Joyful and lively, with dazzling choreography and a wonderfully melodic score by Ludwig Minkus, Don Quixote is a hugely enjoyable ballet, and this staging by San Francisco Ballet’s Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson and Choreographer-in-Residence, Yuri Possokhov, is a delight.
The origins of the ballet Don Quixote date back to Vienna in 1740, when the first presentation was staged by Austrian dancer and choreographer Franz Hilverding, but it wasn’t until 1869 that Marius Petipa was asked to create a new version of the ballet for the Imperial Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, which he followed with a much grander production in St Petersburg in 1871. A revival of Petipa’s ballet was staged in Moscow in 1900 by Russian dancer and choreographer Alexander Gorsky, followed by a production in St Petersburg in 1902, and it’s this Petipa/Gorsky interpretation of Don Quixote which forms the basis of all modern productions. The World Premiere of this Tomasson/Possokhov staging by San Francisco Ballet took place on March 14th, 2003 at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco.
In this production, Tomasson and Possokhov pay homage to the traditional classical staging with their own interpretation of the tale of the young Spanish couple, Kitri and Basile, and how their lives intertwine with those of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes’ chivalrous knight errant who dreams of slaying windmills, with his faithful servant, Sancho Panza. Unexpected adventures and misunderstandings are introduced by Kitri’s father who wants his beautiful daughter to marry a rich nobleman, bringing an air of pantomime to this colorful production which ultimately ends in happiness for Kitri and Basile.
Czech composer and violinist Ludwig Minkus wrote several very popular ballet scores, the best known of which are Don Quixote and La Bayadère. Austrian by birth, Minkus’ first involvement in composing for ballet was assisting composer Édouard Deldevez in the score for Paquita in Paris in 1846. He later traveled to Russia and ultimately joined the newly created Moscow Conservatory as a professor of violin studies. Don Quixote – which he wrote for Petipa’s 1869 production for the Bolshoi – was his first great success, leading to his appointment as official composer of ballet music to the Imperial Theatre in St Petersburg, where he and Marius Petipa enjoyed a fruitful creative relationship.
Scenic and Costume Design for this production are by Martin Pakledinaz, lighting by James F Ingalls, and Company Music Director Martin West leads the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra.
San Francisco Ballet’s production of Don Quixote runs at the War Memorial Opera House for 9 performances between February 26th to March 6th. For further information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Ballet website.