Ludwig Minkus’ Don Quixote is a lovely, light-hearted ballet – fun, colourful and entertaining, with a lively score and a wonderfully old-fashioned story in which all’s well that ends well – perfect for the run-up to the Festive Season.
This new production for Greek National Opera Ballet has been choreographed by Thiago Bordin, based on the original choreography of Marius Petipa. Currently dancing for the Staatsballet Karlsruhe, Bordin was previously a member of John Numeier’s Hamburg Ballet – rising from the corps de ballet to become a Principal Dancer, with Numeier creating roles specifically for him – and subsequently joining Nederlands Dans Theatre. He has been working as a choreographer – with a focus on classical ballet – alongside his dancing career, and recently premiered his own work, Zukunft braucht Herkunft, at Karlsruhe.
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.
Regarded as one of the most choreographically challenging ballets in the repertoire, Don Quixote tells of a young Spanish couple, Kitri and Basilo, and how their lives intertwine with that of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes’ chivalrous knight errant who dreams of slaying windmills, with his faithful servant, Sancho Panza, by his side. 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 colourful production and it ultimately ends in happiness for Kitri and Basilo.
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 travelled 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.
in the roles of Kitri and Basilio for the November performances are two dancers making their debut with Greek National Opera Ballet – Georgian-born Maia Makhateli, currently a Principal Dancer with Dutch National Ballet and international guest artist, and Russian-born Daniil Simkin who is presently a Principal with both American Ballet Theatre and Berlin State Ballet. In December, these roles will be danced by GNO Principal Dancer Eleana Andreoudi and internationally renowned Brazilian dancer Gustavo Carvalho.
The sets for Don Quixote are by Greek designer George Souglides in his first production for the GNO Ballet. He has staged both Bizet’s Carmen and Janáček’s Jenůfa for GNO, and designed sets for opera houses in Chicago, Rome, Lisbon and Valencia, and for companies such as the Royal Ballet and Scottish Ballet.
Also making her debut for GNO is Greek fashion designer Mary Katrantzou who has previously designed costumes for New York City Ballet and Opéra National de Paris, and who has exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and at Dallas Contemporary.
The Greek National Opera Orchestra is led by rising conductor Stathis Soulis, who has appeared with a number of symphony orchestras in Greece, led a production of Sweeney Todd at the Athens Concert Hall, and recently conducted the GNO premiere of Robert Wilson’s new production of Verdi’s Otello, which is now available to stream on GNO TV.
The Greek National Opera Ballet presents Don Quixote at the Stavros Niarchos Hall of the Greek National Opera for seven performances between 26th November and 31st December. More information is available on the Greek National Opera website. Tickets are available from the GNO Box Office and online.