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Don Quixote, Kennedy Center, June 22-26th


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#16 Noreen Arnold

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 04:11 AM

Well the first review is up - John Rockwell's is generally favourable. (Someone else will have to post the link...I don't know how) I'm very interested in what everyone who was there last night thought of the show. Rockwell's comment about the music being sometimes "downright gorgeous" is kind of amusing given the general opinion by those who saw the original production that the score was a major problem.

#17 Natalia

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 05:42 AM

Rockwell's comment about the music being sometimes "downright gorgeous" is kind of amusing...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



What was he snorting?



Last night amounted to the most downright-boring, sickeningly-laborious night at the ballet. People around me left as early as the first intermission, they were so disgusted.

It does not even work as a mime-drama, as the leading actors/dancers breathed ZERO life into their characters. Don Q himself was as wooden & lifeless as the 'gee-whiz' props that stood before him (the dragon, the wooden donkey, the giant knight). Perhaps I am a bit spoiled in just having recently experienced nine consecutive nights at the Royal Danish Ballet, in which the dancer-actors breathed life into the smallest of characters. Last night, we could marvel at a bunch of pretty costumes & nifty sets occupied by leaden characters. I tried really REALLY hard to get into the 'mood,' to cry, to care...but all I could do was yawn and look at my watch.

I could list the many positives -- Sonia Rodriguez's (Dulcinea) pliant back and lovely bourrees; the sharpness of the corps in the Act I Village Dance and Act III classical dances; the masterful designs, etc., etc. -- but this would paint an inaccurate 'big picture,' the negatives so outweighed the posititives. Yes -- so much went into this undertaking but is that reason enough for me to file a false review and lead people to believe that this is a hunky-dorry good ol' night at the ballet? Sorry -- not me.

By the time that the main all-dancing portion of the work came around -- the Act III "Dream Scene" -- very few of us were awake enough to enjoy it and care.

BORING! BORING! BORING!

It's a good thing that Suzanne Farrell was given her Capezio Award at the start of the program -- taking up the first 25 minutes of the night...the ballet did not begin until 7:55 pm -- because the enthusiasm would not have been there had the Kennedy Center management elected to present the award AFTER the show. Sad but true.

Natalia Nabatova

#18 Tammy Spadina

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 06:40 AM

Until last night I thought that the ultimate oxymoron was "low-carb bread" but Suzanne Farrell's Don Quixote presents us with "low-dance ballet". Not only was there very little dancing -- perhaps 15 minutes in a two-hour performance -- but half of that dancing was invisible, because it was underneath head-to-toe velvet gowns, or, in the case of the men in Act three, hampered by stiff ruched collars, long sleeves, and worst of all, the puffy turkish bedroom slippers with curlicue toes that Nehemiah Kish had to risk his limbs and dignity to dance in in Act 2.

All the pageantry and mime and symbolism could have nonetheless worked -- if the production had succeeded in portraying the complex relationships between Don Q, his religion, Dulcinea and the power establishment that constitute the story. Even the loooong -- I mean really really long -- hallucinatory procession at Don Q's deathbed could work, but only if we had already appreciated his tragic delusions. But this was not at all conveyed in the preceding 2.5 acts. In fact, the vision of the scary knight with a swinging axe resolving into what was really just a windmill -- a brilliant piece of stage craft -- did a better job than the actor in conveying Don Q's state of mind.

There was some superb dancing by Sonia Rodriguez, Shannon Parsley, Erin Mahoney, NAtalia Magnicaballi and Runqiao Du in the the third Act, but since all of the dancing takes the form of divertissements and variations, the dancers can't create much in the way of relationships or spark. It was sort of academic, with the exception of Sonia Rodriquez' moving final variation which brings us back to the main story.

The word for Nabokov's score is cheesy. It's not that it's dissonant or clanging -- it's that it's so OBVIOUS and predictable.

Around us in the audience there were bail-outs after the second intermission and a tepid reaction at the end. Only the principals and some of the soloists took bows; the corps was nowhere to be seen. It was odd.

By the way, I do think it would be better if those of you who are ballet experts could try avoid looking down your noses at us "just plain folks" and caricaturing other peoples' taste. We pay the same $60 per seat as you do and we like ballet just as much. (Although not this particular ballet...)

#19 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 07:26 AM

Tammy, I don't think anyone is looking down their noses at anyone.

#20 Noreen Arnold

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 07:36 AM

Ouch! Now I can hardly wait for the 2006/07 season so I can be underwhelmed as well!

Poor Nehemiah Kish - he deserves better. I'm glad Rodriguez at least impressed with her dancing as she is one of my favourites. Rockwell described her as "adequate" I believe.

