- The Washington Times - Friday, June 24, 2005

Suzanne Farrell’s restaging of “Don Quixote,” the magnificently flawed ballet George Balanchine created for her 40 years ago, splashed across the Kennedy Center Opera House stage Wednesday evening. The full-length work will have four final performances here today and tomorrow.

Miss Farrell has done a phenomenal job of reviving a ballet not performed for 27 years. Since she began her company five years ago, the director has shown a talent for inspiring dancers to move with the directness, clarity and spontaneity that marked her own performances.

In staging “Don Quixote,” Miss Farrell has grown further, showing an impressive talent for all aspects of re-creating and restaging a major work.

Her choice of collaborators has brought this production stunning sets by the esteemed Zack Brown. Not only are they handsome and sumptuous, but they’re also designed to tour. With the minor exception of fussy ruffs on three men’s costumes in the third act, Holly Hynes has designed colorful, fetching costumes, enhanced by Brad Field’s lighting.

But all these felicities cannot obscure basic flaws in the ballet. Principal among them is its score, by Nicolas Nabokov. It seldom supports or enhances the dancing, although it has a few lovely moments in the divertissements of the second act and the dream scene in the third.

At the ballet’s premiere four decades ago, the very public adoration of Mr. Balanchine for Miss Farrell hovered over it and brought a touch of romance that is not inherent in the story. Now the Don’s quest is more philosophical than romantic — a far more difficult subject for a dance.

Almost all the full-length ballets that come to mind rise to a passionate pas de deux at their climax. Here, instead, we see the idealistic Quixote in a series of cruel encounters. He tries to help mistreated slaves, and they turn on him for his troubles. Elegant guests at a ball taunt and humiliate him. Finally, he is reduced to being herded into a cage like a poor, spent animal.

Yet, despite these sour notes, Mr. Balanchine, who had a sure sense of the dramatic, enlivens the action with a series of colorful passages: a real live donkey and horse onstage; a colorful marionette show; a gigantic, stage-filling creature that looks like Darth Vader; huge windmills; a masked ball; and a series of exotic divertissements in the elegant court scene.

In the first few minutes of the ballet, Dulcinea, the ideal woman of the Don’s dreams, appears in the guise of a simple servant girl who washes his feet, drying them with her hair, then as the Virgin. The religiosity of this scene is echoed at the ballet’s conclusion, with mourners appearing as figures from the Spanish Inquisition.

The dancers in “Don Quixote” are an amalgam of Miss Farrell’s own group and members of the National Ballet of Canada; the production is sponsored jointly by the Kennedy Center and the Canadian company, which will dance it in the future.

In the title role, Momchil Mladenov began tentatively Wednesday but grew in stature and became the moral and moving center of the ballet. As Dulcinea, Sonia Rodriguez had a sweet simplicity. Erin Mahoney, Natalia Magnicaballi, Runqiao Du and Shannon Parsley shone in their solo variations. Ormsby Wilkins conducted.

The evening began with Miss Farrell receiving the Capezio Dance Award onstage and making a graceful tribute to “Mr. B.”

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WHAT: The Suzanne Farrell Ballet in George Balanchine’s “Don Quixote”

WHEN: Today and tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: Kennedy Center Opera House

TICKETS: $29 to $84

PHONE: 202/467-4600


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