With its sunny effervescence and dazzling leading roles, Don Quixote has come to exemplify Bolshoi Ballet virtuosity. Premiered in 1869, Marius Petipa’s choreography reflected his travels in Spain and his love of castanets, toreadors and Spanish bravura, loosely connected to Cervantes’ classic.
Don Quixote, an elderly Spanish knight, sets off with his servant Sancho Panza on a chivalrous quest. He comes across a village where the innkeeper’s daughter Kitri and Basilio the barber are trying to persuade Kitri’s father to let them marry. But he wants Kitri to make a better marriage to the rich but foppish Gamache.
Don Quixote fantasises that Kitri is his dream Dulcinea, a noble lady who must be rescued from this potential tragedy, and the rest of the ballet shows the comic events that finally result in love winning the day amid a feast of brilliant dancing.
The Bolshoi Ballet has given well over 1,000 performances of the ballet in several stagings. This production, based on Alexander Gorsky’s 1900 revisions, shows how 19th-century choreography has evolved when performed with 20th-century technical skills. This 1978 live performance film from the Bolshoi Theatre, digitally restored and remastered to HD quality, stars the adorable Nadezhda Pavlova with her husband Vyacheslav Gordeyev, dancers rarely seen in the West. Don Quixote is Vladimir Levashev, and Ludwig Minkus’s bubbling music is conducted by Alexander Kopylov.