#21 BW

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 07:48 AM

Any of you who've posted thus far - had you seen it performed in the past when Balanchine was Don Q?

I certainly did not, but I would find it interesting to hear from someone who will have now seen both - to get their take on it.

I see that John Rockwell's review has been posted in the Links section and have read it - he certainly seems to have a different take on it all as compared to those who've posted thus far. Not meaning this to imply that anyone is right or wrong...just bringing it up.

Hoping to hear more on this one.

#22 Natalia

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 08:12 AM

Any of you who've posted thus far - had you seen it performed in the past when Balanchine was Don Q?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


One of the veteran DC-based writers touched bases with me soon after the performance. This person had seen the 'original' at NYCB & told me, "You did not see DON Q. The DON Q that I remember had living, breathing characters." Hopefully this person is slated to write a review of this production; I did not ask him/her.

#23 Jack Reed

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 08:50 AM

I'm in general agreement that the mime and "acting" were not very effective, and I'm ready to take Natalia's word for it that the RDB outclasses this from the first moment. (They have, I think, decades or centuries behind them, while this production has five weeks - not to excuse, but to try to account for it.)

Act II, which is mostly dance, arrived not a moment too soon; dancing is what these performers know. For me, Magnicaballi and Kish's Pas de Deux Mauresque, the third Divertissement, and Bonnie Pickard's Ritournel, the last of the Act II Divertissements, were among the few high points, and I also enjoyed Shannon Parsley's Danza della Caccia, the second one. (I prefer the Mauresque costumes on the Kennedy Center's website, from Farrell's previous showing of this, to the nearly-monochrome ones we saw last night.) And I also enjoyed the dream-dance which begins Act III, even - rather, especially - when it begins to become disturbed toward the end. And the bit of stagecraft Tammy mentions was very effective, upstaging Momchil Mladenov's Don. (He is the only one in the cast lists; I hope by the end of the run we will see more preparation or development from him.)

But there are no "big" relationship pas de deux. Indeed, this is not a very "dancey" ballet, and the pyschological and philosophical themes are perhaps inherently difficult to show, ironically in a piece of work from someone who famously remarked, "There are no mothers-in-law in ballet," that is, there are things you can't adequately show in ballet.

*People who are tempted to leave at the first intermission should somehow be informed that the dancing comes next, in Act II and the beginning of Act III.*

As to Nabokov's music: Ron Matson and Farrell did some snipping here and there to remove what Matson calls "paper music" - music that looks good on paper, according to ways of composing in fashion at the time, but - well, they decided to take some of it out, especially where Farrell didn't have any action.

I remember the music gave me a lot of trouble when I saw the ballet a few times in 1972 (never with Balanchine in it). I don't enjoy Berg's music either, but in his opera Wozzeck I take his cracked harmonies as generating the world of Wozzeck's cracked mind, and I enjoy the opera from beginning to end, and so, when I hear Nabokov's music for this ballet, I take it that way, too, but it's so thin, I can keep it in the background of my attention where I don't really listen closely to it, unusually in a Balanchine ballet, where typically the music is equally important to the choreography and often seems to generate it.

Noreen, for what it's worth, I'm told NBoC wants to inaugurate its new building with this production, and construction is far behind schedule; that seems to be what's holding up their staging of it. I hope for your sake and others' that the intervening time will be put to good use in the studio.

#24 MichelleW

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 09:00 AM

Between the New York Times review and the reviews here, I don't quite know what to expect tonight! I have been somewhat breathlessly anticipating this ever since I obtained my ticket and, while a night at the ballet never disappoints, I do hope this is all I expect it to be.

#25 kfw

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 09:11 AM

I’m kicking myself for not bring my program and notes to work. Anyhow, I wasn't bored, but I understand the complaints. The scenes with Don Quixote and Marcella/Dulcinea were affecting, and if Mladanov and Rodriguez weren't great actors, they believed in what they were doing and made me believe as well. I thought Rodriguez was adequate technically, and in the third act that was extremely impressive. But she didn't project very well (I was 4th row center) and there wasn't much depth or variety to her characterization. I was moved by the story, and I was moved because I was rooting for her as she assayed such a monumental role; and she looked the part -- lovely and pure. The Don sure picked a Lady. But I hope she’ll have time to develop the confidence and experience to develop the character. The same goes for Mladenov-- affecting but one-dimensional. Sancho Panza was likeable, but pure buffoon.

