A Fantastic Quest for Dreams of Nobility
CHICAGO—“Don Quixote” was slated for February 2022 but was put on hold due to COVID. Now the Joffrey Ballet has brought him onto the opera stage, doing everything possible to catch up. The exhilarating presentation was worth the wait.
While there’s no compromise on the show’s production values and the athletic dancers are in top form, his show doesn’t drown out the meaning and ethos of recent, uplifting adaptations.
Heroic vision and imagination
Indeed, the novel “Don Quixote” (1605) has had a profound impact on the world to this day: there is the Broadway musical and film “The Man from La Mancha” and, of course, there is has the ballet.
Written by Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616), the novel “Don Quixote” tells the adventures of a character who, in our fairly recent adaptations, is heroic in pursuing his own vision and living the life he imagined. The philosophy that lies in the enduring story is one that appeals to individuals, young and old of all ages. The theme of accommodations, that one’s life should be lived passionately, adhering to one’s own values despite what others think, is timeless.
The story follows an aging nobleman whose productive years are behind him and who spends his time reading novels of chivalry; soon his imagination runs wild and he sees himself as the heroic figure in one of these novels.
He finds a farmer, Sancho Panza, whom he persuades to be his squire, and the two go on a quest. During his escapades, Quixote imagines that windmills are dangerous warriors with whom he must fight, that sheep are enemies that he must fight, and that a barber’s metal sink is a helmet. once worn by a famous knight.
As a chivalrous protector, he must fight for a lady, and so he transforms a humble peasant into the noble Dulcinea. Indeed, one of the wonderful things about Quixote is how he sees the good in those who don’t see it in themselves, and in doing so brings out the best in them.
Elegant scenography and music
The story unfolds with the elegant direction of Nicholas Blanc, the imaginative choreography of Yuri Possokhov, based on the classical choreography of Marius Petitpa.
The original music by Ludwig Minkus comes from the Russian production of the Bolshoi Ballet, delightfully performed by the Lyric Opera Orchestra conducted by Scott Speck.
Backdrop and lighting by Jack Mehler, which features beautiful sunny images, recall a landscape of windmills and country towns, and projections by designer Wendall Harrington and projection programmer Paul Vershbow add to the atmosphere of yesteryear of the show’s ballet.
Travis Halsey’s lavish 17th-century Spanish period costumes emphasize the physicality of the extraordinary dancers, and the flight effects of Flying by Foy reinforce the magical aspect of Quixote’s fantastical state.
The exquisite production, which unfolds in a series of dream sequences, focuses on the character of Quixote, played by Miguel Angel Blanco, and his sidekick Derrick Agnoletti as comedian Sancho Panza.
A secondary implication occurs with a romance between Dylan Gutierrez, the barber, who has romantic aspirations towards the innkeeper’s daughter Kitri, given charming portrayal by Victoria Jaiani.
Some of the production highlights include Gutierrez sweeping the stage in gravity-defying leaps and Jaiani’s dizzying spiral turns; Brooke Linford as Mercedes and Stefan Goncalvez in a breathtaking combination of ballet and flamenco; and Quixote’s horse Rocinante, a larger-than-life puppet from Vonorthal Puppets, which is brought to life by Andre McGregor II and David Oldano who inhabit the horse’s skin.
20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago
Information: 312.386.8905 or visit Joffrey.org
Duration: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Closing: June 12, 2022