July 19, 2004 -- The Royal Opera House, London
“Don Quixote” is one of those ballets that the Russians really excel at. Why is it that living in such a cold country makes it easier in some way to transform themselves into hot-blooded Spaniards? Just another of ballet’s mysteries I suppose.
Alexei Fadeyechev’s production of Don Q. is sunnier than most and has the highest proportion of pseudo-Spanish dance items than any of it’s rivals but apart from these character interpolations, most of the traditional choreography remains intact, unlike the Nureyev production I saw in Paris last month. Here there are one or two surprises (the order of act two for example) but no unpleasant shocks.
The Bolshoi has produced some of the finest Kitri’s and Basilio’s in the business since the ballets inception and indeed the company’s sadly absent prima ballerina, Nina Ananiashvili, probably gives the definitive interpretation of the role of Kitri at the present time. For the first night of the London season Maria Alexandrova donned the flounced skirt of the innkeeper’s daughter and launched herself onto the stage in the manner of a dancer whose greatest joy is to perform. Her dancing wasn’t quite flawless as I imagine she is still inexperienced at coping with the nerves that accompany a major performance, but her technique is superb in that she is dynamic without any showiness and her respect for the choreography is such that no stylistically dubious movements mar the bravura passages. Wonderful as her Kitri was, it was as Dulcinea in Don Quixote’s dream that I found myself admiring her most, for Alexandra is at heart the very purist of classicists.
Her Basilio was the ever elegant, ever youthful Sergei Filin who clearly gets a lot of enjoyment out of this role, what he lacks in panache he makes up with likeableness. Perhaps he is a little short to be paired with Alexandrova but his partnering of this tall girl was faultless, the jumps and catches drawing gasps of amazement from the audience.
In the other roles I was once again awestruck by magnificent Malkhasyants as the most soulful of gypsies, whose eyes alone tell a story of passion and sorrow. Also outstanding was fleet-footed Nina Kaptsova as a mischievous Cupid in the dream sequence. Then there is the Bolshoi corps, outstanding in everything they do, the very backbone of this glorious company.
One sour note to report I’m afraid: The Covent Garden lighting failed at the beginning of the second scene of the first act. These incidents are actually more frequent now than before the days of the ROH’s expensive makeover. Though highly annoying, it didn’t spoil the performance but there really is no excuse for these occurrences.
Read related stories in the press and see what others are saying. Click here.