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Sunday, 8 February 2015

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Don Quixote, the fusion

by Gwen Herat
At Royal Ballet, London

The length of the ballet stretches to four acts and eight scenes with original choreography by Petipa in 1869 for the Bolshoi Theatre Ballet in Moscow. The ballet was impressive and caught the imagination of the audiences, made choreographers to immediately turn their attention to the ballet.


Carlos Acosta as Basilio in Act III, as Don Quixote

In his first version it was more of a robust comedy followed by a rough love affair between Quiteria (who was to become Kitri) and Basil from the second act from the book by Cervantes.

Don Quixote and his servant, Sancho Panza only provide the sights to hold together the individual episodes. They come face to face with a troupe of travelling comedians followed by a fight against the windmills.

However, in 1871 he revived a new and exciting version for St. Petersburg which contained new choreography. For all versions of the ballet, choreographers maintained the first track of Minkus.

Carlos Acosta takes over the vibrant and spectacular ballet to the main stage of the Royal Ballet to a packed audience who resisted the on-coming winter blues in an arabesque of nearly three hours (with two intervals).

Fusion

The Russian-Hispanic fusion is all about an elderly gentleman in search of adventure and the girl of his dreams. His fantasies only lead him to trouble and heartburns. He ends having an argument with a windmill.

The central romance of course, is of Basil and the beautiful Kitri. Their love is the occasion for a charming sun-drenched spectacle with many solos and ensembles for the company. In this act, the ballet rises to a stunning effect with Hispanic costumes of daring colour and fast moving steps.

Many a time the stage overflew with co-opted dancing and formation groups. It afforded the freedom of movement for leaps and lively steps, some were like lightning.

The dancers did not have to worry about perfection as each and all, magnificently fell into place. Excellent lighting effects played tricks as colours shifted to add mystery and expectation. Though Cervante's colour filled story was of exuberance and frolic, it had its sad moments too, especially when Don Quixote surrenders to his disappointment and frustration.

Music

If this long ballet bored some, Minkus's music kept the others deeply attracted. There was not a dull moment with the din shattering the roof. Being sensual and passionate, the director was clever in supplying the contrasts of moods between the young lovers and the ageing Don Quixote. Though dancing came in the way, there was a certain degree of body language among the principal dancers.

This is a story that is difficult to choreograph because of its varying moods essentially meant for dialogue. However, Carlos Acosta very subtly diverted audience attention away from this problem with fascinating costumes and dance escalation. The vibrant costumes held the audience attention even if the dancers failed or missed steps.


from Don Quixote with Basilio and Kitri

Don Quixote is a feast for the whole family, designed by Tim Hatley. It is an exposition of wonderful colours and textures. Above all these merits, it is Minkus who takes centre stage with wondrous music.

Thrilling drama

Blessed with operatic armoury to create thrilling drama that runs through a gamut of human emotion from lacerating eruptions to poignant ending. Minkus's music arranged and orchestrated by Martin Yates who retained all the essence of Minkus's rapterous scores, he plays a vital role for the sound track ably lifted by the orchestra of The Royal Opera House.

The meticulously fashioned soundscapes form the backdrop in a mesmerising setting. This happens to be the first time I am seriously listening to Minkus scores alone with high-flying elements of dancing, there can never be a better introduction to rouse my curiosity on a new composer.

With many visits to listen to the London Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Orchestra as well as one previous occasion to the Royal Opera House besides today. I had never come across music of Minkus before or perhaps missed on him. May be I will try to locate a CD on his music, mainly through curiosity.

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