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Joel Kasow
Fanfare, March 2011

Ludwig (or Léon) Minkus does not rank very high on anyone’s list of distinguished composers, but his music nonetheless survives thanks to the tuneful scores he turned out for the ballet, particularly for the choreographer Marius Petipa. And it is probably Don Quichotte that is the best-known today, closely followed by La Bayadère. Until the Russian ballet companies began touring the West in the 1950s and 60s, audiences knew only the pas de deux, which was a staple of many a touring company. But once the Kirov and Bolshoi showed us that there was considerably more to the work, productions began to proliferate. Rudolf Nureyev even made a full-length film of the ballet almost 50 years ago with the Australian Ballet Company, which allows us to see the captivating Lucette Aldous. He then went on to stage the piece for many other companies, including the Paris Opera. Aside from the fact that today we don’t know how much of Don Quichotte is actually the work of Petipa, as it was revived and revised by Alexander Gorsky, among a great many others, rendering meaningless the credit “based upon Marius Petipa,” what Nureyev gives us is his version of the ballet as danced by the Kirov during his time with that company.

The Paris Opera Ballet has gone all out for this production, with colorful sets and costumes, outstanding dancers, and fidelity to Nureyev’s concept. We can appreciate the attempt to convey a vitality to the surroundings, but when the choreographer gives the performer of Basilio some extra dancing, we easily recognize the kind of posturing for which Nureyev himself was famous. Aurélie Dupont’s Kitri shows another facet of her talent after her Sleeping Beauty and Sylphide, entering wholeheartedly into the fun while demonstrating a flawless technique. Manuel Legris, now retired and director of the Ballet of the Vienna Opera, is the ideal partner, matching Dupont in the fullness of his portrayal. Jean-Guillaume Bart is a virtuoso Espada, while Marie-Agnès Gillot is not as flamboyant as usual as the Street Dancer. And what happened to the solo with the daggers planted in the stage floor? They are in the old film. Delphine Moussin’s Queen of the Dryads lacks some of the amplitude we usually associate with her solo, but Clairemarie Osta is piquant as Cupidon. It is unfortunate that Jean-Marie Didière in the title role wears a mask so that his face is totally unexpressive. Conductor Ermanno Florio leads an effective performance, but does not seem to stimulate the dancers, so many of the special moments do not have quite the effect we have seen on other occasions, for example the one-handed lifts near the end of act I or the previously mentioned solo of the Queen of the Dryads.



Ballet Review, December 2010

A surprising number of choreographers have been drawn to the unlikely figure of Don Quixote for ballets, from Hilverding and Noverre in the eighteenth century to Milloss, de Valois, Lifar, Gsovsky, Balanchine, and Neumeier since World War II. Most versions, however, spring not from the serious side of Cervantes’ novel, but from the lighthearted episode of the love of Quiteria for the poor Basilio over the rich Gamache, treated in 1801 by Louis Milon in Les Noces de Gamache, which led to a host of imitations including ones by Bournonville and Petipa. Most contemporary versions stem from Gorsky’s 1900 revision of Petipa(itself much reworked by others),which mixes in such episodes as the meeting with the Gypsies, the windmill, and Quixote’s vision of Dulcinea/Kitri, all this to versions of Minkus’ tuneful score.

Nureyev’s version of the Kirov’s staging (with a credit to Petipa but not Gorsky) was first done for the Vienna Opera Ballet in 1966, then for the Australian Ballet (and filmed in 1972), and many others, including the Paris Opera Ballet, with Minkus’ score arranged by John Lanchbery. Nureyev stuffs it with lots of incidents, adding a third pas de deux for the lovers at the start of act 2 and having Quixote attack the puppet show before the windmill. But as filmed in 2002 in a new production, there’s surprisingly little sense of joy and it all feels rather ponderous. However, there’s still a lot of fine dancing, with Aurélie Dupont as Kitri, Manuel Legris as Basile, Jean-Guillaume Bart as Espada, Marie-Agnès Gillot as “la danseuse de rue,” and the large supporting cast.






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3:23:57 AM, 27 December 2014
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