The Royal NZ Ballet presents DON QUIXOTE

St James Theatre 2, Wellington

04/03/2015 - 07/03/2015

Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch

11/03/2015 - 14/03/2015

ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland

26/03/2015 - 29/03/2015

Regent Theatre, The Octagon, Dunedin

21/03/2015 - 21/03/2015

Production Details

Somewhere in La Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and keeps a skinny nag and a greyhound for racing…*

So begins Miguel de Cervantes’ epic shaggy dog story Don Quixote, which has intrigued and delighted readers for the last four hundred years – and inspired one of the greatest works in the classical ballet canon.

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Don Quixote, first seen in 2008, is a flirtatious delight, combining virtuoso choreography with comic flair in a spectacular staging that will appeal to all ages.

Feisty lovers Kitri and Basilio and their friends, take centre stage in a sunny setting inspired by 1950s Barcelona. The deluded Don Quixote, who dreams of knightly adventures, blunders into the romance, almost losing his fortune and his mind in the process… but love, conquers all, and the ballet ends with a sumptuous wedding.

Choreography: After Marius Petipa
Additional choreography: Adrian Burnett
Music: Ludwig Minkus
Staging and design: Gary Harris
Original lighting design: Jon Buswell
Conductor: Nigel Gaynor

*Opening of Don Quixote, Volume I, Chapter One, by Miguel de Cervantes, translated by Edith Grossman


Casting is available on the web site of the Royal NZ Ballet

Dance , ,

2 hrs 20 mins

Lucid and charming re-telling

Review by Bernadette Rae 30th Mar 2015

On a sunny terrace “somewhere in La Mancha”, all is swirling skirts, clicking heels and the colours of sunshine for the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s vibrant re-telling of this most iconic of Spanish tales.

And a very lucid and charming re-telling it is.

John Hull, in the title role, steps into Sir Jon Trimmer’s hallowed shoes undaunted, and performs the tricky balancing act of comic portrayal and drama, on which the whole story depends, with aplomb – not easy when your grand steed is an undisguised floor mop.

Shane Urton is Sancho Panza in the lead cast, and he too produces a strong character, likeable and well rounded, from gawky, nerdish beginnings.

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Spanish escapism and fabulous dancing

Review by Rosemary Martin 27th Mar 2015

As a child I recall watching the American Ballet Theatre’s version of Don Quixote on VCR over and over. For hours I would be transfixed with the infamous pairing of Cynthia Harvey and Mikhail Baryshnikov in the roles of Kitri and Basilio. The music, flair, and passion oozed out of the television set and made me, a tiny aspiring ballet dancer in West Auckland, imagine I was in a market place in Barcelona or the enchanted garden of Dulcinea.

Watching the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s (RNZB) performance at the ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre on 26 March transported me back to these locations and childhood memories, reminding me that Don Quixote is one of the most vivacious classics still being performed by ballet companies in the 21st Century. Based on the famous novel, Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes, the ballet radiates flamboyant beauty, and this is echoed in the score by Ludwig Minkus (played with glowing gusto by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Nigel Gaynor).

Originally choreographed by Marius Petipa, choreographer Adrian Burnett’s take on the work adds contemporary flair that sits well with the RNZB. Enough of the ‘classic’ remains in the movement vocabulary and story, yet at the same time there is a nod to a more modern day aesthetic. Costumes, by former Artistic Director Gary Harris, are chic and vibrant. The personality of each character is reflected in the costume designs aptly.

The ballet is strongly based on the dynamics between the lead couple – Kitri and Basilio. Mayu Tanigaito as Kitri and Kohei Iwamoto as Basilio provide us with outstanding chemistry and virtuosic style. If there ever was a time for all the ‘flashy’ dance moves to come out – high extensions, flying jetes, lengthy balances, pirouettes in every which way – Don Quixote is it. Tanigaito and Iwamoto pull out all the stops. While there were a few moments in the act three grand pas de deux where things went ever so slightly astray they remained composed and a joy to watch.

