I saw this in a Seattle multi-plex. They've run a few Fathom programs in the past, and they run the Met Opera films, but they don't seem to know how to promote this work. The Met does a good job on its own, but the Fathom organization seems to depend on the local presenter to do marketing outside the theater -- they run very elaborate "upcoming" trailers, promoting a lot of events that we don't ever seem to hear about in the local press. Speaking as a critic, I don't really care who does the marketing as long as I get the information I need in time to pitch something to my editors, but in this case it seems like each entity assumes the other one is making that effort.
We saw the Ratmansky version of the ballet here a couple years ago, set on Pacific Northwest Ballet, and several years before that they presented the McKenzie version from ABT. Beyond that I've seen the usual videos, but it's always seemed to me that Don Q has less 'heritage' material in it than other ballets of the same vintage. We accept changes in the work much more willingly than we do with Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty. But having said that, there are elements that need to be included for it to feel like a "real" Don Q -- for the most part, for me, this version managed to hit all the right buttons -- I could see some of the changes that Acosta has made, and was curious about why he made some of those decisions, but I didn't feel it was a seriously alternative version.
The character of the Don is a challenge in almost every production -- he's a catalyst for many events in the story, but he doesn't have a complex kinetic identity. It would be interesting to look at him in comparison to Von Rothbart and Carabosse in various productions, and see how different choreographers or stagers have dealt with these characters. Perhaps Saunders was at a disadvantage since he was the ballet master as well as a performer here, but I didn't really get much differentiation in his performance -- he wandered with his head in his hand one too many times for me.
I can understand why the concept of mobile set pieces would be exciting for Acosta, and a couple of times they did seem to enhance the action on the stage (especially at the end of the first act when Kitri and Basilio were escaping and the back of the stage opened up at the right moment). But overall, it seemed a bit gimmicky to me, and distracted from the actual dancing.
I seem to be in the minority here, but I liked Hirano's performance as Espada -- he gave a darker and more aggressive take on the movement profile, which makes a nice contrast to Basilio's sunnier nature. I particularly appreciated this in the tavern scene, which really does feature him. There was an echo of that light and dark contrast between Kitri and Mercedes, but it's not as clearly articulated.
I'm also on the opposite side about the gypsy choreography in act 2 -- I liked it very much, and didn't think that the more contemporary aspects of it were a deficit. And going for the trifecta, I liked the inclusion of the guitarists. To be fair, I'm not sure how it reads in the theater -- we got a lot of close-in camera work in that section which gave us a very intimate view, but someone sitting in the house likely doesn't have the same experience. My big concern with this act is the stage balance between the gypsies and Don Q as he tries to battle the windmill. I still don't have a good sense of what that stage picture looks like from the house.
Acosta has made a very powerful showcase for his own skills here, and I'm happy to see him in it. It's a trick to combine the Spanish elements with classical technique. The two dance practices are so close stylistically, and yet there are distinctions -- finding a way to navigate between them is a challenge. Both he and Nunez gave very balanced performances. I've only seen her in a few things, but I don't remember her as being this natural on stage. She laced her interpretation with several almost pedestrian moments -- winking, shrugging, sighs and giggles and smirking. I thought, for the most part, it worked well, but there were times when I felt she could dial it back and it would be more affective.
We're scheduled to see Wheeldon's new Alice in November, and Nutcracker in December, but the local presenter hasn't made any other commitments yet -- I'm keeping fingers crossed for the rest of the season.