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Trying to love Don Q - What do you like about ballets?

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I'm a bit of a novice regarding ballet, really. Seen plenty of Tchaikovsky works plenty of times, and a few more recent inventions (loved Alice in Wonderland). Also enjoy La Fille Mal Gardée and Giselle.

 

 

I've never seen Don Q live, and we started watching the Carlos Acosta ROH DVD last night and confess to finding it a bit dull in places. Now I'm not going to make any final judgement on this until I've seen it in the flesh and a few more times, but it did make me wonder what it is about ballets that make me like them. Is it the music, the dancing (performance or choreography?), the scenery,  the acting... 

 

Familiarity is quite important to me - so many of Tchaikovsky's tunes are so well known and ingrained, but there don't seem to be so many stand-out moments in Minkus's score for Don Q. 

 

I suppose it's a mixture of these things in most cases, but why did I not warm to this DVD?

 

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If it's any consolation I've been watching ballet for around 70 years and I find DQ a total bore! The big pas de deux is fun for a gala but that's it as far as I'm concerned. I think it is the story that bores me; have seen it as a play- boring! Wouldn't,even think of reading it, and didn't enjoy Man of La.Mancha when it was a popular musical. So I think to answer your question as to what makes you enjoy a ballet , it's the story. Does it interest you? Do you identify with the characters/situation? With non story ballets it's a bit different. You probably need to identify with the mood, or even just enjoy watching beautiful dancers doing impossible things! I'm in a real minority on this forum about DQ; most people enjoy it, even if not the current Royal Ballet version, so please don't let me put you off.

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I found the Acosta production disappointing and, yes, rather dull.  Certainly, there are better productions out there and companies (think Bolshoi) better suited to it.  Yes, it’s a silly story (as are those of many ballets), but with the right performers, it can be thrilling.  

I saw my first Don Q 52 years ago, with Maya Plisetskaya, and I’d sacrifice a limb if I could somehow magically see it live again.  Or, in more recent times, the first Osipova/Vasiliev DonQ on a Washington Bolshoi tour not all that many years ago.

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Can't say I've ever enjoyed Don Q in any version.  It's probably the music which sounds to me like plinkety-plonk waltzes, produced by the yard and totally forgettable.  I suppose Minkus must have written some good stuff but I've yet to hear it.   The music is the reason I don't care much for Bayadere either.  The entrance of the Shades is worth watching but the rest of the ballet sends me to sleep.   So, for me, it's always the music first.

 

Linda

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I think it is a hard ballet to make sense of but having watched a few different versions over the years my favourite is still the Baryshnikov/Harvey/Jaffe version from the 80's.   The problem I have with it that in a lot of versions the music is played too slowly.  In the Baryshnikov ABT production, the music goes at a fair pace and makes it exciting plus the dancing and spirit of it is spot on.  

 

The current Royal Ballet version is not the best with the added choreography by Acosta.  I think they should have got Koborg to do it as the one he has done for the Leonid Yakobsen Ballet Theatre is  really good and tries to make a coherent and fuller story than the flimsy one in some other versions.  

 

Pet hate is in the dream scene, Cupid should not be in a tutu but think that is another discussion! 

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Like music in the abstract, I am starting to think ballets ( which of course rely greatly on their music) may need several viewings to become liked. For me, getting a better understanding of the work is important, and familiarity certainly helps ( assuming it doesn't breed contempt).

I am now growing into La B, for example, including its music, having not thought much of it when first seen on DVD. I am currently enjoying finding out the contrasts in various versions, and  looking forward to seeing it live for the first time in the Autumn.

Similarly with Don Q - I got much more out of the second DVD viewing than the first, and again I am hoping for further appreciation of it when seen live in the new year. 

I also suspect we tend to warm to productions we have been able to see live rather than those only seen recorded.

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One of my favourite pieces of dance is seeing the ever smiling Marianela Nunez dance Kitri at end of Act One. It always cheers me up. Her attack and vivacity are amazing.

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6 hours ago, Pas de Quatre said:

Lucette Aldous & Rudolph Nureyev in DQ coda

 

I have very fond memories of seeing both of these dancers live in UK, and loved this Australian full length film of DQ when it came out.  Here is the coda, but there are other extracts on youtube.  They certainly don't hang about!

 Just wonderful - thank you, Pas de Quatre!

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Never understood why people like Don Q.  I find it slow moving and old-fashioned.  But there is one thing worse than DQ and that's Acosta's Don Q.  Avoid.  Should never have made it to the stage and should certainly not be given a second outing.

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Wow, didn’t realise that there would be much support for my rebellious views on DonQ...

On the subject of what one likes about ballet, there’s much here that chimes for me.

ultimately, I think it’s emotion and drama that I find the most important. Things like seeing Odette flapping at the ballroom windows or the GPDD of Nutcracker - where the music and drama combine so powerfully are the things i love.

