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The Royal Ballet: Don Quixote, 2014


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Carlos Acosta's production of Don 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!
 
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Marianela Nunez, Carlos Acosta
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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Tristan Dyer, Claire Calvert
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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Thomas Whitehead, Kristen McNally
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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Set from DanceTabs - Royal Ballet ‘Don Quixote’
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

By kind permission of the Royal Opera House

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It seems a little bit more 'pzazzy', but not hugely. There are some minor differences - no actor lying on the rock whilst the spirit of donQ interacts with the Dryads, for example. No exclamation when they drum on the tables in the bar scene in act 3. There may have been a few tweaks in the corps dances, but I couldn't put my finger on them. Don't think there was anything substantial though.

 

As for whatthe performance was like - Marianela Nunez and Carlos Acosta seemed to be having an absolute ball - lots of sunny smiles. little winks and shrugs to each other (and Ryoichi Hirano got in the act as Espada giving a saucy wink at the girls, and Mercedes in particular, in the bar scene). Got a standing ovation at the end - at least from what I could see of the stalls and stalls circle where i was. A thoroughly enjoyable, and fun-filled evening. I certainly left with a smile on my face.  :-)

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I was at last night's Takada/Campbell performance. I thought it got better as it went along, but the first act had me a bit worried, quite a few tiny slips, nothing major (one noticeable enough to have the audience audibly gasp) but enough to remind me of a Lauren Cuthberson interview where she said she usually advises friends and family to attend performances later in the run.

Regarding the principals, I believe this was Akane Takada's debut (please correct me if I'm wrong), so a late replacement over a month before her debut was initially scheduled might not have been ideal, there was nothing to fault really, but I was far from as entranced as I was by her Aurora, maybe it was the nerves but she seemed to be trying, and Kitri probably more than any other part should be effortless and cheeky, the latter was definitely missing. Campbell was very good and it's always nice to see him on stage, but he was missing the little something that can make this ballet truly special.

It was still a very fun and enjoyable evening, and I expect that the next performance I attend, also with Akane Takada as Kitri, will be a lot better.

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I hope that Takada wasn't slipping because of a problem with the floor, which they had last year. I also wonder why they bring forward debuts rather than replace injured dancers with dancers who are experienced in the role. It seems a bit unfair.

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 I also wonder why they bring forward debuts rather than replace injured dancers with dancers who are experienced in the role. It seems a bit unfair.

 

Maybe they chose to use Akane because she has not yet had a performance this season? [No doubt someone will say if they have seen her on stage but I have not been aware of her being cast in Manon, or the Quad or Triple Bills.] 

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It wasn't Akane's debut.  She danced one performance with Steven McRae in the last run, and I'm pretty sure she also replaced Roberta for some performances (again due to injury).  So presumably that's why she has replaced Roberta this time too, having danced with Alexander Campbell before.  

 

I really enjoyed last night's performance.  I'm not sure that Akane finds the characterisation of Kitri particularly natural (as I would imagine Marianela does, for example), but I thought she made a really good job of it, and her dancing was beautiful.  And I loved Alexander Campbell as Basilio.  I think he brings a naturalness to it whilst, at the same time, really "selling" the role. It was good to see, once again, lots of the younger dancers getting opportunities  - both Trystan Dyer and Reece Clarke stood out for me as matadors, and in fact, all the matadors seemed to have a lot more "oomph", so I think they must be settling into character a bit more on this run, having also taken it on tour in the summer.  (Valentino always had the characterisation, and I'm really looking forward to seeing him as Espada!).  It was lovely to see Fumi back as one of the (green) Dryads, as well as Anna-Rose O'Sullivan (I hope she will still be dancing Amour).  My first Don Q of many, and I can't wait for the rest.  One of my real "tonic ballets" (along with Fille)!

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I saw last night's performance with Nunez/Acosta and agree they were on fine form. Nunez seems to have made the role her own and the evident enjoyment and fun she and Acosta were having was indeed infectious .

