Balanchine's Don Quixote
Posted 01 March 2002 - 11:26 PM
But nothing seemed to work. And it wasn't just critics who were displeased. I remember that subscribers stayed away in droves whenever it was performed. Sometimes I heard boos at the final curtain. Even the prospect of seeing Mr. B himself in the title role didn't help, because as Farrell recalled, "His appearances were never posted on the casting list; they would be announced over the loudspeaker as the lights in the theater dimmed."
Despite the continual tinkering, I remember always enjoying the ballet. Nancy Reynolds wrote, "This is a very rare case of a Balanchine ballet that reveals itself most fully in recollection, not in immediate kinetic impact." A lot of years have passed since its last performance -- but I wonder at the Don Quixote recollections of Ballet Alertniks. And does anyone think a revival could possibly work?
Posted 01 March 2002 - 11:31 PM
I have a good friend who loved Don Quixote, and thought it wasn't successful partly becuase of the music -- would this, like the score for "Ondine," be easier to take now than at its birth? -- and partly because people didn't expect this kind of a ballet from Balanchine. It wasn't obviously avant-garde, like much of his work, and it wasn't neatly packaged, like the new full-length ballets that Cranko and MacMillan were doing.
I think we might see it with new eyes today -- and I think it might well become a model for the next generation of choreographers interested in making full-length ballets.
I, too, would love to hear some recollections of people who saw it (whether you loved it or avoided it smile.gif )
Posted 02 March 2002 - 06:26 PM
Posted 02 March 2002 - 09:28 PM
The most interesting point of the ballet was the metaphore it had for their relationship.
Actually, I think it was this aspect of the ballet that made people so uncomfortable. I think it embarrassed them to see so naked and unashamed a declaration of a passion that at that time was only gossiped about. The depiction of Balanchine as a visionary, misunderstood artist was also seen as self-indulgent, much as The Crucible was seen at its premiere as a self-pitying attempt to mythologize Arthur Miller's struggle with Joe McCarthy. Years later, we can watch The Crucible unencumbered by such historical baggage, but I'm not sure if Don Quixote would enjoy a similar success.
I saw the ballet's final performances in 1978, and I don't really know how I'd respond to it today. Back then, my main feeling was gratitude that a gap in my experience of the Balanchine oeuvre was now filled in. Balanchine was still alive, of course (it was he who permanently retired the ballet), and Farrell still danced it. But his obsession with her was by then over.
The main problem with the ballet was that the emphasis on the repeated cruelties inflicted on the Don made the ballet difficult to watch, and with such a downbeat storyline it was hard to add secondary incidents or scenes that were complementary.
It was also disconcerting to see so little dancing, although some of it was very good. The deliciously sinuous Pas de deux Mauresque was superlatively danced by the very young Nichol Hlinka (a friend who had seen Gelsey Kirkland do it said that Hlinka was better), and the dance of the maidens in Act III(?) was danced strongly by Susan Hendl but more subtly and appropriately by Stephanie Saland. Adam Luders, with his odd appearance and air of not fitting in, was good casting for the Don. And Farrell was Farrell.
One surprising thing about the ballet was the unusually (for this company) handsome scenery and costumes by Esteban FrancÚs. A ballroom scene done in black and gold was particularly striking, but left plenty of room for dancing. I remember thinking that this was the sort of decor that should be a model for all ballet designers.
Assuming that the ballet could be revived today--that is, if there are enough people around who remember the steps and blocking well enough to stage it faithfully--there is the question of who could coach the dancers well enough to infuse them with the proper spirit. Farrell could do it in part, but she'd need help. Perhaps, if Luders worked closely enough with Balanchine for him to have absorbed enough of the essence of what Balanchine was trying to do, he could provide the crucial male perspective.
Posted 02 March 2002 - 10:46 PM
I'm obviously in the minority but I loved the ballet for its theatrical effects - the book, the little princess in the puppet show, the well mannered horror of the court scenes - for Farrell's dancing, Luder's performance and the scenery. The dances for Farrell were extraordinary, you can see some of it on the Farrell documentary.
I've heard rumors that NYCB wants to revive it but, of course, Farrell holds the rights, so who knows? It would certainly be possible there are enough people who were in it such as Schorer, who I think was the original dancer in Pas Mauresque, Luders, Ashley, Dunleavy and Mazzo and Leland who also danced Dulcinea.