Kitri and Basilio show so little emotion - even when her father forbids their relationship - partly that slightly smug smile that Nuñez wears? Mind you, I guess one could accuse SL of being a bit overdramatic and cheesey, but if so, I’m a sucker for it....

 

Will seek out some others, and try to get to see it next year. DD’s lot at Cambridge Ballet Club are performing it, just around the same time as it’s on at ROH.

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Posted (edited)

I am very much looking forward to seeing Takada as Kitri ... she is scheduled for the live cinema screeing. Perhaps she can bring something to the role that you have not seen (yet !) in watching the Acosta/Nunez DVD.

This link is a to a lovely rehearsal  with Acosta instructing Takada and Muntagirov (although it is to be McRae with her next year). Beautiful dancing, music and characterisation!

 

Edited by Richard LH
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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, penelopesimpson said:

Never understood why people like Don Q.  I find it slow moving and old-fashioned.  But there is one thing worse than DQ and that's Acosta's Don Q.  Avoid.  Should never have made it to the stage and should certainly not be given a second outing.

 

The upcoming revival is its third outing. And I don't like it much either!

Edited by RuthE

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Oh lord am I the only one that likes DonQ here? and... DonQ was almost one of those ballets that attracted me to classical ballet in the first place. Although no longer my favourite, I still really love the choreography and the bright music although the story line was in my opinion, a little bit dull and absurd. But it's one of those (very few) ballets that leave you energised and not so sad after watching it!!  

 

I've not watched the RB version, but absolutely loved the Bolshoi version with Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev. Such a power couple. Also love the street dances, Mercedes variation and the Metador's dance. But I would have to say, it really takes dancers that know how to impress people with their jumps and turns to make this ballet interesting.

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Well, there we have it, SylviaLiu - it sounds as though you and I look for almost opposite things in ballet.

 

Classical ballets in which the main point is for me to be impressed by dancers' "jumps and turns" tend to leave me cold.  At least, for example, Sleeping Beauty (which I find terribly long and dull) has good music.

 

And I'd much rather a sad ballet than a happy one (though I'll make an exception for La Fille Mal Gardee and various abstract "happy" ballets like Symphony in C!)

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It might be worth having a look at the Forum's posts on the last Don Q outing November 2014.  Yes, there were a number of criticisms made, particularly at the outset, but it seems to me by the end a lot of posts were pretty enthusiastic.  I certainly enjoyed it.

 

Apologies - I'm sure there's a better way to post the link but hope it works.

  1. Carlos Acosta's production ofDon Quixote for the Royal Ballet opens its Christmas/New Year run on Tuesday (25th November) at the Royal Opera House. Here are a few photos from the dress rehearsal last week. Jolly good fun it was too! Marianela Nunez, Carlos Acosta © Dave Morgan. Courtesy of Dance..
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Posted (edited)

I am not a big fan of the Royal Ballet's Don Quixote but I have recently seen two excellent performances by other companies:

  • One by the ballet company of the Paris opera house at the Bastille auditorium on Christmas day with Isabella Boylston as Kitri; and
  • The other by the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam on 28 Feb with Sho Yamada and Riho Sakamoto in the leading roles.

I reviewed both performances in my blog if anyone is interested.   Boylston was particularly impressive.

 

I promised Janet McNulty the programme for the Dutch show and had intended to give it to her when the Birmingham Royal Ballet visited the Lowy in March. Unfortunately I was let down by public transport.   My flight in to Ringway was delayed for hours by bad weather and the delay was compounded by a tree on the line from the airport to Piccadilly which meant that I missed that performance for which I had hired a very good seat.  Rail services were disrupted and roads were blocked for the rest of the season by the so called oriental beast which meant that I never did see Birmingham Ballet's version of Peter Wright's The Sleeping Beauty though I did see the Dutch National Ballet's a few weeks earlier which was outstanding.   

Edited by Terpsichore

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I have to say, I enjoyed the RB Don Quixote when I saw it a few years ago, but then I haven’t really seen any other full versions of the ballet to compare it with. I thought it was colourful and fun - not exactly a deep story, but it’s the kind of thing that if you take at face value as a bit of light-hearted froth with brilliant dancing (depending on who is dancing it, of course!), you can enjoy it for what it is. I saw Takada and Muntagirov in the main roles so dancing excellence and fireworks aplenty!

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When I saw Acosta's Don Q. for the first time I had very mixed feelings and felt seeing it once was enough.

IF I go next Season the sole reason will be to see Takada, Naghdi and Kaneko dance Kitri, not the production itself.

 

There were audience members who really enjoyed it. I was sitting next to a husband-wife couple and he attended the ballet for the very first time. He was overjoyed, love it and said: "Well, if this is what ballet is all about I'll happily come and see ballet again!"

 

I often think we have become spoilt and too critical (including myself), instead of simply sitting back, relax and enjoy a performance.