Abigail Boyle as Mercedes and Paul Mathews as Gamache make an excellent pairing. Boyle offering an aloof bad-girl vibe embedded in crisp technical prowess, and Mathews performing a fantastic ‘drunk’ solo where the balance of comedy and robust virtuosity was found perfectly. John Hull as the dreamer Don Quixote and Shane Urton as his nephew Sancho Panza assist Kitri and Basilio to find love with each other, despite the many challenges that arise on the journey. Harry Skinner as Lorenzo, the father of Kitri, carries his role with full commitment and a finely tuned sense of humour in his movement and mime. The dynamic movement of lead gypsies, Adriana Harper and Joseph Skelton, also stands out. The ensemble of the company dance with impeccable polish, and it appears that the company is in good hands with the new Artistic Director Francesco Ventriglia.

The RNZB is performing Don Quixote at the ASB Theatre until 29 March. I suggest you get along to the show, for a little Spanish escapism and a lot of fabulous dancing.


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A light and frothy tale

Review by Hannah Molloy 22nd Mar 2015

Don Quixote is a light and frothy tale of a thwarted adventurer, thwarted love and thwarted theft. The Royal New Zealand Ballet tells these stories with its usual light touch, fantastic sets and gorgeous costumes.

The audience was dressed as fine as fivepence, with many flowers in hair, sparkly earrings, full skirts and dapper jackets in evidence. The crowd was chatty and very ready to be pleased by the treat in store.

There are several threads to this story, each of which are only loosely twined with each other, just enough to maintain the narrative. The aging Don Quixote is roused from his lethargy by the arrival of his nephew Sancho (Fabio Lo Giudice) whom he proceeds to drag off in search of adventure – finding instead a woman he believes s his mythical long lost lover but is in fact Kitri.

Kitri, danced by Mayu Tanigaito, and Basilio, by Kohei Iwamoto, are the thwarted lovers – Kitri’s father (Harry Skinner) doesn’t want a mere delivery boy for his beautiful, saucy daughter and the lovers run away followed by the Don on his ridiculous horse (a mop) and his longsuffering nephew.

While in the town, the Don’s bag of gold is spotted by foppish ruffian Gamache (Damir Emric) and his brazen woman Mercedes (Clytie Campbell). This pair plots how to steal the money and enlist the aid of a band of gypsies – along with a very cleverly engineered and hilarious fluffy white dog.

The band of gypsies are far and away my favourite scene. They are shamelessly joyous in their spite, compared to the town folks’ more underhand and surreptitious malice, and the women are gloriously sultry and wild, exactly as gypsies should be. The RNZB ensemble seems to exalt in the energy of this sort of character and it’s infectious – the audience revels in it too.

The dream scene is beautiful, with immaculately placed hands and feet creating striking geometric patterns. The perfect symmetry became almost asymmetrical and I kept trying to see if the lines were in fact asymmetrical or just very cleverly positioned – it was clever and very satisfying positioning.

There was such a lot of story-telling going on onstage at any given moment I sometimes felt I was distracted from the dancing but it seemed as though that was the point as well – there were so many elements of subterfuge and playfulness that they had to be squeezed in just at the corner of the audience’s eye.

The characters are all beautifully and individually drawn, from Gamache’s outrageous green pants, purple shirt and shoes, set off by a yellow and black striped jacket and very sparkly bling to Lorenzo’s terrible toupee and buffoonish antics over the lack of payment of his no doubt exorbitant bill. Kitri and Basilio, although characters full of spirit and fire, strike me as a gentle pair who seem content with executing a perfect performance and wowing the audience in their wedding scene (no longer thwarted lovers). They looked delighted with the audience’s response.

Overall, Don Quixote was a fun, eye-catching ballet that had the audience laughing out loud, watching in hushed anticipation and applauding often and genuinely.



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A story of great longevity

Review by Candice Egan and Mark Quigley 12th Mar 2015

The buzz of the audience on the opening night of Don Quixote fills the lobby of the impeccably restored Isaac Theatre Royal. The Royal New Zealand Ballet has returned to one of Christchurch’s majestic icons to perform a version of the ballet originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and first presented in 1869. This balletic adaptation of a story originally written at the start of the 17th century by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra means that we are about to experience a story of great longevity.

