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#Throwback Thursday: Don Quixote

Today's #ThrowbackThursday focuses on Don Quixote!

Clytie Campbell, Royal New Zealand Ballet

The ballet is based on the novel Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel Cervantes. The original production was choreographed by Marius Petipa to the music of Ludwig Minkus, in four acts. This was later expanded to a five act ballet.

Marianela Nunez and Carlos Acosta as Kitri and Basilio, Royal Ballet

The original libretto has the ballet start in Don Quixote's study. He is reading a book of fairytales, and longs to find the woman of his dreams, Dulcinea, whom he believes to be divine. Daydreaming about his adventures with Dulcinea, Don Quixote falls asleep. His servant, Sancho Panza, suddenly climbs through the window. He is pursued by several angry women from the market, from whom he has stolen some bread and a chicken. The noise wakes up Don Quixote, who sends the women away. He tells Sancho of his intention to become a wandering knight-errant and search for Dulcinea. He shows Sancho a pasteboard helmet, which collapses at the sweep of his sword. His housekeeper, Antonina, suggests he uses a shaving basin instead. Clad in this household object, Don Quixote and Sancho make ready the horse, Rocinante.

Maria Alexandrova as Kitri, Bolshoi Ballet

Act I takes place in a market in Barcelona. Kitri, an inn-keeper's daughter, has snuck out to meet her beloved, Basilio. They are discovered by Kitri's father, Lorenzo, who sends Basilio away. When the rich nobleman Gamache asks for Kitri's hand, Lorenzo is delighted. Kitri, on the other hand, is appalled at the thought of marrying Gamache, and runs away. While the people are dancing in the square, Don Quixote arrives, followed by Sancho on a donkey. Sancho blows loudly on a rusty horn, causing Lorenzo to run out from his inn. Don Quixote mistakes him for the lord of a castle and pledges to serve him. Sancho is left in the square, surrounded by girls who are playing Blind Man's Bluff. The boys bring a blanket and begin tossing Sancho in the air; Don Quixote hurries to set him free. When the dancing has begun again, Don Quixote spots Kitri. He believes her to be Dulcinea, cursed to remain a mortal by an evil magician. He attempts to win her affections by partnering her in a minuet. Kitri runs away with Basilio, followed by Lorenzo and Gamache, then Don Quixote and Sancho.

Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev as Kitri and Basilio, Mikhailovsky Ballet

In Act II, Kitri, disguised as a boy, is discovered by a group of gypsies. They guess she is a girl and ask her to stay with him. The gypsy chief and his daughter, Graziosa, play a trick on Don Quixote when he arrives in their camp, pretending to be royalty. Don Quixote pays homage to the pretend king. The gypsy chief lays on a feast in honour of Don Quixote, with gypsy dances and a marionette theatre. But Don Quixote mistakes the heroine of the theatre for Dulcinea, and attacks the soldier dolls who surround her. The gypsies flee, terrified, and Don Quixote kneels to thank god for his victory. He now mistakes the moon for Dulcinea, and attacks a nearby windmill which he takes for a giant. His spear gets caught in the wings of the windmill and he is thrown to the ground at Sancho's feet, unconscious.

Don Quixote and the Dryads, Moscow Festival Ballet

Sancho lies Don Quixote down beside a tree to rest; Sancho goes to sleep, but Don Quixote is troubled by strange dreams. Fairies appear to him, and he is now wearing silver armour. He is forced to fight a succession of horrible monsters, the last of which is a giant spider. When the spider is dead, its web dissolves to reveal an enchanted garden. The beautiful women and dryads who live there are presided over by the Queen of the Dryads and Cupid. The true Dulcinea appears and Don Quixote kneels to her. Everything vanishes.

Alina Somova as the Queen of the Dryads

In Act III, Kitri and Basilio have joined in the dancing in the market. Lorenzo arrives, giving his blessing to the union between Kitri and Gamache. Basilio, reproaching Kitri for her unfaithfulness, stabs himself with a sword. Dying, he begs Lorenzo and Gamache to unite him with Kitri, but is refused. Don Quixote challenges Gamache to a duel for denying the wish of a dying man. Gamache refuses, and is driven out by the villagers. Lorenzo agrees to unite Kitri and Basilio, at which point Basilio removes the sword and reveals it was all a trick. In Act IV, Kitri and Basilio are married, and Don Quixote sets off for more adventures, accompanied by the long-suffering Sancho.

