Boston Ballet’s stunning Don Quixote ushers in a very exciting, diverse season

Jeffrey Cirio and Misa Kuranaga in Rudolf Nureyev's Don Quixote; photo by Gene Schiavone; courtesy of Boston Ballet
Jeffrey Cirio and Misa Kuranaga in Rudolf Nureyev's Don Quixote; photo by Gene Schiavone; courtesy of Boston Ballet /

Of all the classical full-length ballets, Don Quixote is probably the most exuberantly dance-focused. It’s a fun, stylistic ballet chock full of verve and zest, and the production by the Boston Ballet did not disappoint.

Don Quixote (or “Don Q” to balletomanes) concluded its run at the beautiful Citizens Bank Opera House in downtown Boston, with a final performance on March 26.

Although the ballet gets its namesake from Miguel Cervantes’ 16th-century novel, the three-act ballet’s main focus is on the playful love story of Kitri and Basilio, kind of the confident hotties of the neighborhood who flirt with everyone but are destined only for each other. With that sensibility in mind, Ji Young Chae as Kitri/Dulcinea and Jeffrey Cirio as Basilio perfectly complimented each other. Their dancing was beautifully executed and exciting to watch, making the pair a captivating partnership.

Don Q has always relied on its distinctly energetic pas de Deux that offers a fun, flamenco-influenced flair, and both Chae and Cirio— who I saw on opening night—executed the engaging style with aplomb. Additionally, they brought the house down with their dynamic solos, with Chae’s flawless execution of the 32 fouetté turns in Act III especially impressive.

For balletomanes, the second act of Don Q is considered the epitome of classical ballet at its sublime best. It represents the dream sequence of Don Quixote’s search for his beloved Dulcinea after he has passed out trying to defeat the windmill which he mistakes for a monster (the story always reads much worse than watching the well-executed ballet, which ties it all together seamlessly, like Boston Ballet’s production). Viktorina Kapitonova’s Queen of the Dryads and Chisako Oga’s Amour along with Ji Young Chae as Don Q’s dream Dulcinea certainly brought an ethereal quality to the act.

The strength of Boston Ballet’s production culminated in the last act, which opened like a dramatic Goya painting, with dark colors, smoke, and sumptuous flamenco attire. I was not the only one in the audience who gasped at the scene once the curtain rose. The visionary spectacle was brought to life by Nicholas Georgiadis’ set design, Brandon Stirling Baker’s lighting, and Clairemarie Osta’s staging, all of which meticulously complimented the late Rudolph Nureyev’s effective choreography. Daniel Rubin brought great dignity to the title role, while Isaac Akiba as his buffoonish sidekick, Sancho Panza, Kitri’s father, Lorenzo (Alec Roberts), and the town wealthy fop—who Lorenzo tries to set Kitri up with—Gamache (John Lam), injected the production with fun comic relief.

When Rudolph Nureyev first re-choreographed the ballet in 1982—after the 1869 version by Marius Petipa—it gave the Boston Ballet a new stature among the ballet elite. Bringing back this stylish Don Q was the perfect way to open a sensation season.

Up next for the Boston Ballet is an evening of two insightful contemporary pieces, “Our Journey,” beginning April 6, at the Citizens Bank Opera House, that focuses on shared human connections in an ever-changing world. The first piece by Justin Pek, “Everywhere We Go,” is an energetically choreographed piece set to music by GRAMMY and Academy Award-nominated artist Sufjan Stevens.

In addition to Peck’s work, Boston Ballet will premiere an ocean-themed dance by female choreographer Nanine Linning that explores the theme of conservation. The world premiere will feature the live orchestral playing of Claude Debussy’s sweeping “La Mer” as well as the virtuosic women’s vocal group Lorelei Ensemble performing Debussy’s “Sirènes,” in collaboration with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI).

The Boston Ballet’s stellar season will conclude with the full-length ballet, The Sleeping Beauty May 25. For more information, please visit Boston Ballet’s website.

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