Sunday, 29 September 2013

Don Quixote Dress Rehearsal

Don Quixote dress rehearsal, Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House - reviewed on 28th September
Mayara Magri, Pietra Mello-Pittman, Claudia Dean, Sabina Westcombe,
Carlos Acosta and Benjamin Ella rehearsing Don Quixote. Photo: Andrej Uspenski / ROH
As this was a dress rehearsal rather than a performance, I can't write a full review, but I enjoyed Carlos Acosta's new production of Don Quixote so much that I felt compelled to blog!
 
I am not really a Don Q fan, thinking it a silly and laborious story, but the narrative in this version is so clear, well-constructed and convincingly performed that it makes the work a real pleasure. The sets and costumes are superb, although a minor criticism would be that scene changes are often too noticeable with houses sliding repeatedly across the stage. The atmosphere onstage, however, is nothing short of spectacular - as the corps de ballet click, clap and shout 'olĂ©', there is a really vibrant feel that it is impossible not to enjoy.

In the title role, Gary Avis was his usual captivating self, acting charmingly and and finding a great sense of humour in the choreography. There were also some other great supporting performances - Anna Rose O'Sullivan was a bright and sprightly Cupid, and Thomas Whitehead (Gamache) and Jonathan Howells (Don Quixote's Squire) played their comic characters with excellence.
 
Photo: ROH/ Johan Persson
The Royal Ballet has lost many of its star dancers recently, with the retirements of Mara Galeazzi and Leanne Benjamin and then the sudden departure of Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg. Left without an in-house partner, Steven McRae is performing Don Quixote alongside Staatsballett Berlin principal Iana Salenko, and it was this pair that took to the stage as the leads for the dress rehearsal.

While they have had little rehearsal time as yet and so their partnering was wobbly at times, individually both McRae and Salenko shone. The former's firework leaps and spins were an undoubted crowd-pleaser and the latter's beautiful coquettish smile, impressive balance and elegant, long lines delighted equally. What was perhaps even more enjoyable in this cast is how McRae flirted with Kitri's friend, danced by his real-life wife, Elizabeth Harrod, and then had to insist she meant nothing to him!

Acosta descrives the ballet as "very uplifting" with "big jumps and big dancing". As the first work of the Royal Ballet 2013/14 season, Don Quixote has a real bang and gives the company a great start to the year ahead.

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