 

I did miss Laura Morera. Mercedes did not make a great impression, I felt, but agree that her dress really needs to be more distinctive from Kitri's, esepcially on such a busy stage.

I saw Hirano last year as Espada, and once again I thought he was superb in the role, with just the right kind of haughtiness.

 

It did seem to me there was less shifting about  of sets in Act 1 - but I can't quite be sure.

 

Overall it was tremendous fun.

 

Echoing Oscar Wilde I must congratulate the audience, who were really quiet at the right moments and really warm and apprecative as well! There was a very happy atmosphere last night with a strong feeling of affection for the principals whcih added to the pleasure of the evening.

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Saw Akane/Cambell performance last Thursday. 


 


I love Akene as a dancer but she is not a natural Kitri, no love spark between her and Campbell, I really did not feel Kitri was in love with Basilio (Campbell), but Akane danced beautifully. 


 


Missed Laura Morera too as "Mercedes". Calvert, with all respect,  tried her best but she is no match to Morera who is just great in this roie!


 


I loved Yasmine Naghdi's "Amour", very different to the other Amours (Harrod, Hinkis) I have seen.  Naghdi is a supreme lyrical dancer and her portrayal of"Amour" was more "Good Fairy" but this is due to the costume: why is "Amour" wearing a tutu?? (she needs to be set apart from the Dryads!). Naghdi's arms are just so beautiful and fluttery, and her smile lit up the stage. I love her classical line!  She really made the role he own I must say. Watching again on 20th :) 


 


Don Q. is fun, and a suitable ballet to introduce newcomers to.

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I loved Yasmine Naghdi's "Amour", very different to the other Amours (Harrod, Hinkis) I have seen.  Naghdi is a supreme lyrical dancer and her portrayal of"Amour" was more "Good Fairy" but this is due to the costume: why is "Amour" wearing a tutu?? (she needs to be set apart from the Dryads!). Naghdi's arms are just so beautiful and fluttery, and her smile lit up the stage. I love her classical line!  She really made the role he own I must say. Watching again on 20th :)

Thanks for posting this Nina G. 'Amour' is one of my favourite ballet characters and Yasmine Naghdi is my favourite dancer this year, from your description I can just about imagine how she would have performed! I wish the ROH would publish more detailed cast lists - I may have booked a Don Q if I had known Yasmine was dancing Amour.

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I went to see the matinee performance of this production today and had a fantastic time.  Initially I was dubious about how much the cast change for Roberta Marquez would effect my enjoyment, as I had thought she would be a perfect fit for the role, but it turned out to be a seamlessly danced piece with a lot of comedy thrown in.  I had been in two minds about whether to go at all due to exhaustion and had meant to sell my ticket weeks ago.  I can't tell you how pleased I am that I didn't and ended up in the front row of the amphitheatre today watching such a lovely, heartfelt dance that allowed to leave the ROH a little lighter myself.

 

This is the perfect antidote to winter,  light, fun and colourful to look at, and a real credit to the RB.  Recently I saw the BRB's Nutcracker which was the perfect show to see this season, so I wasn't expecting too much today, but am so glad I made the effort to see this, as it was so lovely to escape winter for a few hours and delight in the sunny, fun atmosphere provided at ROH this afternoon.

 

I loved every second of the beautifully created sets, particularly the scene in act ii where the ballerinas blended, seemingly with the flowers in the background, I was so struck by the beauty of this, I felt like I was watching a painting.  Overall there were many funny, passionate moments provided.

 

 

Alexander Campbell was superb, and the scene where he seems to stab himself in jealously is hysterical, both he and Akane Takada brought a real sense of comedy to the moment.  Mr Campbell is an incredible dancer, and I chose this performance for that reason, and he didn't disappoint.  I really think this is a show piece for the company as whole, and showed what the Royal Ballet can do at it's very best.

 

My only regret is that I hadn't booked a second viewing of this ballet.  Loved it.

