Boston Ballet Brings Back Nureyev’s Don Quixote

Boston Ballet will open its fortieth anniversary season on October 16th with the landmark production that put them on the map—Rudolph Nureyev’s Don Quixote—which is “perhaps the most significant work in Boston Ballet’s history” according to Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen, because of the international attention it garnered the company.

Choreographer Marius Petipa recreated Miguel de Cervantes’ classic tale for Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet in 1869. Petipa’s choreography, set to the music of Ludwig Minkus, featured a theatrical narrative and a virtuoso wedding pas de deux. Rudolph Nureyev choreographed his own version using Minkus’ music, strengthening and enlarging many of the characters. Nureyev brought his production to Boston Ballet in 1982, attracting international attention to the company by starring in the lead role.

This full-length, three-act ballet has an intricate storyline. Set in the heart of the Spanish countryside, Don Quixote follows the adventures and misadventures of the well-meaning Don Quixote de La Mancha, a self-proclaimed knight who sets out on a quest for an idealistic, moral world with the aid of his comical squire Sancho Panza. The Don fights for justice against often-imaginary foes and searches for his love Dulcinea, who exists only in his dreams but who he sees in the face of the moon and in many other guises.

Danced against this backdrop is a familiar story of forbidden love. Kitri, an innkeeper’s daughter, loves a young barber, Basilio, but her parents have a nobleman in mind for her mate. The storylines collide when the Don, believing the inn is a castle and Kitri is his beloved Dulcinea, steps in to bring about a happy ending for the young lovers. Nureyev’s choreography offers some of the most technically challenging roles in ballet repertoire, including the final wedding pas de deux danced by Kitri and Basilio.

Original sets and costumes have been fully refurbished for this production in tribute to Nureyev on the tenth anniversary of his death, made possible by a grant from the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation.

Don Quixote will also mark the farewell performance of Boston Ballet’s principal dancer, Jennifer Gelfand. Cherished by Boston Ballet audiences for almost fourteen years, Gelfand literally stepped out of the audience to fill in for a lead dancer who had fallen on stage and could not go on. In Boston at the time as a special guest artist, Gelfand’s was immediately offered a soloist position in the company.