I enjoyed the first two acts of The Royal Ballet’s new version of Don Quixote by Carlos Acosta, telecast in theaters worldwide Wednesday evening. The third act was a severe disappointment as technical problems at the AMC Times Square Theater forced cancellation of the last and most exciting act.
The prologue of the ballet has more dramatic meat relative to the ABT version; in the ABT version Don Quixote and his sidekick Sancho Panza pair up and, for some reason, quickly agree to chase windmills. Acosta’s version is more developed as Don Quixote and Sancho are in an attic or bedroom; Dulcinea, dressed in white suddenly appears. Dulcinea and Quixote dance, inspiring Quixote as a storm interrupts them. Acosta’s version, unlike ABT’s, gives some context to Don’s quixotic mission. The ballet then advances to the village scene.
The village scene sets are drab as the villagers dance under cloudy skies. In a festive ballet like this, can’t they dance under sunny skies? Also, for some reason, the buildings move at various points in the act, which I found distracting. These are minor points as the first act is filled with dynamic dancing featuring stunning Marianela Nuñez. She is perfect for the role, steady, cocky, and assured throughout, with her lovely line and radiating smile. The last time I saw Acosta was about 12 years ago when he was a guest artist at ABT. At age 40, he has aged well and is still able to perform the bravura steps necessary to pull of the role of Basilio. His first act solo was impressive, with nice double tours directly into pirouettes, topped off by tours to the knee. Also nice double cabriole derrière. He reminds me of Jose Manuel Carreño, a long-time ABT principal great at this role. Ryoichi Hirano excelled as Espada, with plenty of stage presence and cockiness as he carefully groomed his slicked back hair. His partner Mercedes was fine, but odd facial expressions during her solos were distracting. Although not always on the mark, the telecast often had nice close-ups of the dancers, even better than a front row seat.
The second act consisted of the gypsy scene followed by the Dryad dream scene. I liked the scenery for the gypsy part, and particularly enjoyed the innovation of guitarists on stage actually playing the instrument rather than faking it. Another innovation is that dancers frequently shouted and made noise in group scenes. The head male gypsy had a more limited solo relative to ABT’s version; I always savored Herman Cornejo and Joseph Phillips in that role, as there are concentrated flashes of intense dancing. Then off to the dream scene as Don Quixote fell asleep and dreamed of dancing with pretty ballerinas.
As noted above, the last act did not go off, a major disappointment as the several dozen audience members were eagerly expecting fireworks in the grand pas de deux from Acosta and Nuñez. I could only image the countless pirouettes and hang in the air jumps that I missed.
Although the reviews of Acosta’s Don Quixote cited below are mixed, I enjoyed his version. I go into any performance of Don Quixote expecting a silly, thin plot, and instead focus on the dancing. Fortunately, this ballet is fast paced and filled with a high level of dancing.