BWW Review: DON QUIXOTE, Royal Opera House
Carlos Acosta's vibrant production of Don Quixote offers an all-thriller, no-filler evening complete with exuberant staging, grand and detailed sets fit for a West End musical, luxurious costuming, and a stellar cast in which there is not a single weak link.
Yes, I could easily give four stars and pick faults in some occasional scrappy corps de ballet moments, or the downright nonsense of the story, but sometimes something moves you to such an extent you can't be unemotional about the feeling of the overall experience.
It tracks the story of the titular character (played by an ever-dazed Christopher Saunders), a deluded noble who believes he is the successor of a medieval knights-errant and sets out with his companion Sancho Panza (David Yudes). On their way, they meet Kitri (Nunez), who is in love with Basilio (Muntagirov), but her father wishes for her to marry the doddery Gamache. Kitri and Basilio run away together and further adventures ensue.
Marianela Nunez and Vadim Muntagirov get a lot of opening nights and are always a solid, joyful pairing, but here they may just have found roles that define their partnership. Muntagirov is always a dependable, impassioned partner, but his Basilio demonstrates a transformation, and provides him opportunity to show off both his technical prowess and, most surprisingly of all, comic acting ability. I laughed out loud at his dry and well timed Act III antics and the sincerity with which Nunez reacted to him.
However, the evening does not just belong to the two starry Principals. Beatriz Stix-Brunell and and Yuhui Choe are flighty and spritely as Kitri's two spirited friends. Laura Morera is a vivacious treat as street dancer Mercedes, and Ryoichi Hirano reaches great heights in the extravagant leaps and jumps of Espada the Matador...and that's all just in Act I. It's enhanced by Tim Hatley's bright designs, in which onlookers gaze down onto the action from their rooftop balconies.
The beginning of Act II is a little slow, as the repetitive gypsy sequence is dark and overlong, but it matters not once Don Quixote falls into his dream and his vision of the magic garden inhabited by glittering fairies comes to life. The section is led capably by Anna Rose O'Sullivan who excels with beautiful, delicate musicality in Amour's demanding solo. Fumi Kaneko is similarly effortless as the Queen of the Dryads, while the corps de ballet elegantly frame the magical scene.
Act III, Scene II returns to the town square and is the setting for the spectacular pas de deux making for a majestic finale. Muntagirov's leaps add complexity to usually seen cabrioles with a scissor action in the middle and achieve soaring height that provokes audible gasps from the audience. Nunez effortlessly delivers the 32 fouettes with stylish aplomb, and together the pair receive the loudest spontaneous applause I've ever heard at the Opera House. Interestingly, they don't share the most electrifying chemistry; it's a warm glow, a slow-burner that entices you in and lingers in your mind.
If this production from Acosta hints at productions to come when he takes his role as Artistic Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet in 2020 then it's certainly an exciting appetiser. As for the company, handsomely cast from beginning to end, there are numerous performances to treasure.
Later in the run will see Yasmine Naghdi and Marcelino Sambé make their debuts in the central roles, as well as Natalia Osipova dancing Kitri with Muntagirov. If opening night is anything to go by, it may be worth seeing more than one cast.
Image credit: Dave Morgan