Posted 03 March 2002 - 08:12 AM
(FYI - a "stuffed owl" is also a name for a poem, usually by a master, that is a real loser! Of course, there have been poets who wrote nothing BUT "stuffed owls", like William McGonagall, George Wither, and Julia Moore!)
Posted 03 March 2002 - 10:02 PM
"Don Q" was on, and although I had generally avoided it before on the basis of usually reliable advice, this time it was a great comfort (in spite of its earsore of a score) for the clarity, steadiness and firmness with which the spectacle unfolded on stage, more a series of animated pictorial tableaux than a ballet. Plainly the work of a master of the theatre, although hardly a favorite of mine, it told me that I was "home" again, and it reassured me that in a few days the formidable powers behind what I was seeing would be deployed in other ways so that I would again leave the theatre I had entered carrying the fatigue of the evening refreshed and with the energy and optimism of morning.
As to the technical possibility of restaging it, I thought there was a film made with Farrell and Balanchine in it.
[ March 03, 2002, 10:16 PM: Message edited by: Jack Reed ]
Posted 04 March 2002 - 01:39 PM
Posted 07 March 2002 - 01:26 AM
Don Quixote the book IS full of horrible cruelties -- the Russian movie of it is very good at reproducing them, eps the scenes at court are quite unbearable..... That doesn't keep it from being one of the few truly great books.
I wish I'd seen the ballet -- it's my greatest dance-regret, other than not having been myself a great dancer.... all I can say is the 2 solos of Farrell's dancing that are shown in the Farrell bio-video -- are flat-out the finest dancing I've ever seen from a pretty girl. It's in Ingmar Bergman land, but beyond -- far beyond pretty, it's far beyond beautiful -- it's not just that she's like smoke, it's not just how instantaneously she changes speed or direction, from whipping to dragging, from skipping to fleeing, from rushing to swooning -- there's a moment where she puts her hand out and it's like she touches death but grabs her hand back and flees before he grabs her--it's the changes of emotional color, of spiritual energy, it's terrifying, or would be if there wasn't some way in which she makes you feel that she's watched over by some power that will not let her come to harm.
There's nobody she could teach THAT to.
Posted 07 March 2002 - 10:25 AM
all the complaints about the score were stated year after year but some of us still couldn't/wouldn't stay away. like a previous post-er here, i too saw the final, final performance, and due to the auspices of the late david daniel got to visit farrell's dressing room and get her to sign the prog. needless to remark it now remains quite an archival treasure. (alas i never saw mr. b perform the don but i saw splendid renderings of this role by r. rapp, j. d'amboise, and perhaps, most especially from adam luders.)
Posted 07 March 2002 - 01:23 PM
Of course there are lots of things I wish I could remember from back then....
Posted 17 March 2002 - 02:12 AM
But after revisting the ballet, it makes me wonder whether to place this work alongside La Sonnambula for its creepiness in the divertisments and the "artist misunderstood and tortured by the philistines" theme. Both ballets have the same designer, but I think Rieti's music is more successful.
I wonder where Don Q. fits in the development of Balanchine's choreography. A lot of the divertisment dances contain turned in knees, quick shifts of direction and hopes on point.
Posted 17 March 2002 - 03:42 AM
Originally posted by Dale:
But after revisting the ballet, it makes me wonder whether to place this work alongside La Sonnambula for its creepiness in the divertisments and the "artist misunderstood and tortured by the philistines" theme. [/QB]
I think you're absolutely right, and I'd add Davidsbundlertaenze to the list.
Yes it's creepy, but it's also creepy if you ARE sort of dead to the world to find how envious and petty, not to mention off-key, the world can be... I heard that Balanchine proposed a sequel to Sonnambula to Allegra Kent -- "Poet marries sleepwalker, moves to New ROchelle"
Re Sonnambula, when i saw Emeralds last night, Julie Diana and Damian Smith made the second pas de deux look like sleepwalking..... it was BEAUTIFUL.
Posted 17 March 2002 - 04:03 AM
Posted 17 March 2002 - 07:04 AM
These concepts do not easily translate into the Cervantes of Don Quixote, and formed an uneasy and unwholesome impression, especially the palace scene, which is still the best Act III Swan Lake set ever designed.
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