I feel extremely fortunate to have been among those who saw Alicia Alonso’s acclaimed version of Don Quixote, accompanied by the Chicago Philharmonic at the Auditorium Theatre during their short run, May 18 -20. This ranks among the best ballet experiences I have had, and might top them all. What could be better than watching dance on the stage of the Auditorium Theatre, hearing the fantastic music of the Chicago Philharmonic playing the gorgeous music of Ludwig Minkus and the dancers of one of the best ballet companies in the world? It was worth the 15 year wait for the company to visit Chicago, to see them in action but one would hope their next visit will be much sooner than that.
“Don Quixote is an exciting and beloved ballet danced by the best companies in the world, and Ballet Nacional de Cuba has created a truly distinguished production that showcases Cuban dance traditions while respecting the integrity of the classic story ballet,” says Tania Castroverde Moskalenko, Auditorium Theatre CEO. “I am also thrilled to have the Chicago Philharmonic joining us to perform Ludwig Minkus’ beautiful score, which will elevate the ballet to new heights.” The Chicago Philharmonic had the opportunity to rehears with the dancers for several days ahead of the show under the baton of Giovanni Duarte, Ballet Nacional De Cuba’s music director. The music was magnificent and seemed to boost the exquisite dancing to still greater heights. A friend of mine was convinced that the orchestra had come along from Cuba.
Founded in 1948 by iconic ballerina Alicia Alonso, Ballet Nacional de Cuba has gained international recognition. It combines the best of European ballet culture with Cuban customs, and honors romantic and classical traditions with a wide-ranging repertoire that includes classic ballets such as Diana y Acteon, Giselle, and Esmerelda, as well as newer works by contemporary choreographers Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Peter Quanz. The company has toured around the world, performing in China, Spain, Holland, and more.
Don Quixote was the perfect ballet for this visit with its ties to the Iberian Peninsula. Alonso’s Don Quixote, premiered in 1988, is loosely based on the original tale by Miguel de Cervantes. The choreography of Marius Petipa and, Alexander Gorsky, with Alonso’s touch brings out a more dignified and respected Don Quixote. The story presents Kitri and Basilio, two star-crossed lovers who are determined to be together, even though Kitri was betrothal to another man. Don Quixote, a knight, arrives in town on a rather sad horse. He attempts to help the lovers with the assistance of his squire, Sancho Panza, and all the while, he dreams of and searches for his own lost love, the beautiful Dulcinea.
While the pas de deux from the third act of Don Quixote is frequently performed and well known, the entire ballet is rarely performed. What a treat to be able to see it and in Chicago! The dancers executed intricate and exquisite breath taking moves with absolute precision, seemingly without effort. It was a thrill to watch them. On the Sunday afternoon when I attended the principal dancers were Grettel Morejon as Kitri, the beautiful and Dani Hernandez as Basilio, town barber. Choreography is credited as Alicia Alonzo (artistic-choreographic direction) Marta Garcia and Maria Elena Llorente after the original version. Music by Ludwig Minkus is moving and beautiful. Salvador Fernandez was given credit for the libretto, scenery and costumes, which were colorful and charming. The Cuban spirit was alive and well, and added to a remarkable production. I would be remiss not to mention a charming scene in which Darion Darias as Sancho Panza is tossed in a blanket, and the stately Yansiel Pujada as Don Quixote, the errant. I especially loved watching the swirling skirts as dancers did pirouettes and other turns.
If you ever have an opportunity to see the Ballet Nacional De Cuba, don’t miss them. Below is information about upcoming programs at the Auditorium Theatre.