A showcase for the charismatic Carlos Acosta and Marianela Nunez

A showcase for the charismatic Carlos Acosta and Marianela Nunez

Robert Tanitch reviews Don Quixote at the Royal Opera House, London


Carlos Acosta as Basilio

There have been a great number of ballets based on Cervantes picaresque novel. The Marius Petipa/Alexander Gorsky version, dating from 1902, is easily the most popular; but, it has very little to do with the knight-errant and as for the music, Ludwig Minkus is no Tchaikovsky.

Don Quixote is always a bit of a disappointment.  But can Carlos Acosta’s production and choreography reverse the trend and drag the ballet into the 21st century and make it more exciting and more accessible?

The answer is not really. It’s all rather dull and unconvincing. Don Quixote (Christopher Saunders) is so peripheral that he could be cut completely. He has very little to do; even his potentially big scene with the windmill, possibly the most famous scene in the whole novel, goes for nothing.

And as for Sancho Panza, he needs to be mimed by a comic steeped in the commedia dell’arte slapstick tradition, if he is to make you laugh.

Ryoichi Hirano as Espada ©Johan Persson

Ryoichi Hirano as Espada

Designer Tim Hatley provides a pretty square with houses which decide, since everybody else is dancing, they, too, might get into the act. They start moving about the stage.

The windmill also goes walking and grows so large that it resembles a Dalek.I had hoped for a scene looking like something out of a Gustave Dore’s illustration; but no such luck.

Tanitch at the theatre LogoCarlos Acosta’s version is what Don Quixote has always been: a showcase for the dancers cast as the young lovers and various soloists in the company.

Audiences coming solely to see the virtuoso and charismatic Acosta, all smiles and charm, and Marianela Nunez, dazzling in her fouettés, will not be disappointed.

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Images © Johan Persson