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American Ballet Theatre: Don Quixote 2008
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American Ballet Theatre: Don Quixote 2008

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American Ballet Theatre

Don Quixote
Metropolitan Opera House

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters:
Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova, Georgina Parkinson
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 14, 2008

(Read More ABT Reviews)

Don Quixote (1978): Choreography by Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky, Staged by Kevin McKenzie and Susan Jones, Music by Ludwig Minkus, Arranged by Jack Everly, Scenery and costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Natasha Katz.

Cast on June 9, 2008:

Conductor: Charles Barker
Performed by Victor Barbee as Don Quixote, Alejandro Piris-Niño as Sancho Panza, Gillian Murphy as Kitri, Ethan Stiefel as Basilio, Alexei Agoudine as Gamache, Isaac Stappas as Lorenzo, Veronika Part as Mercedes, David Hallberg as Espada, Yuriko Kajiya and Misty Copeland as Flower Girls, Sarawanee Tanatanit and Sascha Radetsky as Gypsy Couple, Kristi Boone as Queen of the Dryads, Sarah Lane as Amour, and the Company as Waiter, Toreadors, Toreadors’ Companions, Sequidillas, Gypsies, Dream Maidens, Guests at the Wedding, Townspeople, Vendors, and Children.

Cast on June 14, 2008:

Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins
Performed by Victor Barbee as Don Quixote, Alejandro Piris-Niño as Sancho Panza, Nina Ananiashvili as Kitri, Angel Corella as Basilio, Craig Salstein as Gamache, Isaac Stappas as Lorenzo, Kristi Boone as Mercedes, Sascha Radetsky as Espada, Renata Pavam and Isabella Boylston as Flower Girls, Simone Messmer and Joseph Philips as Gypsy Couple, Veronika Part as Queen of the Dryads, Sarah Lane as Amour, and the Company as Waiter, Toreadors, Toreadors’ Companions, Sequidillas, Gypsies, Dream Maidens, Guests at the Wedding, Townspeople, Vendors, and Children.

Don Quixote entered ABT repertoire in 1978 at the Kennedy Center in Baryshnikov’s production. Vladimir Vasilev staged a different production in 1991, and the present production was performed in 1995 at the Met Opera House. (ABT Notes).

The plot centers on the adventures of Don Quixote and his squire, Sancho Panza, as they follow the vision of Dulcinea. In Sevilla, Kitri, daughter of Lorenzo, is in love with Basilio, a poor barber. Lorenzo wishes to marry his daughter off to Gamache, a nobleman. Don Quixote sees in Kitri the vision of Dulcinea, and all three men pursue Kitri. In a Gypsy Camp, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza see Kitri and Basilio, and Don Quixote attacks a Windmill that appears to be a monster and falls asleep, dreaming of Kitri and Dulcinea. When he awakens, he thwarts Lorenzo and Gamache’s search for Kitri and Basilio.

When Lorenzo “forces” Kitri to commit to Gamache, Basilio pretends to die, and Kitri tries to wed the “corpse”. The awakened corpse is affianced to Kitri, Gamache disappears, and the wedding takes place onstage. Don Quixote continues to search for Dulcinea. (ABT Notes).

Don Quixote, a Ballet in Three Acts, is like a three-hour “Black Swan Pas de Deux” (Swan Lake), with an entire Company whirling deliciously with seductive sensuality and wild abandon, set to the infectious Minkus score. In fact, this music still twirled in my head so eagerly, that I listened to it at home again and again, to relive the balletic fireworks. On June 9, a long-held wish to see Gillian Murphy partnered in a lead, such as this, by Ethan Stiefel, her real-life partner, was fulfilled. Their chemistry charged the entire Company, although David Hallberg, as Espada, the matador, needs no charging. Three hours never flew by so fast, on both nights (June 9 and June 14), with different styles, but equal levels of virtuosity. Nina Ananiashvili and Angel Corella, as Kitri and Basilio on June 14, generated a different kind of chemistry. This is a longstanding professional relationship of two physically matched dancers, who challenge each other to maximize theatricality, elevation, speed, and audience engagement. Both nights were thrilling performances of a glitzy, fiery ballet.

