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Don Quixote, Kennedy Center, June 22-26th

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*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.*

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.

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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!)

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Natalia, that's a nice expressive fantasy about the announcement over the P. A., I hear where you're coming from, but as a practical matter, I sometimes just butt in with something like, "Not enough dancing for you, either?" or "Didn't go for the first part?" and let those gathering up their belongings to leave know that what's next is different and in what ways. It's often worked in spades for me - people are so happy for a good tip 'midst all the hype in our lives - and so far at least, even people who disagree at the end are polite about it, and appreciate the consideration they're shown. Doesn't our passion need all the adherents it can get?

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Jack - Unfortunately, I am out & about during intermissions & notice empty seats just before the house lights dim for the next act. It's not as if we can stay in our seats during intermissions, like vigilantes, trying to spot potential deserters. The sad thing is that the seats vacated by the couple sitting in front of us (front orchestra) were fabulous. In any other given night, people would have run from the back/upper levels of the house to grab those seats! My husband & I had absolutely unobstructed view in front of us during all of Acts II and III. Imagine that.

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I'm happy about the view, but sad...disgruntled...that the others left before things got rolling. It was a tedious first act, but the pacing and stage business may improve as the production gets more seasoned.

Re: the Capezio Award, this was not a secret--I knew it was going to occur and while I wished that it had taken much, much less time, I thought that Ms. Farrell's acceptance remarks were lovely. Much more memorable than the drivel one usually gets at these things. It is a very belated recognition of her gifts, but better late than never!

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Thank you to Juliet and others for your descriptions of the sets and the better part - the dancing - of this performance. I'll be interested to read how the rest of the performances progress and what changes you notice.

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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.

Nice description. But I liked that about it! I'll have to listen more carefully Sunday, but what I heard last night was an intriguing change of pace from the grand -- at times verging on grandiose -- scores of some other story ballets. (Not that I don't love Tchaikovsky).

The Capezio guy only spoke for 15 minutes? :P "Advertisement" is exactly what I was thinking, and a very badly written one it was too -- overwrought and cliched at the same time. I didn't think Michael Kaiser's was much better-- certainly it lacked the imagination that characterized Farrell's dancing -- but he had the graciousness to be short.

With all the publicity this production received ahead of time, it's hard for me to believe that so many people came to the theater either unprepared for something unconventional, or unprepared to stick it out.

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Believe it or not, I think some people were expecting Kitri. I didn't leave my seat during intermissions, but heard many, many comments!

Yes, of course theere were program notes. One has to bother to read them, however......


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I sure wish I had seen the show --

I've TREMENDOUSLY admired the clips of Dulcinea's dances that were shown in PBS's Farrell video.

But I have to say, I am very impressed by Rockwell's review. I have never seen him write better -- he's done his homework, but put that in the background, and gone with a mind open to a complex spectacle, the most expressive moments of which will be danced. If he's too generous, I couldn't say -- but he's certainly responded with a large imagination, and to the piece itself, not some idea of what it should have been..

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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.

Hi, MichelleW! Slipping in between the post-throwers, I see. :smilie_mondieu: Forgive the delay in in welcoming you to BalletTalk. I hope you'll be back when you can see for yourself what our members and Rockwell have been describing. And please go to the Welcome Page and tell us a little about your life watching ballet. You can open a topic by clicking "New Topic" at the top of the page, towards the right.

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Yes, there are both a synopsis of the story and cast credits in the program, but even if you do read them, you won't have an outline of the ballet anything like some of the books we talk about here provide.

Anyway, Thursday night I had a much better time, and I had a much better seat, too, to be fair to Sonia Rodriguez, last night's Dulcinea; nevertheless, Heather Ogden's dancing seemed more supple, after being a little stiff and careful in the solo with the sheperd's crook. Indeed, at the end of Act II, in the Pas de Deux with Don Q, she was lovely, and she was even better in the dream early in Act III, although actually, both women opened this dance with the lovely port de bra Farrell had quoted Balanchine last night as evoking by telling some dancers, "It's like you're opening the windows in Monte Carlo and smelling the salt in the sea air," a simile I believeFarrell added she didn't get until sometime later but now uses herself. It sure gets results, from the looks of it. I'll be interested in others' comments as to whether they think Ogden projects better than Rodriguez.

