Boston Ballet

‘Don Quixote'

By S.E. Arnold

November 1, 2003 -- Wang Theater, Boston

Given the parade ground look of the Act IV swans in the Vienna production of his "Swan Lake," one rather immoderately wondered what sort of vision Nureyev had for Petipa’s "Don Quixote" ( music by Minkus). From a reflective distance, however, one finds in the crowd of Romantic era references of his "Don Quixote" clues to the enduring appeal of this transfiguring as well as melancholy Knight.

The owl-like monsters appearing before the hallucinating Don in the Prologue, for example, flew directly from their engagement in Goya’s The Sleep of Reason, and the costumes worn by Kitri’s father and Gamache confirm the ballet’s late eighteenth century setting. Moreover, whether member of the corps, soloist or principal, the Boston Ballet’s unrelenting flare for vivid motion or striking pose combined with the gilded detail and abundant colors of the costumes to create a radiant élan fit for this comic love story and its setting- Spain prior to the disasters of the Napoleonic invasion.

In fact, the cruel mockeries, such as the merciless beatings visited upon the Don, Sancho, and Rozinante in the novel the ballet restricts to (Friar) Sancho. Typically the justified consequences of his actions, the ballet’s populace of ladies pursue Sancho, for example, for stealing a chicken or a fish. For these offenses he is tossed in a blanket or blindfolded and teased by villagers and matadors alike. In contrast, the eccentric Don’s officious, yet innocuous deportment mostly erases his visibility; in the ballet he is either humored or ignored. His attack on the puppet theatre in Act II, for example, brings a storm rather than the Gypsy’s punishing scorn. And then with the battlefield lit by thunder’s light, the Don imagining a windmill as monstrous threat attacks it. This effort wins for him both material injury and spiritual reward.

Knocked senseless by concussion’s rude force and thus freed from this clumsy world’s distractions, the Don’s mind soared into the Olympian realm and there interacted with its noumenal forms. More than a pleasing hallucination that allowed one to likewise vanish into the native grace of the Dryad Queen, danced by Barbora Kohoutkova, her court of 17, the ebullient Amour, danced by Romi Beppu in the Saturday matinee and Misa Kuranaga in the evening performance, and the vision of Dulcinea /Kitri, danced by Lorna Feijoo in the matinee and Jennifer Gelfand in the evening, the Vision Scene transformed the Don.

In Act III, for example, the Don’s championing Kitri’s desire to marry Basilo suggests that he understood the moral lesson nested within his vision. The formal, as well as dream-like, aspects of the Dryads and their Queen’s expressionless faces, the crystalline clarity of their motion, the contrasting allure of Amour, her gently repeated gesture for ‘No,’ and the shell game-like weaving pattern of the Queen, Amour, and Dulcinea/Kitri illustrate the Don’s confusion of the transcendent Dulcinea with the empirical Kitri. By his actions in Act III, then, the Don grasped, no matter how precariously, the difference between appearance and reality.

Yet, one thinks the Don learned more from his not so idle vision. The presents of Amour, for example, flitting amongst the Dryads suggests a distinction between form and feeling. And while Amour’s weaving pattern with the Dryad Queen and Duclinea/Kitri reflects the benefit of value or meaningfulness ‘feelings’ bestow on form. Her “No, no, no,” gestures inform the Don that the ardor with which he serves Dulcinea and the ardor with which he serves Kitri neither transforms Kitri into Dulcinea nor defines that ideal. Sobering indeed.

By Act III, however, the feeling or energy the cast invested into the performances could easily have warmed the waters of Boston Harbor. For Lorna Feijoo, "Don Quixote" marked the beginning of her career at Boston Ballet and for Jennifer Gelfand, a perennial favorite with Boston audiences, a farewell. Feelings of excitement, sadness, and promise ignited the audience into a standing ovation for Feijoo’s stunning matinee performance of Kitri and packed the Wang Center to standing room only capacity for the equally compelling performance of Kitri by Gelfand. And matching each Kitri’s spontaneous drive and act was Nelson Madrigal as Feijjo’s Basilo and the beamish Christopher Budzynski as Gelfand’s. And, Sarah Lamb, whose Titianesque photograph graced the lobby of the Wang Cente,r danced the coquettish Street Dancer with lightness and ease, while Raul Salamanica delivered the very soul of a Spanish Gypsy in his performance of Gitan.

Nureyev’s "Don Quixote" ends the way it begins - in the midst of action. The curtain closes Act III as revelers continue to celebrate Kitri’s marriage to Basilo, and like the Don the audience departs this scene seeking, perhaps, new adventures. On the other hand, given the absents of the distracting cruelties and deceptions of the novel, one may view in Nureyev’s "Don Quixote" the Don’s quest for Dulcinea as a quest for peace, for something that endures rather than as a pursuit of ideals or laughable theories propounded in literature.

On page 100 of her book, The Dancer Who Flew: A Memoir of Rudolf Nureyev, author Linda Maybarduk writes,

One of my favorite directions was when he [ Nureyev ] commanded, “Dance boldly and full out. Hold back nothing! Timid is not interesting! If you are timid, you will be eaten up by the costumes and stage scenery. Take the stage and command it! You have talent, now let it possess you! Audiences come to theater to see people obsessed by what they do!”

The Boston Ballet performances of Nureyev’s "Don Quixote" embodied those directions.

Edited by Jeff.

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