Ivan Vasiliev and Natalia Osipova as Basilio and Kitri, Mikhailovsky Ballet

Don Quixote was first adapted for the ballet in 1740 by Franz Hilverding, in Vienna, Austria. In 1768, a revival was mounted by Jean Georges Noverre, again in Vienna, to music by Josef Starzer. The 'father of Russian ballet', Charles Didelot, staged a two-act version for the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg in 1808. Three more productions came and went; James Harvey D'Egville's at Her Majesty's Theatre in 1809, Paul Taglioni's for the Berlin Court Opera Ballet in 1839, and Salvatore Taglioni's at the Teatro Regio in Turin in 1843.

Nina Kaptsova as Cupid/Amor

But the most famous production is undoubtedly that staged by Marius Petipa for the Imperial Ballet. This was first presented on 26 December, 1869 at the Imperial Bolshoi Theatre by special commission, and was a great success. The cast included Wilhelm Vanner as Don Quixote, Vassily Geltser as Sancho, Anna Sobeshchanskaya as Kitri, Sergei Sokolov as Basilio, Dmitri as Kuznetsov as Gamache, and Pelagaya Karpakova as Dulcinea. It was a resounding success. Petipa restaged the ballet in a far more opulent fashion for the St. Petersburg Imperial Ballet. It premiered on 21 November 1871, in five acts. This time the cast included Timofei Stukolkin as Don Quixote, Lev Ivanov as Basilio, Nikolai Goltz as Gamache, and Alexandra Vergina as both Kitri and Dulcinea.

Vera Trefilova as the Street Dancer, c. 1900

However, modern productions are all based on the 1902 revival staged by Alexander Gorsky. He had staged a revival two years previously for the Imperial Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. In 1900 he had added new dances to music by Anton Simon, including a variation for the Queen of the Dryads. For the 1902 production, composer Riccardo Drigo provided the music for two new variations. These were for Mathilde Kschessinskaya, who danced Kitri/Dulcinea; the famous Variation with a Fan from the Wedding Pas de Deux, and the Variation of Kitri as Dulcinea, both still performed. Though it was believed that Gorsky had added the Grand Pas des toreadors to Don Quixote from the 1881 Petipa/Minkus ballet Zoraiya, it is now known that Petipa himself did this in 1882. The 1902 cast included Alexei Bulgakov as Don Quixote, Enrico Cecchetti as Sancho, Mathilde Kschessinskaya as Kitri/Dulcinea, Nikolai Legat as Basilio, Pavel Gerdt as Gamache, Olga Preobrajenska as the Street Dancer, Anna Pavlova as Juanita, and Tamara Karsavina as Cupid/Amor.

Anna Pavlova

Gorse's production was not well received in St. Petersburg. It was widely thought that Gorsky had mangled the masterpiece of his mentor Petipa. But the ballet survived well into the Soviet period, unlike many of Petipa's others, becoming a permanent piece in the repertoire of both the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre and the Leningrad (St. Petersburg) Kirov/Mariinsky Theatre. Don Quixote was unknown outside of Russia until Anna Pavlova's company brought an abridged version of the 1902 production to the west. The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo began performing the Grand Pas de Deux from the final act in the 1940s, but it wasn't until 1950 that a full-length production was mounted. This was done by Ninette de Valois for the Royal Ballet, with entirely new choreography and setting. The first revival of the Russian original came in 1962, by Ballet Rambert; this was closely followed by Rudolf Nureyev's version for the Vienna State Opera Ballet in 1966, and Mikhail Baryshnikov's version for American Ballet Theatre in 1980.

Rudolf Nureyev and Lucette Aldous as Basilio and Kitri

There are a great many other versions of this ballet, as it is now considered a classic of the genre; in particular, George Balanchine staged an entirely modern work (unrelated to Petipa's original) in 1965 for the New York City Ballet to music by Nicolas Nabokov. It was taken out of the repertory in the mid-1970s, but was reconstructed in 2005 by Suzanna Farrell (who had danced Dulcinea in the original production). Other notable versions are that of Helgi Tomasson for the San Francisco Ballet, and that of Carlos Acosta for the Royal Ballet.

Maya Plisetskaya as Kitri

Sylvie Guillem as Kitri

Here's Yana Salenko and Mikhail Martynuk in the full-length production:

And if you'd rather not watch the whole thing, here's the final Grand Pas de Deux with Svetlana Zakharova and Andrei Uvarov:


- Selene

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