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I don't know whether Vadim Muntagirov has danced his first role in this for the RB but he has posted a video on Facebook which luckily a friend shared with me .....and he looks phenomenal in this!!

Lucky those who are going to see him in this ballet looks like you've a treat in store!!

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I don't know whether Vadim Muntagirov has danced his first role in this for the RB but he has posted a video on Facebook which luckily a friend shared with me .....and he looks phenomenal in this!!

Lucky those who are going to see him in this ballet looks like you've a treat in store!!

 

 Vadim's first Don Q show is the matinee on 30th December but he has his first Alice with Francesca Hayward before that - i.e. on Christmas Eve - although, of course, he danced the opening night of that with Sarah Lamb on 6th December.

Edited by capybara
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Saw the Acosta Don Q this evening (my first for this season) and again remained entirely underwhelmed by the overall production ... especially as led by the entirely waterlogged orchestration.  It is - in a word - shocking.  For me it has an entirely deadening effect.  Highlights of the evening were - once again - some of the (i) beautiful costumes - so stunningly constructed - (ah, what subsidy can buy), (ii) Francesca Hayward who glimmered delicately as Amour; (iii) Thomas Whitehead who dazzled as Gamache without ever going completely over the top or resorting to pulling focus and (iv) Morera's entirely enticing Mercedes.  Hay also (v) impressed as the chief beggar boy.

 

Osipova's Kitri added zeal to her first act - trying her very best to keep Acosta's different factions together.  It was in her third Act One variation that she fell on (and then slid over) the floor with her right hand crushed under her thigh.  The audience gasp/cry was completely audible.  IF there was one element that might have contributed towards her downfall - and I do believe it was entirely an accident - it was the music .. rather than (or perhaps in addition to) the oft reported infamy of this production's stage floor.  Osipova would be used to dancing that variation at a substantially brighter (e.g., faster) speed.  She may have been trying to stretch her sense memory out and fell/slid as a result.  She did some fine - lightning speed - diagonal turns immediately thereafter but her injury would not have had time to initially set.  Her body would still have been in shock.  In the adagio that followed she was grasping her own thigh under Golding's hold and you could feel the freeze of her pain begin to set in with an early onset of mandated stiffness.  By the time she was placed on the cart to escape with her beau it was clear that Golding was asking her if she was alright ... and you could see the discomfort in Osipova's face as she was being wheeled out.  Takada took over with distinction it must be said; holding clear and substantial balances in the third act adagio.  Golding was manful but heavy throughout and the laughter that was reported in the matinee with Campbell in the first scene of this production's third act was here entirely absent.  All somehow seemed forced.  I should perhaps additionally point out that the third act solo variations for both Kitri and Basilio were cut entirely and the production itself over-ran by at least 45 minutes for completely understandable reasons.

 

I would imagine that Osipova's right thigh will be well and truly swollen tomorrow and the soft tissue damage will take at least a month to subside in terms of pain and longer for the effects of the interior bleeding to be fully subsumed.  I sincerely doubt that she will do her other two DQ performances.  [it would not be prudent under the circumstances.]   Additionally I suspect her Oneign outings might well be in doubt.  (Given that the Cranko was built for a (very fine) ballerina at the end of her career, upper leg strength is at a minimum for the principal female dancer but - as a direct result - the amount of partnering included would mean that area which Osipova wished to understandably protect would be given undue focus.)  Kevin O'Hare (who personally announced the replacement from the stage after a prolonged interval - during which period NO announcements were made in any ROH lobby) surely must want to protect Osipova's appearances in the RB cinema relays of SL and LFMG [if at all possible] given that they may well be hoping for a DVD release of at least one to join with the Osipova Giselle commercially distributed this year.

Edited by Sim
Removed a sentence alluding to a dancer's private life.
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Well fellow forum member MargS and I enjoyed a fabulous afternoon of ballet yesterday.

 

This ballet has really bedded in since its opening season last year and I think it is a credit to Carlos Acosta and the dancers of the Royal Ballet that it comes across so joyously.

