The choreography of the performance is based on the Petipa-Gorsky version – the best version of all time – because their idea and famous dance scenes made this ballet last in the theatres worldwide for more than 150 years. Of course, I adjusted, summarized or cut some fragments so the show can have the continuity I wanted, to have speed and measure. I wanted to render the action in a clear and rational way and as a director I was following a convincing game but also a “colourful” depiction of the characters. Jaroslav Slavický – choreographer
I believe that a stage designer for a ballet performance must look for an artistic solution meant to guide him by a certain model, to find the appropriate form of displaying the requirements of classical ballet. Thus, when creating the costumes, I was influenced by the Hispanic environment and as such the costumes complete the décor, by giving the show a joyful atmosphere. I imagined the dance area in warm colours in order to create a bright composition, typical for the geographical space where the action takes place. Josef Jelínek – sets and costumes designer
The Adventures of a Chevalier
Mostly known for the diversity of dance steps, the ballet “Don Quixote” with music by Ludwig Minkus, was based on the script and choreography by Marius Petipa, the story of the two lovers, Kitri and Basilio, having as a source of inspiration an episode from the well-known novel by Miguel de Cervantes, “Don Quixote de la Mancha”. First performed in four acts and eight scenes, in 1869, at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, the ballet was revised by Minkus and Petipa who created a more elaborate version, including five acts and 11 scenes. The most well-known version of the ballet “Don Quixote” – the groundwork for many modern productions – was the staging signed by Alexander Gorsky, in 1902, at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg. Among the new elements introduced by Gorsky in his adaptation are the two variations composed by Riccardo Drigo: one for “pas de deux”, at the end of the ballet, and the other for the scene with Don Quixote’s dream.
Prologue. Don Quixote’s house, in Castile. Don Quixote, an old nobleman, dreams with his eyes wide open of a life full of heroic acts and of the beautiful Dulcinea, who represents his female ideal. He decides to travel in search of fabulous adventures and he takes his faithful servant, Sancho Panza, with him, as a squire.
A market in Seville. A few citizens gathered in front of Lorenzo’s inn. Kitri, Lorenzo’s daughter, can be seen in the crowd. She’s looking forward to meeting her lover, Basilio the barber. He sees her and teases her by courting her friends, and then he dances with her. Lorenzo doesn’t approve of their love and separates them. Gamache enters; he is a rich and ridiculously arrogant nobleman, who tries to win over Kitri’s heart. Lorenzo is very content: there’s an ideal candidate for Kitri! But Kitri is not so overjoyed with the idea and mocks Gamache.
On their way to the bullfight, a group of toreadors enter the marketplace, led by Espada and Mercedes the dancer. The overall joy is interrupted by the arrival of a weird couple of adventurers, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. They halt at Lorenzo’s inn. In the meantime, Kitri and Basilio return to the marketplace where Don Quixote is charmed by Kitri’s beauty. He has finally found his Dulcinea!
To be together, against her father’s wishes, Kitri decides to run off with Basilio. They are followed by Lorenzo and Gamache, also joined by Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
Kitri and Basilio wander about in a gipsy camp, near a windmill. The gipsies have offered them shelter and hiding from Lorenzo and Gamache. Soon, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza enter the camp, tired from their journey. Don Quixote sees Kitri again and decides to act brave to win her heart: he thinks the windmill is a giant and he fights with it. Thrown away by the windmill’s whip, he falls and hurts himself and then he falls asleep. In his dream he is hit by Cupid’s arrow and he believes that in the end he will meet with Dulcinea. Don Quixote wakes up the moment that Lorenzo and Gamache, furious, approach the windmill, searching for Kitri and Basilio. They have not left the camp. Don Quixote is trying to protect Kitri from her followers, shows Lorenzo the wrong way, but Sancho Panza, independent of his will, shows him the right way. The only solution now to help Kitri is that Don Quixote and Sancho catch up with them and warn them.
A crowd is gathered at a fiesta in an inn. After the bullfight that day, the toreadors enter with Espada and Mercedes in their lead. They dance and people are happy. Kitri and Basilio rush in, looking for a hiding place from Lorenzo and Gamache. The followers find them. Lorenzo isn’t interested to hear Kitri’s pleadings and wants her to become engaged to Gamache on the spot. Basilio, desperate, pretends to commit suicide. Don Quixote also arrives at the inn. Upon Kitri’s request, he convinces Lorenzo to satisfy Basilio’s last wish and give the lovers his blessing. He thinks Basilio is dead, thus he accepts, but in the following moment Basilio rises unharmed. Lorenzo realises he has been fooled, but it is too late. Kitri is happy that Basilio’s plan ended the way they wanted.
Kitri and Basilio get married. Don Quixote is among the guests of honour at the wedding and he wishes them happiness. After that, he leaves on a new journey of adventures, in the search of Dulcinea.
One of the outstanding adaptations of Ludwig Minkus’s ballet were created by John Lanchbery, world-renowned choreographer and founder of the New York City Ballet. The show is centred on Don Quixote, just like in the novel by Cervantes, and was staged for the first time in 1965, in New York, and has been performed twice since then: at the Suzanne Farell Ballet Company in Washington and at the National Ballet in Canada.
Ninel Kourgapkina, who performed countless times the role ofBasilio, revised the choreography by Marius Petipa and Gorsky and presented it in a new version in 1966, for Vienna State Opera.
An original view on the story of Don Quixote is also that of Carlos Acosta, who, after having performed many times the role of Basilio, created the choreography for a show inspired by Petipa’s version, presented for the first time this year, at the Royal Opera House “Covent Garden” in London.