But one of the problems with B's Don Q is that neither of these women have Farrell's power to carry it. Another old timer claimed, I think correctly, that while there have been several excellent Diamonds performers other than Farrell, none of whom looked like her, some other ballets haven't had the same success without her. Chaconne is one, and Don Quixote is another. So we have the other dances, like the Act II Court Dance and Divertissements and the Dream in Act III, where Dulcinea appears later. (For that matter, there were some ballets she couldn't do: Balanchine let her try anything, this person pointed out, even The Four Temperaments, which "didn't work.")

Bonnie Pickard's dancing is always on a large scale, beautifully nuanced, and very effective even from my somewhat distant locations, and her Rigaudon Flamenco tonight was like that. With her in that, Erin Mahoney took over the Ritournel, the last of the Divertissements, and I wrote "another wow!" in my program. She doesn't look like Pickard - why should she? - but she also made it a powerfully effective end to the suite.

Some of the audience where I sat tonight had a pretty good time with much of Act I, including the superbly imagined puppet drama, nearly all done by children (except for some magical lifts done through a slit in the backdrop of the puppet theatre) well within their abilities. Nevertheless, most of the two rows in front of me were empty by the start of Act III. *sigh*

And the music hardly ever bothers me now. Thank God for small favors, I guess.

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I completely agree about the Rigaudon Flamenco. I noted that Pickard's technique was clean and her affect was infectious. Her dancing drew the audience in. I found this to be, frankly, a sharp contrast with Shannon Parsley's Danza della Caccia.

Parsley's pirouettes and fouettes were, of course, a crowd pleaser (and technically lovely!) but there was something lacking there -- a certain emotive quality. I didn't feel it. My mother, however, said that this was her favorite of the divertissements, so perhaps there was something that I didn't get.

My favorite of the divertissements in Act II, however, was the Pas de Deux Mauresque. Natalia Magnicaballi was able to nail that perfect mixture of acting and dancing. Nothing felt forced and it was utterly, completely charming. I was entranced.

I am still processing Dulcinea's variation in Act III/Scene I (I think). All of those off kilter/off balance arabesques and attitudes, piques and turns, looked devilishly difficult. The fact is, that variation looked fairly difficult if it wasn't off center. I'd love to see it again to gauge my reaction the second time through.

In general, I was quite taken with Heather Ogden, although I still had difficulty thinking of her as "Dulcinea" rather than "the dancer cast as Dulcinea." I think this gets back to Jack's point about neither dancer having the power to carry the role. I didn't know how to react after that shepherd's crook variation -- I didn't feel like I had much to go on -- but as the night wore on, she won me over.

A couple of other things I noticed: the corps' pointe shoes seemed unusually loud tonight. A couple of the sets of bourrees sounded like a herd of elephants setting out across the Opera House stage. One of the solo variations in Act III Scene I was terribly loud as well (I assume it's the brand of pointes, but can't they hammer them before performance?). I expect a certain level of noise, but when my mom comments on it, it's reached the point where it's a little too much.

The sets were, in a word, exquisite. It was worth going just for the sets and costumes.

Overall, I'd call it an uneven evening at the ballet, but I'd absolutely go back this weekend to see it again, just to take in all of the details.

(PS: Dear Kennedy Center, when are you going to replace that wretched curtain in the Opera House? It really is quite awful.)

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I am still processing Dulcinea's variation in Act III/Scene I (I think).  All of those off kilter/off balance arabesques and attitudes, piques and turns, looked devilishly difficult.  The fact is, that variation looked fairly difficult if it wasn't off center.  I'd love to see it again to gauge my reaction the second time through. 

Overall, I'd call it an uneven evening at the ballet, but I'd absolutely go back this weekend to see it again, just to take in all of the details.

Almost all ballet -- but especially Balanchine -- seems to demand re-visits. There's so much there that passes by so quickly that I sometimes feel I have to re-check: did I really see that? what WAS that and how did it go?

I'm one of those 1965 Don Q viewers who saw it twice, and, to be honest, came away with few impressions of Farrell's role. She was not yet the icon to the audience that she was to Balanchine. I was too young perhaps, but the memory of the evening (even as I left the theater) was overwhelmed by wonderful sets, contumes, action, the strange lack of dramatic impactd, and the overlay of music that I dislikedy.