 

People who know me will know exactly why I booked yesterday afternoon's performance and I was not disappointed!

 

Akane Takada was a delight to me as Kitri - hers is a much gentler portrayal than the feisty Roberta Marquez but I liked her very much indeed.  She was absolutely sublime in the Dryad scene.  Also in the Dryad scene I loved Yasmine Naghdi as Amour.  Ex-NB favourite Isabella Gasparini stood out from the crowd for me too.

 

Alexander Campbell gave a wondrous performance as Basilio - he really inhabited the character and his dancing was enthralling - the one-handed lifts in act 1 were show stoppers!  He brought just the right amount of humour into it too with plenty of laughs throughout - it's amazing what eyebrow-ography can add to an interpretation!  I thought he and Akane were terrific together, with a great rapport.

 

All the dancers on stage really looked as though they were enjoying themselves.

 

I am very glad I was there to witness this wonderful performance.

 

It was lovely to see fellow Forum members Josephine, Don Q Fan and Jmhopton too.  I'm just sorry I missed Tony and Michelle and any other Forum members there.

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I quite agree JMcN's comments on the matinee. I must also add how much I liked Johannes Stepanek as Gamache...a super fop!!

I also attended the evening performance with Osipova and Golding. All was going really well until Osipova slipped and took a heavy tumble onto her front. She got up and carried on to finish the last few steps of the Act but that was sadly the last we saw of her. A long wait after the interval and then Kevin O'Hare came on stage to announce with regret that Osipova would not be able to continue and was very sorry. She was receiving physio. I wish her a speedy recovery.

Akane Takada was then brought back to carry on the show. She was, as previously in the afternoon, lovely and I really enjoyed her performance. The audience gave her a huge round of applause when she appeared on stage which was a really lovely gesture.

Matthew Golding seemed very comfortable in the role of Basilio and I really liked Francesca Hayward as Amour. Of course one of my favourite pieces in the whole show has to be the gypsies where the guitars are played on stage. I loved this piece again and still think it an inspired piece of choreography on Acosta's part and is better than the usual puppet scene. Hirano was definitely the best Espada of the day he inhabits the part 100%. Laura Morera was good but she had a couple of minor slips I think, as did Calvert as Queen of the Dryads. I do wonder if there was a problem with the floor surface.

Overall 2 very enjoyable...if eventful...performances roll on 3rd January.

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Bruce - many thanks for this explanation. I was really shocked by the fall. For a dancer so in control, and so in control of this role (albeit not in this iffy production), it really seemed all the more shocking. Must admit I'm disappointed about outlook re future appearances - managed to get the last amphi seat for Jan 5 last night! And yes Onegin tickets are on my book shelf.

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We all see things differently but for me this production of Don Quixote is ponderous,dull, totally unamusing, with too many occasions when the action grinds to a stop while we wait for the next outbreak of dancing. The sets and costumes reveal how little Acosta and his designer understand the very basics of ballet design which at their simplest are to provide sets and costumes which clearly establish time and place. A set should provide an uncluttered space for dancing with no visual distractions such as large flowers and moving houses. Costumes should assist in creating character as well as making their wearers more visible ensuring that they don't merge into each other or into the sets or the floor and are visible from all parts of the house; here the choice of colours and  their shades is all important.The choice of beige and brown for Basilio, pale mauve for Kitri's friends and washed out colours for the female corps do nothing to establish place or character or to assist their visibility; the costumes for the classical interlude of the vision scene are far too fussy. It is all very well to want to break away from tradition but sometimes traditions establish themselves not as a result of laziness but because those solutions work.

