Premiere of the first production at the Mikhailovsky Theatre: 21 November 1996
Premiere of the revised version: 11 April 2012
Colourful, vibrant, direct, spontaneous: all these epithets can be applied to Don Quixote
, but none of them can fully convey the sense of joy that the ballet invariably arouses in the audience. The red capes of the toreadors, the strumming of guitars, the clicking of castanets, coquettish glances from behind open fans... The enchanting levity of the ‘ballet of Spain’ surges onto the Mikhailovsky Theatre stage. Each performer interprets this ballet in their own way. While it demands virtuosity and stamina, the dancers are given complete freedom of choice in the way they act the parts. It is possible to depict the sincerity and straightforwardness of the characters or present them as cunning deceivers; place an emphasis on simple domestic details, or portray fiery passions. The permutations are endless, and therein lies one of the secrets of the ballet’s phenomenal popularity.
Don Quixote, having read chivalric romances, decides to set off on his travels in order to perform the feats that will bring glory to his name. As his sword-bearer, he chooses Sancho Panza, a man of sober outlook who is not prone to dreams.
In Barcelona, there is festive animation in the air. Kitri, the daughter of the innkeeper, is flirting with Basilio, the barber, who is in love with her. Lorenzo, Kitri’s father, chases Basilio away: the barber is no fit match for his daughter. Lorenzo wants Kitri to marry Gamache, a rich nobleman. Kitri refuses outright to submit to her father’s will.
At the height of the merry-making, Don Quixote appears in the square, accompanied by his sword-bearer, Sancho Panza. Catching sight of the innkeeper, Don Quixote mistakes him for the owner of a knight’s castle and greets him with respect. Lorenzo responds in like terms and invites Don Quixote into the inn. Sancho Panza stays in the square. When some young people start to mock Sancho, Don Quixote immediately hurries to his sword-bearer’s rescue.
Seeing Kitri, Don Quixote takes her for the beautiful Dulcinea, whom he has seen in his dreams and chosen as “the lady of his heart.” But Kitri disappears. She has run off with Basilio. Lorenzo, Gamache, and Don Quixote set out to look for her.
Kitri and Basilio are hiding in a tavern. Here they are found by Lorenzo, Gamache, and Don Quixote. Lorenzo wishes to make an immediate announcement of the betrothal of Kitri and Gamache. But Basilio, by agreement with Kitri, commits fake suicide. Kitri sobs over the “body” of her sweetheart. Don Quixote, overcome by noble indignation, accuses Lorenzo of hardheartedness and, threatening him with his spear forces the innkeeper to agree to his daughter’s marriage with the deceased barber. Basilio jumps to his feet — there is no point in him pretending to be dead any longer.
By the windmills, there is a gipsy encampment and a travelling puppet theatre. Don Quixote and Sancho soon appear on the scene. The owner of the puppet theatre invites Don Quixote to watch a show. Don Quixote follows the performance with rapt attention and, forgetting it is only theatre, rushes on to the stage, sword in hand, to defend those, who need his protection. He breaks down the stage, sends the puppets flying and, catching sight of the windmill, mistakes it for an evil magician, whom he has to get the better of. Grabbing a mill sail, he is first lifted into the air and then falls to the ground.
The wounded Don Quixote and Sancho Panza find themselves in a forest. To Don Quixote, the forest seems to be full of monsters and giants. Sancho Panza settles Don Quixote down to sleep, while he runs off to get some water to drink. In his sleep, Don Quixote dreams of Dulcinea, “the lady of his heart,” surrounded by the Cupid and Dryads. Sancho Panza returns followed by the Duke and the Duchess, who have been hunting in the forest. He asks them to help Don Quixote. The Duke and Duchess invite the wandering knight to visit them in their castle.
The Duke’s castle. All is ready for the reception of Don Quixote. Having heard from Sancho Panza the happy story of Kitri and Basilio’s love, the Duke and Duchess have kindly agreed to allow them to hold their wedding party in the castle. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are invited to occupy the seats of honour. A solemn procession files past. Don Quixote blesses Kitri, whom he helped to unite with Basilio. The festivities continue. All thank the valiant knight and his faithful sword-bearer.