Ballet Nice Méditerranée stages ‘Don Quichotte’ for Christmas

Ballet Nice Méditerranée’s production of ‘Don Quichotte’ © Dominique Jaussein

Joyful, lively and festive, with dazzling choreography and a wonderfully melodic score by Ludwig Minkus, Éric Vu-An’s production of Don Quichotte (Don Quixote) for Ballet Nice Méditerranée provides a spectacular opportunity to escape for a while from what has been a difficult year for everyone. Although the scheduled performances of the ballet at Nice Opera have had to be cancelled, it will be screened on Azur TV on Christmas Eve, and available to view worldwide on the Company’s YouTube channel for the following three months.

Although 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, 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.

In his staging for Ballet Nice, Artistic Director Éric Vu-An pays homage to this traditional classical staging with his own interpretation of the tale of the delightful young Spanish couple, Kitri and Basile, intertwining their story with that of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes’ chivalrous knight errant who dreams of slaying windmills. 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 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 travelled to Russia and ultimately joined the newly created Moscow Conservatory as a professor of violin studies. Don Quixote – which he wrote for Marius 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 Petipa enjoyed a fruitful creative relationship.

In this enchanting production of Don Quichotte, the Nice Philharmonic Orchestra is led by Enrique Carreón Robledo, currently Guest Music Director of Ballet Nacional Sodre in Uruguay. Maestro Carreón Robledo was formerly General and Artistic Director of Opera San Antonia, and has led productions at the Orchestra de Théâtre du Capitol de Toulouse, Nice Opera, Tacoma Opera, Stuttgart Ballet, Deutsche Opera am Rhein, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet and Scottish Ballet.

Ballet Nice Méditerranée’s Don Quichotte will be televised on Azur TV (channel 31 on TNT) at 18h00 (CET) on 24th December, with a simultaneous broadcast on the Opéra Nice Côte d’Azur YouTube channel where it will be available to view for three months.

Information sourced from:

Ballet Nice programme notes
Don QuixoteRoyal Ballet programme notes
Ludwig Minkus – Royal Ballet programme notes
The Petipa Society
Cambridge Scholars

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