On June 9, Ms. Murphy, as Kitri, who loves the poor barber, Basilio (Ethan Stiefel), executed 32 fouettés, while fanning herself and grinning widely, at her wedding, in Act III. I cannot imagine how this could be done, except that Ms. Murphy is powerfully inspired and gifted with abundant strength. During Acts I and II, her peasant dances with Mr. Stiefel (Act I) and solo dream dance (Act II) were buoyant, joyous, and, in partnering, fully acrobatic. Mr. Stiefel is fully in shape with split-timed, en air twirls and lunges, but the partnered dances were the most engaging, the true endearment that shone through in lifts and dramatic humor. On June 14, Ms. Ananiashvili, a seasoned dramatist and bravura artist, executed her fouettés with aplomb, nothing out of the ordinary, except that every time she dances, it’s an extraordinary performance. This is a prima ballerina that will retire next year to world-wide accolades. Mr. Corella is an Olympic-styled artist, a gold medal performer in every role. This is one dancer that may never slow down, as year after year he outdoes himself. As Basilio, his Act III wedding dance brought the house down. His Act II fake death scene in the tavern was hilarious, as Ms. Ananiashvili drank the very cup of water that she requested to “save his life”, and as his arms kept grabbing her breasts, as he lie “dead”. This was staged as a dramatic plot to gain sympathy to propel the marriage, an obvious success.

As Espada, David Hallberg, on June 9, seethed with sexuality and arrogance, and his full leaps and cape flourishes were Zorro-like. This dancer was ready for the bull fight and for his own partner, Mercedes (Veronica Part). Ms. Part, in this role, excelled, as she does so well in all supporting roles. She gleamed with torrid spunk. On June 14, Sascha Radetsky, as Espada, was all muscle, a dark, dangerous matador, never sensual, always serious. That’s Mr. Radetsky’s motif, and it works differently from the motif of many of the other lead male dancers. This is not a classical princely dancer, but rather a tempestuous performer. As Mercedes, on June 14, Kristi Boone matched Mr. Radetsky’s energy and will grow into the dramatic roles she assumes. Victor Barbee was the stoic, but vulnerable Don Quixote, on both nights, and he was poignant in his dreams of Dulcinea. His Sancho Panza, on both nights, was an attentive and entertaining Alejandro Piris-Niño. Of the two Gamaches, the rich nobleman who seeks Kitri’s hand for as much money as he can throw, Craig Salstein seemed the most campy and vaudevillian, although Alexei Agoudine was witty and persuasive.

There are minor solo roles and rambunctious ensemble dances throughout this three-hour fest, and one of those solos is for Amour, who appears in Don Quixote’s dream. Sarah Lane is truly ready for prime time, and on both nights she danced this role with perfectly poised, fluttering feet, drawing the audience into a romantic reverie of perfumed etherealness. Of the two sets of Flower Girls, Yuriko Kajiya and Misty Copeland seemed more confident and charmed than Renata Pavam and Isabella Boylston, but all four enhanced the revelry. Both Kristi Boone, June 9, and Veronika Part, June 14, were serene and self-possessed Queens of the Dryads. As the Gypsy Couples, Joseph Philips stole the show, with his partner, Simone Messmer, on June 14, although it’s becoming clear that Joseph Philips could steal the show dancing with a cardboard cutout. This is one artist to watch carefully, as he is poised for promotion, with daring dervish. On June 9, Sascha Radetsky and Sarawanee Tanatanit danced the Gypsy Couple pas de deux with aplomb. As Lorenzo, Kitri’s bumbling father, Isaac Stappas had the honors both nights, and he filled the role with self-deprecating humor and extra exaggeration.

However, one of the images that remains in the mind, which is unsurprisingly used on the ABT Met Opera House tickets, is that of Kitri, leaping en air, with a red-orange ruffled dress, legs bending back toward her head. Both Ms. Murphy and Ms. Ananiashvili created this iconic figure, over and over again, with fans, fervor, and flare. The Company, in its many roles, as Toreadors, Sequidillas, Gypsies, Dream Maidens, and Wedding Guests, kept the stage swirling in seamless momentum A simple change of costume quickly turns a corps dancer, like Marian Butler, from Dream Maiden to Wedding Guest. Kudos to Santo Loquasto for the magical windmill, the matador’s cape, and all costumes and sets in this production. Both Charles Barker and Ormsby Wilkins conducted the Ballet Orchestra with tireless alacrity, a three-hour feat of concentration, eyeing dancers, musicians, and score. Kudos to Kevin McKenzie and Susan Jones for staging this exuberant night at the ballet.

Nina Ananiashvili, Angel Corella,
and Cast of Don Quixote
Courtesy of Tommy Ng

Nina Ananiashvili and Angel Corella, Curtain Call
Courtesy of Tommy Ng

Nina Ananiashvili in Don Quixote
Courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor

Gillian Murphy and Ethan Stiefel in Don Quixote
Courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at