I've often wondered :smilie_mondieu: about these "off kilter/off balance" postiions which are spoken of so often. What do dancers think of them? I know they must be difficult, but do they add to Dulcinea's characer or to the progress of Don Q's idealization of her? In other words: what do you all think of this part of the ballet?

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Clare Croft has a good, accurate, detailed review of Wednesday's performance in this morning's Washington Post, but she makes a mistake on the history of the casting of this ballet where she says no one but Farrell danced Dulcinea: Had she looked in Nancy Reynolds's Forty Years of the New York City Ballet, she would have found that Sara Leland and Kay Mazzo danced Dulcinea, too. And looking there myself, I got to thinking: Some of the other Dons are still very much with us, Jacques d'Amboise, Richard Rapp, and Jean-Pierre Bonnefous. (I think Francisco Moncion is no longer among us; apologies if I'm wrong in this bit of history myself.) Maybe Mladenov could benefit from some coaching from one of them? (I saw both Bonnefous and Moncion, opposite Leland, in 1972, and preferred Moncion as a "prodigy of detail," according to my notes.)

"'The dancer cast as Dulcinea'" is right on, Michelle W; and my progression in the effect of her performance as that dancer was the same. But there was a similar progression, though less well projected and effective for me (sitting in an upstairs seat more to the side), in Rodriguez's performance Wednesday, so maybe we are also seeing something in the role as staged this time. We'll see. Or maybe not.

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In defense of the confused ticketbuyers, I thought the preview coverage of “Don Quixote” focused largely on the Farrell-Balanchine relationship and the return of the ballet to the active reportory rather than on the problems that led to its being dropped in the first place. That’s understandable, but I wouldn’t blame the casual balletgoer for being puzzled or even for thinking of the wrong “Don Quixote.” I don't always go right for the program notes, myself, although it's probably wise to do so........

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Friday evening, Cheryl Sladkin and Alexander Ritter took over the Pas De Deux Mauresque from Magnicaballi and Kish, and while Ritter was fine, it was a little inauspicious for Sladkin, whose dancing looked small-scale - except when she had his support. I got more out of Rodriguez's Dulcinea this evening than previously, beginning with her long dance late in Act I, which still looked incompletely realized; but her dancing in the dream scene beginning Act III did look clear, secure, and fully mastered, right out to her fingertips "but no farther," as a BTer I met who had seen Farrell and Leland aptly put it. And Magnicaballi's Variation in the dream ballet was beautiful, while Pickard's Ritournel in Act II was again large, beautifully shaped and nuanced, as it had been opening night, if not better.

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The entire evening was more tightly paced, more cohesive, more flow.....

quite enjoyable....

although I didn't feel that Rodriguez is an expansive, dramatic dancer......

technnically, she was fine.....but technique is not what I am primarily looking for in Dulcinea.

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I saw the opening (Wed), Thursday night and just got back from the Saturday matinee. It's starting to jell. Today's performance was much more alive than the opening. I think it's a great work; there's nothing else like it, in Balanchine's oeuvre or out of it. I'd expected a modernistic experimental work, having read about what a failure it was. But it's not experimental in the usual sense of the word. It builds on Bournonville (there's bits of "Folk Tale" in it), Fokine and Petipa, but with 20th century choreography. There are references to other Balanchine ballets, both those which would have been known in 1965 ("La Sonnambula," "Serenade," "Allegro Brillante,") and those to come, most notably "Davidsbundlertanze." The dancers are beginning to be relaxed in it, and some of the divertissement dancing this afternoon was very good indeed.

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Friday evening, Cheryl Sladkin and Alexander Ritter took over the Pas De Deux Mauresque from Magnicaballi and Kish, and while Ritter was fine, it was a little inauspicious for Sladkin, whose dancing looked small-scale - except when she had his support... 

Sladkin was *magical* in the Saturday matinee. What a difference a day makes! She's a corps member now, but there should be very good things in her future, if what I saw is any indication.

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I agree, Mike, you'd hardly know it was the same dancer! Chalk up Friday evening to debut nerves, or something, I guess. For the record, I still find Magnicaballi more satisfying, but I want to see Sladkin again.

