THE Australian Ballet’s opening night of the classic Don Quixote brought the house down. This well loved and light hearted drama is a vibrant Spanish tale of young love, noblemen and gypsies which the company brings to life in a performance mixed with beauty, comedy and fantasy.
Don Quixote has a history that dates well before its first Australian performance at the Adelaide Festival in 1970, when the young lovers were played by Lucette Aldous as Kitri and Rudolf Nureyev as Basilio. Nureyev went on to play Basilio alongside artists of The Australian Ballet in a 1973 film version, produced in Melbourne.
The story develops as Kitri and Basilio flee Barcelona after Kitri’s father Lorenzo (Francis Croese) wants her to marry the wealthy but foppish nobleman Gamache (Matthew Donnelly). Along the way, Kitri and Basilio encounter gypsies and the elderly Don Quixote who is on his own quest for adventure and accompanied by the ever faithful Sancho Panza.
In this much anticipated production, the lovers are played by principal artists Lana Jones (Kitri) and Daniel Gaudiello (Basilio) who dance with vitality and joy and are supported by a strong ensemble cast.
Perhaps opening night nerves played a hand in several miss-steps amongst the cast in the opening act but there were no signs of nerves by act two.
Against a stunning set design by Anne Frazer and lighting by Francis Croese, the Plain of Montiel provided a backdrop for several standout performances.
The ensemble cast clearly revel in the choreography and characterisation of free spirited gypsies and Amber Scott as the Queen of the Dryads is outstanding. In a witty dream sequence, children play puppet versions of the main characters to perfection, watched by Don Quixote played by Steven Heathcote.
Heathcote is a former principal of The Australian Ballet and confidently portrays the eccentric Don as he wrestles with the windmill during a storm on the Plain of Montiel. His duet with the ethereal Dulcinea (Lana Jones), who is at times held aloft by a cleverly concealed performer, is enchanting.
Frank Leo as Sancho Panza and Donnelly as Gamache drew delighted laughter from the audience throughout the ballet and in particular during Gamache’s dual with the Don.
Several times in the final act, a thrilled capacity audience cheered, lost in the moment as Jones and Gaudiello performed solos with the wedding pas de deux the ultimate highlight.
The Australian Ballet performs Don Quixote at the State Theatre until March 26.
This story also appears in Mojo