His Majesty's Theatre, 11 May,12 May
This refreshing, condensed adaptation of Don Quixote is based on choreographer Marius Petipa's 1869 production inspired by Cervantes's classic novel. It was commissioned by West Australian Ballet and conceived and created by Lucette Aldous, one of international ballet's most admired Kitris. Set to sections of John Lanchbery's arrangements of the original Minkus score, this production was first performed by West Australian Ballet in 2010, and makes a welcome return to the repertoire, offering opportunities and challenges for the dancers, and comedy, requited and unrequited love, and a celebratory ending for audiences.
Set in a seaside Spanish town, the story follows the encounters of ageing dreamer Don Quixote and his servant Sancho Panza as they embark on a nebulous quest to find the Don's vision, the lady of his dreams, Dulcinea. Aldous's production is economical in scope and scale while effectively incorporating all key elements of the story within two entertaining acts of four scenes and a short prologue. A handy, informative printed synopsis is provided and a more comprehensive cast list would be helpful as well.
On opening night Canadian conductor Judith Yan expertly led the West Australian Symphony Orchestra through the Minkus score with WASO in fine form after a few orchestral "missteps" in Act I.
The attractive set designs by Australian Allan Lees evoke a picturesque, festive Spain featuring a spectacular full moon, stars, golden clouds, and the ocean. Atmospherically lit by Jon Buswell, the design enables quick scene changes, and creates a makeshift 'steed' from a wine barrel for the Don to travel off to his adventures astride, and a wondrous "man-made" windmill for the storm scene. A large scroll hand-written in Spanish appears at times, referencing the ballet's literary origins and the Don's love of books and ancient tales. Lees's costumes in shades of crimson, mauve, apricot and sparkling-white are exquisite; the fuschia-pink tones for satin-clad matadors may be an acquired taste.
Chihiro Nomura (Kitri/Dulcinea) gave an impressive performance technically as a vivacious and mischievous Kitri, and showed serene control as Dulcinea in the dream sequences. Her affectionate interactions with Gakuro Matsui (her swain Basilio) were delightful and the wedding pas de deux in Act II was beautifully danced but needed more eye-contact. Matsui showed silky-smooth technique, soaring jumps and spectacular one-armed lifts and a touching romantic quality in the Act I pas de deux.
Christian Luck (Don Quixote) gave an admirable performance and sensitively communicated the Don's eccentricity and fragile state of mind and body. Andre Santos (Gamache) in a wig and moustache yet unmistakable, was outrageously hilarious as the foppish rival suitor for Kitri and, in his last season with WAB, almost stole the show to the point that the audience began to laugh as soon as his large green feathered-hat and parasol appeared. It was that sort of night.
Among other notable performances were: Giuseppe Canale (a funny, likeable, believable Sancho Panza), Cuban Oscar Valdés (Lead Gypsy), who recently joined WAB as a soloist, Meg Parry, Claire Voss (Kitri's friends), and Carina Roberts (Cupid) luminous, sharp and precise at breakneck tempo. The ensemble sections were performed with discipline and musicality; a touch of extra Spanish passion wouldn't have gone astray at times.
Friday night's alternate cast delivered an equally strong performance overall. Florence Leroux-Coléno (Kitri/Dulcinea) displayed elegant individuality, charm and rock-solid technique with exquisite musical phrasing and skilled, good-natured comedic "banter" with Oscar Valdés (Basilio). Valdés wowed the audience and Kitri with his humour, charisma, exceptional dancing and strong partnering. Christopher Hill (Don Quixote) delivered a penetrating, well-considered interpretation; noteworthy also were Alessio Scognamiglio (a standout performance as Espada), Carina Roberts, Kymberleigh Cowley (Kitri's friends), Adam Alzaim (Gamache) and a fiery Andre Santos (Lead Gypsy).
Bravo a todos!