Don Quixote runs until the 6 November. Tickets are still available. The production will also be live streamed in cinemas on 16 October. Find a screening near you.

By Ruth Garner (Former Content Producer (Ballet))

3 October 2013 at 1.13pm

This article has been categorised Ballet and tagged background, Ballet Essentials, by Carlos Acosta, context, Don Quixote, history, Production

This article has 12 comments

  1. Jen responded on 4 October 2013 at 6:35pm Reply

    Are there any plans to release a DVD of the broadcast?

    • Ellen West (Head of Online Content) responded on 5 October 2013 at 7:06pm

      Dear Jen

      We haven't been informed of a DVD of the production yet but we will draw people's attention to it if there is a release.

      Best wishes

      Ellen

    • Rosemary responded on 20 October 2013 at 8:50am

      I saw the cinema version of Don Quixote last week and was mesmerised by it especially the performances by Nunez and Acosta. PLEASE try and get a DVD of it out before Xmas. I would buy at least three copies!!

  2. David Rawson responded on 7 October 2013 at 3:56pm Reply

    Never been to the ballet before, saw this on Sat 5th Oct - superb. Everything about it was breath-taking.

    (and I'm a football season-ticket holder)

    Highly recommended

  3. Valerie Chipkin responded on 15 October 2013 at 2:58am Reply

    Is South Africa included in the world wide cinema release of Don Quixote? Please release a DVD. There have been no new DVDs except for Romeo & Juliet and La Fille Mal Gardee. Why these two when you already have classic examples.

  4. Sabrina Tilt responded on 16 October 2013 at 11:44pm Reply

    Went to see this this evening and it was wonderful (apart from our cinema losing the sound at the beginning of the third act!) and I was wondering if there was a list of the dancers/cast online anywhere?

  5. Renate Leine responded on 17 October 2013 at 12:16pm Reply

    Last night We have seen the Ballett Don Quixotte and enjoyed it so much.
    In Oximax in Palma, Las Islas Balears.
    Estupendo, gracies a tots

  6. Tony Ralls responded on 17 October 2013 at 1:07pm Reply

    Watched, mesmerised, at the Light Cinema in New Brighton - everything about the performance was wonderful and the dancing of Carlos Acosta and Marianela Nunez quite outstanding, with a support cast of great talent. A lovely evening.

  7. Nick responded on 28 October 2013 at 5:19pm Reply

    This is a fantastic production, probably the most perfect I have ever seen. With the costumes, the sets and the lighting so perfectly supporting such beautiful dancing, not to make a DVD, or better a Blueray, would border on the criminal.
    The morning after my visit, my only thought was to see if I could beg borrow or steal a ticket to another showing!

  8. I've just watched in the movies this version of DQ. It is the most wonderful version I've ever seen in my life. Congratulations to Acosta, Nuñez and all the team! I hope you'll make more presentations like this!

  9. David King responded on 1 January 2014 at 10:11pm Reply

    Just watched the film for the third time - once on live broadcast, and twice on BBC i-player after the Christmas Day broadcast. The live broadcast was amazing - and astonishingly, each time we watched the TV version we got more out of it. Brilliant dancing, acting, choreography, staging . . . PLEASE PLEASE release a DVD soon!

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