 

This is a ballet that requires whole hearted commitment with large scale dancing and characterisation to make it work. The company still do not seem at home in it;there are too many occasions when the stage is devoid of action and these gaps seem to be filled,if at all, by a lot of pointless shouting.In the first act the corps are more like the boys and girls in a pantomime than a group of dancers creating the world of Don Quixote as imagined by Gorsky.The performers, for the main part,lack the necessary vibrancy and panache to make the ballet work;their dancing is too small, too prim, too proper and too careful. They reproduce the steps well enough but never let rip and just dance the ballet. It's a bit like hearing someone recite a speech from a play without attempting to create mood or character or give the text meaning.It is true that they are not helped in their efforts by the costumes or by the  re-orchestrated score which at times makes it sound like palm court music but as this is the Royal's third unsuccessful staging of the ballet perhaps they should call it a day after this run and revert to Ashton next Christmas. A newly designed Cinderella, or a mixed bill of Les Patineurs and Two Pigeons or another revival of Fille  would all be preferable to a

further revival of a ballet which I don't think will ever suit the company. The truth is that unless a company is willing and able to perform Don Q with the sort of whole hearted vulgarity that the Bolshoi brings to it then there is little point in staging it. Its  music is undistinguished and the choreography is Gorsky's  not Petipa's since it derives from Gorsky's early twentieth century revival which according to Petipa  destroyed his ballet by destroying his floor plans.

 

As for last night's performance the cuts that were made might have been due to the late running of the performance but they are just as likely to have been made to accommodate Takada who had already danced Kitri  at the matinee. 

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Must admit I'm disappointed about outlook re future appearances -

 

Bless you, Vanartus,  My definition above was, of course, - and as I think I pointed out - but my supposition.  Still the defining thud of Osipova's fall was itself every bit as substantial as the velocity of audience's retort in alarm.   I can't conceive that there won't have been some soft tissue injury under those frightening circumstances.    

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It's disappointing (to me) to hear that the pastel costumes have not been changed as, IMO, they create the wrong mood. Furthermore, Kitri's costume is too similar to Mercedes'. I saw several performances (with different casts) last year and none really did it for me. As FLOSS has said, it was all a bit too prim. I'm only going again this year because Vadim is dancing (I nearly went to Natalia's performance yesterday but decided to sell my ticket). It's not a natural role for him and so I will be interested to see how he gets on. Unlike FLOSS, I love the sets and costumes (and the choreography) in the vision scene, but last year some of the solos were indifferently danced. I will report back on the performances which I see.

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I agree with much of what you say, FLOSS, and much admire the fact that you say it so articulately.  Bless you. 

 

When I mentioned the costumes above I was really referring to the construct not the concept.  Those bodices for Amour and the Queen of Dryads are works of constructive art in and of themselves.  The detail of such is truly stunning.  It is, of course, THAT artistry which the tax payers' money has unquestionably bought.  My comments were at a remove I fear from the overall pallet of the production's dressing. 

 

I so additionally agree about your 'palm court' observation with respect to certain aspects of this soggy orchestration.  The music so often - from my perspective at least - appears soused.  It seems to me that Martin Yates wanted to fashion Don Q into something it was never intended to be in the first place - and certainly much too pallid.  Why?  Surely such peradventure can only lead towards an unhappy marriage.  Where I wonder were the overseeing powers-that-be when the initial alignment of these objectives were first being muted? 

Edited by Bruce Wall
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If the video he has posted on Facebook is anything to go by Vadim Muntagirov will very soon be making it his role Aileen!!

Very sorry indeed to hear about Osipova's injury. She has certainly had some bad luck this year.

Edited by LinMM
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 It's not a natural role for him and so I will be interested to see how he gets on. 

 

The 'him' being Vadim.....

 

I think that you might have to eat your hat on this one, Aileen. Vadim danced the DQ pdd when at the RBS and was already pretty spectacular. I saw him do it in a gala more recently and he was amazing. I also have no doubt that his characterisation will be spot on too. Roll on the 30th December I say.

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Well we were originally going to be away by this date but are not going now till Jan5th(saving £400 EACH incidentally these holiday firms have got a bit of a cheek really!!)

Anyway as will now be in UK on the 30th am seriously thinking of getting a last minute ticket for this. Haven't been on the website to check yet but no doubt sold out so will have to queue on the day. Ive always been 95 per cent lucky with this to date!!

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