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American Ballet Theatre

'Don Quixote'

by Kate Snedeker

June 2 & 4, 2003 -- Metropolitan Opera House, New York

Journeying across Spain in search of his beloved ideal, the beautiful Dulcinea, the eccentric dreamer Don Quixote stumbles into the the lives of a multitude of fellow Spaniards. It is the tale of the Don’s unlikely involvement in the romance of Basil, a poor barber and Kitri, an innkeeper’s daughter, that provides the inspiration for the comic and bravura dance filled ballet, Don Quixote. American Ballet Theatre’s production, based on earlier versions by Petipa and Gorsky, is a lavish and lively spectacle, full of life and stunning dance.

Don Quixote , as staged for ABT by Kevin McKenzie and Susan Jones, is portrayed as one chapter in the long travels of Don Quixote and his faithful Sancho Panza, the ballet beginning and ending with the two walking through the country. The storybook quality of the production is highlighted by Santo Loquasto’s ingenious sets, which make clever use of painted scrims, and colorful costumes. After the prologue, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza walk into the “mountains” painted on the scrim and fade into the darkness, the scrim rising as if the cover of a book opening to reveal the story within.

Loquasto’s village square set is teeming with life, so much so that a strong performance is required to keep the focus of the audience. At times, the multitude of goings on were almost overwhelming, but the lead casts on both Monday and Wednesday nights were electrifying enough to overcome the numerous distractions. Jose Manuel Carreno and Paloma Herrera, the opening night Basil and Kitri, blended well-timed humor with astounding technical feats. Carreno, a good natured Basil, impressed with the unassuming power of his dancing and hilarious faked death. Herrera, gasp inducing with the length of her balance in back attitude in the third act pas de deux, added just the right flair to her dancing. Their grand pas deux was smooth and spectacular, the high one-hand press lift absolutely solid.

Making her debut as Kitri on Wednesday night, Xiomara Reyes was impressive in her whippet quick turns and well-centered, fast fouettes, more that a few of which were multiples. As in La Fille mal gardee , Reyes’ acting was believable and amusing, but the death scene was a bit flat. She didn’t appear entirely comfortable in some of the tricky passages in the pas de deux, opting to support herself with one hand in the high press lift. A supportive partner, Angel Corella was a thrilling and energized Basil, emoting with every inch of his body and face. Whipping off his trademark ultra-fast pirouettes and a stunningly high delayed grand jete in second position, Corella occasionally pushed too much, losing his balance in one ending. Though well performed, the phrasing of the Act III pas de deux was slightly off which detracted from the flow of an otherwise stellar performance.

Paired with Guillaume Graffin (Monday) and Carlos Molina (Wednesday night) as Gamache, Ethan Brown was amusing and outrageous in the role of Kitri’s father Lorenzo. Molina was an especially amusing Gamache, the clash of his lean elegant body with the pompous, overdressed character making the performance all the more humorous.

Marcelo Gomes was an imposing and good natured Espada on Monday, his landings out of the high jumps light and panther-like and his beats crisp. Debuting in the role on Wednesday night, the much shorter Sascha Radetsky had more edge and fire to his dancing, and was equally impressive in the technical feats. Sandra Brown was Mercedes to both Espadas.

In the second act, Joaquin DeLuz and Carlos Lopez were equally as amazing in the free-spirited Gypsy Dance, with DeLuz’s sheer power particularly noteworthy. In the dream scene, backed by a pleasant if occasionally ragged corps, Veronika Part made an impressive debut as the Queen of the Dryads. Her grand, leg-sweeping fouettes, were unerringly steady and her timing impeccable. Maria Riccetto and Renata Pavam scampered delicately as Amour on Monday and Wednesday respectively.

No Don Quixote is complete without the title character and his faithful sidekick. Played by Victor Barbee on Monday night and Brian Reeder on Wednesday, the Don was a gentle eccentric, pleased to come to the aid of Kitri and Basil. In this context, his battle with the windmill was more poignant than comic, as it was a glimpse of a man whose pursuit of the unattainable ideal has chipped away at his mind. Flavio Salazar’s Sancho Panzo was just the perfect combination of downtrodden sidekick, caring companion and slightly daft simpleton.

David LaMarche conducted the lush score by Ludwig Minkus, with lighting by Natasha Katz.

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