Yes, I think the production as a whole is jelling, notwithstanding a few mishaps this evening (Saturday), especially around the transition in Act III from the Garden (Scene 1) to La Mancha. And also tonight, Mladenov showed many strengthened and clarified moments, the procession at the end didn't bunch up, and so on - people have been at work on this, apparently. But, Alexandra, could you be a little more specific about the references you saw? Allegro Brillante? I recently saw a few performances of that, and I would like to know where that and the other examples are. (Not that I doubt what you say or anything like that.)

I also think Heather Ogden has the edge on Sonia Rodriguez as Dulcinea - they're both a little too "vertical" and correct in a role originated by someone famously abandoned, but I wouldn't expect many dancers to leave behind hard-earned technique quickly - but Ogden has more dramatic imagination, I'd say.

One little improvement I'd like to see someday, if it's not impractical, is to have more of the cast take final bows. If I remember correctly, there are eight at the end - the three principals, the two solo couples from the dream ballet in the Garden scene, and the conductor. There are droves of people in this. Still, maybe it's a lot to expect to have people wait around while Act III finishes up. Speaking of the conductor, the orchestra plays more vividly for Ron Matson than for Ormsby Wilkins.

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But, Alexandra, could you be a little more specific about the references you saw?  Allegro Brillante?  I recently saw a few performances of that, and I would like to know where that and the other examples are.  (Not that I doubt what you say or anything like that.)

Jack, the "Allegro Brillante" link was pointed out to me by a dancer friend, who found it in "the groupings in the Courante Sicilienne." He also caught a whiff of "Brahms Schoenberg" in the dream sequence. I think most of the second act is a close cousin of "Sonnambula" -- the decadence and cruelty (which they could emphasize more :tiphat: ); the visionary guest -- here a knight, there a poet, but both are Outsiders; the actual divertissements. They're structurally similar -- little dances with a character favor, not virtuoso set pieces. "Serenade" -- the idea of a woman leading a man who cannot see, guiding him to his destiny. As for Davidsbundlertanze -- the ballets are thematically related, I think. The huge black, accusatory Quills in Davidsbundler are the secular version of the stern, disapproving clerics in Don Q, and Farrell's last solo in Davidsbundler has some steps and ports de bra that also appear in the last solo for Dulcinea. There are others, but those are a few.

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Well, I guess I'm glad my show (Friday night) was not earlier in the run than it was. The company had two nights to tidy things up before I arrived.

I had a great time, and had my usual DC host not been away this week, I might have stayed a bit longer and seen it again.

The evening was not as heavy as I remember it from NYCB. And the set pieces from Acts II and III were absolutely gorgeous. While I would be hard pressed to point them out now, there were echoes of and precursors to other Balanchine ballets. One thing about Mr. B, he sure stole from the best! :yahoo:

Thanks, Jack, for posting my biggest disappointment about Rodriguez. :dry: It's not that Farrell herself knew how to inhabit and charge the space around her. City Ballet has danced that way since I've been watching them seriously (albeit to a lesser degree during their late-'90s nadir). Rodriguez failed to enlarge herself by making the space around her part of the dance. Nor did she go off her center. That's not a choice but intrinsic to the choreography.

Memory plays tricks. The scene at Court seemed less populated and shorter than my recollection Maybe it was. The Inquisitors in the final scene lacked the menace. Perhaps it's just the more recent Davidsbunder viewings overwriting the old ones of DQ. And I didn't remember the children having been so prominent in Act I.

One of the big highlights was Alexander Ritter proudly partnering Cheryl Sladkin in a fabulous pdd Mauresque, then as a Cavalier in the dream scene. The company as a whole would have benefited if more had his command and clarity. Of course, he's alone among the performers in that he actually spent time as an NYCB dancer.

I'd seen the dream scene presented once by NYCB as an excerpt. I wonder if they would do it again (assuming the owner of the rights would let them). While it loses much of its impact whenpulled from its context, well, same holds for Aurora's wedding, doesn't it?, and we see that all the time.

I would jump at a chance to see this production again. If it meant going to Toronto -- hmmm :tiphat:, possibly. If it meant going to New Jersey or Brooklyn? Absolutely! For this, I made the round-trip in one day -- a total of nine hours in the bus plus just under two more waiting around bus terminals. Definitely worth it.

Highlights off the stage included seeing Farrell -- from a distance -- walking towards Virginia Ave., another was greeting Ritter as he entered the theater. Making the acquaintance of Jack Reed was a treat, as was stumbling over three of the usual suspects from home. :wink:

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