Review: DON QUIXOTE, Royal Opera House

Carlos Acosta brings Spanish sunshine and spectacular dreams to Covent Garden

By: Oct. 02, 2023
Review: DON QUIXOTE, Royal Opera House

Review: DON QUIXOTE, Royal Opera House In England, high summer was more low than elevated, but early Autumn has been warm and sunny. So it’s more of a jolt than is usually the case to see darkness, no old friend of mine, elbowing into each day before it’s even 7pm. The antidote? Well, short of going to Spain, why not let Spain come to us?

That’s what Carlos Acosta (Cuban, but channelling his Spanish dimension) does with his 2013 production for The Royal Ballet, revived just in time to banish the winter blues before they’ve had a chance to grip. On opening night, he even took the least ostentatious bow I’ve ever seen on this stage, dragged out by his prima ballerina for a coy smile and wave - now retired and in his 50s, he looked fit enough to break out the tights and pumps and dance again.

Not that he would need to, as he was served superbly by a cast that found the fun in Cervantes’ classic (well, a couple of sections of it - it’s a big book) with lots of comedy, lots of romance and lots of technically accomplished dancing, even if, at times, they looked a little like they were trying to catch up with the orchestra, driven at some pace by Valery Ovsyanikov.

The laughs come from mainly from Philip Mosley’s chancer of a servant, Sancho Panza, and the tilter at windmills, the dreamer questing for imaginary knightly honour, Don Quixote himself (Christopher Saunders, never knowingly under-strutted). A shout for Thomas Whitehead too, a preening Gamache, the nobleman who ignobly pursues Kitri, but gets, if not the girl, then a girl, in the end.

The heart of the work is the romance between the Kitri, the gold-digging butcher’s daughter, and Basilo, the dashing barber. Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov are indulged with plenty of applause the first time they appear on stage, but they go on to show why their reputations precede them, with dance after dance combining power, balance and grace, simply gorgeous to behold and not short of an ineffable chemistry either. There was anticipation brewing for their interpretation of the celebrated Act III pas de deux and it did not disappoint, Nuñez, not for the first time, proving to be a gifted actress as well as dancer. 

Another highlight was literature's most famous dreamer’s dream. Don Quixote, wounded in his fight with the monstrous windmill, falls into a sleep in which The Queen of the Dryads, a will-of-the-wispish Annette Buvoli, promises him his paramour, Dulcinea, an ethereal Nadia Mullova-Barley, and we wonder why our dreams cannot be so beautiful.

Ludwig Minkus’s music may come up short of the big set pieces of Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev, still decades in the future when he wrote his score, but its very lightness, strings to the fore, seems to raise the lifts on stage and our spirits in the stalls. Matadors and gipsies do the things they always do in ballets and operas, albeit with an individuality sometimes denied them and the good guy gets the good girl in the end. You come out into the chaos of Covent Garden with a spring in your step, metaphorically, if not literally - after all, we’ve just seen what real springs look like!

Roll in Tim Hatley’s sets and Hugh Vanstone’s ravishing lighting, especially in the dream sequences, and what’s not to like? Well, maybe we miss a central moment of drama, a raising of the stakes for lovers and fighters, but perhaps that would imbalance the comic elements that are never far away. And detract from a show that has confidence in its willingness to entertain, first, second and third and delivers that much undervalued proposition over nearly three hours that just flies by.

Don Quixote is at the Royal Opera House until 17 November

Photo Credit: Andrej Uspenski




BroadwayWorld Awards Voting


Cast and Creative Team Set for EXHIBITIONISTS World Premiere at Kings Head Theatre Photo
Cast and Creative Team Set for EXHIBITIONISTS World Premiere at King's Head Theatre

Full cast and creative team have been revealed for the world premiere of Exhibitionists by Shaun McKenna and Andrew Van Sickle, a dazzling new gay romantic comedy about love, sex, happiness and freedom set in the San Francisco art world.

Video: First Look at EVITA at Leicesters Curve Theatre Photo
Video: First Look at EVITA at Leicester's Curve Theatre

Leicester’s Curve's Made at Curve production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita is running 27 November 2023 to 13 January 2024. Check out footage of the production in this all new video!

Photos: First Look at Gavin Adams, Desmonda Cathabel, Yeukayi Ushe, and More in the UK and Photo
Photos: First Look at Gavin Adams, Desmonda Cathabel, Yeukayi Ushe, and More in the UK and Ireland Tour of ALADDIN

All new production photos have been released for the first ever UK and Ireland tour of Disney’s Aladdin. Check out the photos here!

Ellie Goulding Announces Special Intimate Royal Albert Hall Show Photo
Ellie Goulding Announces Special Intimate Royal Albert Hall Show

Multiplatinum-selling singer/songwriter Ellie Goulding has announced a special Royal Albert Hall show with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra. Ellie's vision to perform with orchestra will come to life on the concert stage at these intimate shows. Don't miss this unique performance!

From This Author - Gary Naylor

Gary Naylor is chief London reviewer for BroadwayWorld ( and feels privileged to see so much of his home city's theatre. He writes about ... Gary Naylor">(read more about this author)



Recommended For You