The second divertissements were entertaining, but nothing more. Pickard and Parsely and Mahoney and Ritter (and the corps in the marvelous third act ensemble passages) were terrific, and the little girl shadowing Pickard with a hot pink feathered parasol couldn’t have been cuter, but the story stalled. Heather Ogden has been quoted as saying that the story builds momentum. That’s exactly what it didn’t do for me. The tone kept shifting – now we’re watching an epic tale told mostly through mime; now we’re admiring Balanchine choreography. It didn’t cohere.

For someone who doesn’t go to Broadway musicals, or even many story ballets, the sets and costumes were stunning. To give just one example, on the scrim used before each act the pages of a book open out into a sunset landscape with "Dulcinea" written in the merest wisp of cloud.

The audience applauded the dancing several times, but after the curtain they were polite at best. I felt bad for everyone onstage.

#26 Natalia

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 09:20 AM

*People who are tempted to leave at the first intermission should somehow be informed that the dancing comes next, in Act II and the beginning of Act III.*

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



I thought the same thing, Jack! How to do it gracefully? Maybe an announcement over the loudspeaker at the start of the show: "Ladies & Gentlemen, please be aware that the dancing begins in earnest in Act II. We appreciate your patience during Act I. Thank you for your support."

Also, I overheard some people commenting that the previously unannounced (unpublicized) Capezio Award ceremony stretched the time & patience of the audience. The president of the Capezio Fdtn's speech to announce Michael Kaiser -- who, in turn, gave the award to Suzanne Farrell -- went on for 15 minutes. The rest went on for about 10 minutes. The performance - set to begin at 7:30 pm, becan at 7:55 pm. My neighbor whispered: "Why are they imposing this advertisement on us?"

During the first intermission, I heard another neighbor say: " What a shame that the Capezio Award added 25 minutes to Act I, which is a drag in & of itself."

Perhaps Act I would not have seemed as draggy without the Capezio Award? Surely Capezio could have found another way to honor the great artist Suzanne Farrell -- a celebratory dinner in NY or a gala 'cocktail' prior to the 7:30 pm curtain?

Food for thought.

#27 Juliet

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 09:34 AM

A few wispy thoughts....like the clouds on the front scrim.....

The first act was exceedingly dull. I know what they were trying to do, but you know, it just looked thin. There was NO dancing until the happy villagers bit (and I get real tired of happy villagers real quick.)

I wanted to like it, the costumes were gorgeous and very carefully done, and sets were good, but it was, as Natalia said: B o r i n g.

Act Two I looked forward to for the costumes and sets. The one dance for the nobles, made me happily shift in my seat and say, "well, that was quite lovely, quite interesting, well done! Maybe this isn't a dud...." Then the divertissements were good (although I have Gelsey Kirkland indelibly impressed on my senses), and they got better.....

I thought the ballet did build. The dark,repressive cruelty of the court; the beating and caging, the masks....the stagecraft was good and the intensity a world away from those happy villagers.

I am very glad that I chained myself and my companion down to stay for the last act: it was worth the evening. Wonderful to see Balanchine choreography again, excellent dancing by the soloists and corps---great energy, lots of flying draperies and shades of Walpurgisnacht....very clean, very memorable. Nothing like it being produced currently, that's certain!

I had initial reservations about Rodriguez.....but her third act variations were terrific! That gorgeous pliancy, clean execution, and she danced like a demon in the last act---I used binoculars so saw a good deal of emotion in her face and dancing, but obviously she needs to work on projection as others have not mentioned what I saw.

Mladenov tried. His makeup was so heavy that he was trying to act from behind a mask. I think that his portrayal may improve--I saw definite nerves there.

It was wonderful to see Alex Ritter again--
I am going several more times, so hope to see more. I wish they could just cut that first act....

Oh, the music--it meanders. Not like a burbling stream, not with a lovely, lazy summer aimlessness, but like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that occasionally are fitted together in the beginning of a pattern or direction, but then are thrown helterskelter back on the table. It was easily the weakest element.

There was a stubborn horse, and a recalcitrant donkey......something for everyone! (No jester, sorry!)

#28 bart

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 09:38 AM

Here's that LINK to John Rockwell's review, for those who haven't made it to today's Links thread. Thanks, Alexandra

Mime and Acting and Lavish Sets, and a Back Story, Too?

#29 Natalia

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 09:47 AM

(No jester, sorry!)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Ah but we had the jester-like juggler (Jared Redick, dancing the first pure-dance solo of the night) in the midst of the Happy Villagers, Juliet. It looked like a jesterish collar to me!

#30 Juliet

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Posted 23 June 2005 - 09:51 AM

I forgot--actually I quite liked him. I must have been captivated by the horse....


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