People protesting Russian actions in Ukraine lined the entrance of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, but that didn’t stop thousands from taking in the Bolshoi Ballet and Orchestra in its flashy version of “Don Quixote.”
Audiences came in the largest number seen at SPAC for ballet in years. Fans knew that they couldn’t miss rare opportunity to see this famed company, which traditionally only plays large American cities. Thus, the house was full, downstairs and up.
The company, with more than 200 dancers and an 80-member orchestra, did not disappoint. As expected, the Bolshoi razzle-dazzled with its color and its verve in a spectacle that made the SPAC stage look small.
“Don Quixote” is a grand production on every level. The sets and productions values are elaborate, glowing in the lighting that depicts shadowy glades, a bright Barcelona square and a luminous palace.
The costumes — cast in reds, golds and blacks — are eye-catching. But it’s the dancing that really draws attention. The men are tall and bold — blazing through multi-turns, soaring through the air and easily hoisting their female partners high above their heads with one hand. The women sparkle — winsome and supple — as both technicians and actors in this comedic romp.
The balletic adventures of Don Quixote, a work created in 1869 by Marius Petipa to music by Ludwig Minkus, begin with the romantic and chivalrous Don and his faithful friend Sancho Panza, who take off to right a world of wrongs. On their way, they encounter the true stars of the night, young lovers Kitri and Basilio. Though in love and wanting to marry, her father opposes the union and promises her hand to the clumsy dandy Gamache. But with the Don’s aid, Kitri’s father agrees to their marriage.
Of course, along the way there is much merry-making and magic — including meetings with a boisterous gang of cape-waving toreadors, a band of gypsies and a forest of pretty nymphs that further enchants the Don. It all ends happily with a royal wedding for Kitri and Basilio.
On opening night, the cast was phenomenal. Maria Alexandrova danced Kitri with a sly charm, knowing that the audience would be seduced by her allure. Vladislav Lantratov was her playful Basilio, portraying the role with unstoppable energy and elan. While their dancing was exciting, their grand pas at the final act was exceptional for its precision and finesse.
Other highlights included the duets with the virile Espada (Denis Rodkin) and slinky Mercedes (Kristina Karasyova), which were provocative. Karasyova’s backbend that ended with her upside-down face framed by her large skirt amazed.
The orchestra, under the baton of Pavel Klinichev, played so beautifully it received a mid-show standing ovation.
Needless to say, Bolshoi’s “Don Quixote,” which will run through Friday, is a must-see — even from the dreadfully muddy lawn.
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