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Bolshoi Ballet: Don Quixote review at Royal Opera House, London – ‘fantastic’

Scene from the Bolshoi Ballet Don Quixote at the Royal Opera House, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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The past is a foreign country. Whatever problems the Bolshoi Ballet company has had are history. It now lives in the present. And its opening ballet for its London season is appropriately a new production of an old favourite: Don Quixote, Marius Petipa’s Spanish fantasia that premiered in 1869 before being revised by Alexander Gorsky in 1900. This latest version made its debut in Moscow in February and it provides the perfect opening gambit.

Based on an episode in Cervantes, this is hardly about Don Quixote at all. He and Sancho Panza wander in and out of the central story which concerns the romance between innkeeper’s daughter Kitri and local barber Basil. Blazing with colour and high spirits from the start, this is like Carmen without the tragedy. A heady combination of ferocious technique and eye-boggling spectacle, it satisfies on every level.

Individually and collectively, the dancers are extraordinary. As Basil, Denis Rodkin is lithe, muscular and springs like a panther, lifting his partner high into the air with one hand without a quiver. Olga Smirnova is quick as a whippet, performing a series of travelling fouettes at warp speed. In Don Quixote’s dream – a forest-full of dryads in eau-de-nil tutus – Yulia Stepanova flits and shimmies across the stage before landing on point like a dart in a dartboard. Elsewhere, Kristina Karasyova’s head-between-the-heels backbends and Anna Antropova’s Theda Bara gypsy dance raise the pulse rate. The company is simply on fire.

Conductor Pavel Sorokin stokes Ludwig Minkus’s score to provide as much heat and aural colour as there is on stage. And, OMG, the costumes! Bright, deep colours; velvet, brocades, silks and satins – all cut for maximum danceability and spectacle. A fantastic evening.


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The newly invigorated Bolshoi open their London season with a riot of colour, speed and energy