16 March 2022
Miguel de Cervantes’ novel ‘Don Quixote’ is quite a tome; the travels and adventures of the self-appointed saviour of chivalry has had many adaptations. As a ballet it premiered in 1869 and takes a few episodes of the story to create the atmosphere and feel of the original story.
This 2022 version by Carlos Acosta, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s director, is a joyful blend of skill, comedy and colour under the warm sunshine of Spain where there is a whiff of sangria emanating from the stage.
In terms of the story, Don Quixote himself and his squire, Sancho Panza, are mostly onlookers with little actual dancing, but the characters bring about the hoped for conclusion in the love story of the young barber, Basilio and his intended, Kitri, the daughter of an innkeeper.
BRB offer three acts of high class ballet which, despite the thinness of the plot, offers an exhibition of impeccable dance. Carlos Acosta has taken the original choreography and moulded it to his own style, which is always exciting and vibrant. Apart from a few short passages near the end of the ballet, I am unfamiliar with the music by Ludwig Minkus (with new arrangements by Hans Vercauteren), but it is rich, colourful and pitted with Spanish rhythms; wonderfully performed by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia under the baton of Philip Ellis.
Veteran character artist, Jonathan Payn, gives us a friendly and lovable Don Quixote and Hamish Scott a fun Sancho, with a great sense of comic timing; though their dancing roles are limited they provide important continuity and presence.
Max Maslen and Yaoquin Shang are an outstanding partnership as Basilio and Kitri; their pas de deux at the beginning of Act II and towards the end of Act III are things of great beauty. Lachlan Monaghan squeezes every ounce out of his role as the preening show-off Espada, the matador and there is superb work also from Yijing Zhang as Mercedes and Javier Rojas as the slightly camp Amour; not forgetting some wonderful comedy from Rory MacKay as the ludicrous Gamache. The huge company – I lost count at 50 – fill the stage with life and joy.
Impressive sets and costumes are augmented by the splendid video design of Nina Dunn – the sequence of Quixote vs the Windmill is a joy.
There is so much happening on stage it is difficult to know where to look and the joy for the audience is akin to being bathed in velvety hot chocolate. BRB set high standards and justly deserve their excellent reputation across the world and Don Quixote is no exception.
Before the curtain was raised the Royal Ballet Sinfonia paid tribute to the people of Ukraine in the terrible times they are suffering through, by playing their national anthem: moving and thoroughly appropriate.
CAST & CREATIVES
DON QUIXOTE – JONATHAN PAYN
SANCHO PANZA – HAMISH SCOTT
LORENZO – VALENTIN OLOVYANNIKOV
KITRI – YAOQUIN SHANG
BASILIO – MAX MASLEN
GAMACHE – RORY MACKAY
ESPADA – LACHLAN MONAGHAN
MERCEDES – YIJING ZHANG
KITRI’S FRIENDS – REINA FUCHIGAMI, SOFIA LINARES
TWO MATADORS – GABRIEL ANDERSON, HAOLIANG FENG
GYPSY COUPLE – ISABELLA HOWARD, ALEXANDER YAP
QUEEN OF THE DRYADS – YU KURIHARA
AMOUR – JAVIER ROJAS
DULCINEA – DARIA STANIULESCU
FANDANGO COUPLE – ISABELLA HOWARD, ALEXANDER YAP
TOWNSPEOPLE, MATADORS, GYPSIES, DRYADS – ARTISTS OF BIRMINGHAM ROYAL BALLET, STUDENTS OF THE ROYAL BALLET, ENGLISH NATIONAL BALLET SCHOOL, CENTRAL SCHOOL OF BALLET
MUSIC – LUDWIG MINKUS – 2022 ARRANGEMENT – HANS VERCAUTEREN
CHOREOGRAPHY – CARLOS ACOSTA, AFTER MARIUS PETIPA
PRODUCTION – CARLOS ACOSTA
SET AND COSTUME DESIGN – TIM HATLEY
VIDEO DESIGN – NINA DUNN
LIGHTING – PETER MUMFORD
STAGING – CHRISTOPHER SAUNDERS
CONDUCTOR – PHILIP ELLIS
IMAGE – JOHAN PERSSON