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I guess I'm not really into just being entertained - I want more from my art.  Froth is entertaining but it's not for me.

 

That's not being spoiled and critical - I have the choice not to book for the things which are not to my taste.

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3 minutes ago, RuthE said:

I guess I'm not really into just being entertained - I want more from my art.  Froth is entertaining but it's not for me.

 

That's not being spoiled and critical - I have the choice not to book for the things which are not to my taste.

 

The Ashton Foundation tweeted a quote from David Vaughan today.  It sums up my attitude to Ashton's ballets.  I know we only see a small selection of his works but I see more in them every time I see them  (not Don Q I know but some people class them as froth):

 

 

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31 minutes ago, RuthE said:

I guess I'm not really into just being entertained - I want more from my art.  Froth is entertaining but it's not for me.

 

That's not being spoiled and critical - I have the choice not to book for the things which are not to my taste.

I

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I agree, Ruth.  La Fille leaves me cold although I understand why people love it.  To me it is so lightweight and silly.  Give the dark passions of Mayerling any day.

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4 hours ago, Richard LH said:

I am very much looking forward to seeing Takada as Kitri ... she is scheduled for the live cinema screeing. [...]

This link is a to a lovely rehearsal  with Acosta instructing Takada and Muntagirov (although it is to be McRae with her next year).

 

So, does that mean we're getting a bunch of McRae broadcasts, following on from (and overlapping) the Lamb ones that people were commenting on earlier this year?

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43 minutes ago, penelopesimpson said:

I agree, Ruth.  La Fille leaves me cold although I understand why people love it.  To me it is so lightweight and silly.  Give the dark passions of Mayerling any day.

 

1 hour ago, Jan McNulty said:

 

The Ashton Foundation tweeted a quote from David Vaughan today.  It sums up my attitude to Ashton's ballets.  I know we only see a small selection of his works but I see more in them every time I see them  (not Don Q I know but some people class them as froth):

 

 

 

Personally, I don't remotely regard Fille as "lightweight and silly" - there is a lot of real human life in there (the original was, of course, the first ballet about "real", ordinary people), as opposed to the high-octane drama of things like Romeo & Juliet, Onegin, Mayerling, Manon ....  We may appreciate those as ballets, but really the situations they depict are pretty alien to most people's lives (I would hope!).  I think the scene between the lovers in the last act of Fille (and also Two Pigeons, for that matter) - if performed appropriately by the dancers - says far more about the caring, commitment, comfort and forgiveness that love and marriage should be about than any number of passionate pas de deux and balletic suicide pacts.

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28 minutes ago, alison said:

 

So, does that mean we're getting a bunch of McRae broadcasts, following on from (and overlapping) the Lamb ones that people were commenting on earlier this year?

I'm not sure what you class as a bunch, Alison!  For  2018/19 the live screenings are:

 

Mayerling: McRae, Lamb  15/10/18

La Bayadere: Nunez, Muntagirov   13/11/18

Nutcracker: Nunez, Muntagirov  03/12/18

Don Quixote: Takada, McRae   19/02/19

 

TBA - Triple bill 16/05/19

TBA - Romeo and Juliet  11/06/19

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Back to Don Q, I did find that the Acosta version improved on second viewing but continued to be let down by the insipid orchestration and the bleached-out sets (windmill/gypsy scene apart).

 

I will be seeing it again, if only for Corrales, who should be dynamite as Basilio. Am hoping that he and Osipova can reproduce some of the Osipova/Vasiliev magic of those wonderful Bolshoi performances. My daughter and I were on a high for days and I fully agreed with Clement Crisp who, I think, remarked that anyone who was in the audience would remember the experience for the rest of their lives.

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50 minutes ago, alison said:

 

 

 

Personally, I don't remotely regard Fille as "lightweight and silly" - there is a lot of real human life in there (the original was, of course, the first ballet about "real", ordinary people), as opposed to the high-octane drama of things like Romeo & Juliet, Onegin, Mayerling, Manon ....  We may appreciate those as ballets, but really the situations they depict are pretty alien to most people's lives (I would hope!).  I think the scene between the lovers in the last act of Fille (and also Two Pigeons, for that matter) - if performed appropriately by the dancers - says far more about the caring, commitment, comfort and forgiveness that love and marriage should be about than any number of passionate pas de deux and balletic suicide pacts.

 

Oh yes Alison, exactly my feelings.  (I did think, many years ago, that after I had seen Fille 2 or 3 times I had had enough of it.  HOW WRONG CAN YOU BE!!!!!  I can't get enough of it now and love it more every time I see it.  

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1 hour ago, alison said:

Personally, I don't remotely regard Fille as "lightweight and silly" - there is a lot of real human life in there

 

I took penelopesimpson's agreement with me to be in relation to the general principle of my earlier post, rather than with this point in particular, as I overtly stated a few posts ago that I enjoy Fille.

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