We enter the packed theatre and sit.  The demographic consists of young and old, collectively sharing a youthful optimism that resonates with the desire of some to perhaps grace the stage in the future. Amongst the gold embellishments of the Theatre Royal decor there is spontaneous applause from the audience as the house lights dim. The sounds of orchestral tuning evoke in us a feeling of vibrancy and anticipation. Then the joyous and upbeat overture begins. The Christchurch Symphony Orchestra led by conductor Nigel Gaynor share with us the music of Ludwig Minkus all night and they are exceptional. They greatly deserve the rich applause they receive at the end of the night.

The first scene (Act I) is comedic and light. We are introduced to Don Quixote in his bedroom (played by a youthful John Hull) and given some insights into his quirky character. His nephew (played by Shane Urton) stumbles on to the stage. The second scene of Act 1 shifts to a vibrant, colourful Mediterrean set that boasts a cartoonish element. Our introduction to Kitri, played by Mayu Tanigaito, is refreshingly strong and beautiful. Subsequent character introductions come fast and slick. The choreography establishing the romantic interaction between Kitri and Basilio is tight.

The arrival of Gamache, played by Paul Mathews, triggers an audience murmur as he is accompanied by an incredibly life-like pet dog. Gamache is comically tugged back and forth, weaving throughout the dancing cast that includes waiters, sailors, and townsfolk. His costume, complete with gangsta bling, seems confused and indelicately out of touch with the set and costumes of others, however the acting is strong. The dancing waiters are strong and danced convincingly by Jacob Chown, William Fitzgerald, Peng Fei Jiang, and Damir Emric. Their choreography builds pace and adds a frame to Kitri’s movements. The sailor dance is at times laborious and the unison for this section is not as secure as it could be; varying leg heights and out-of-sync tour en l’air suggest more work is required. Abigail Boyle is well cast as Mercedes and relishes in this role using strong footwork as Gamache’s coterie. Don’s entrance to the now packed stage is underwhelming and the characters’ reactions to the happenings around him seem slow and hesitant at times. However, the energy of a bright stage full of movement cannot be denied.

After an intermission, we are treated to Gary Harris’s beautiful set and Jon Buswell’s effective lighting as the curtain rises; the design evokes an ‘ooh’ from the audience. Kitri and Basilio enter. The audience sits back and indulges in a sustained and controlled pas de deux that includes slow and poised lifts. You trust the skill of these dancers. Their blend of contrasting and unison movement is tight. Gypsies enter. Effective costuming builds strong characterisation of the gypsies and their choreography encourages a gutsy and confident performance. The overall performance of Act II is more secure and convincing than the first.

Don’s character is underdeveloped and disconnected as he weaves from scene to scene. We are not sure how we are meant to feel about him? Are we meant to like him? Sympathise with him? Hate him? Is Don actually a senile old man who wishes to be the character of Don Quixote? Why is he riding a mop as a horse?  The lack of dancing that the character of Don actually does means that we struggle to build rapport with him.

The transition into the dream sequence where we meet Cupid, played by an enthusiastic Fabio Lo Giudice, is smooth. Ballerinas enter. This scene offers a classical satisfaction to the avid ballet fan who wants to see strong symmetrical lines of white tutus – the unison movement of the ballerinas here is strong and the grouped tableauxs are beautiful. This dream sequence is a typical classical ballet scene which is satisfying to watch.

In the closing Act III, we experience a shift from day to night reflected in convincingly lovely lighting changes. Costume colours and choices are appropriate and effective for shifting the mood of the final act into a ‘night time’ party look. This festive mood is enhanced by the flamenco-influenced choreography performed nicely by the corps de ballet. The accompanying orchestra is very strong. The scene builds to the climax; a dynamic duet by our main dancers followed by a series of solos. The dancing is dynamic, robust and satisfying. The final solos performed by Mayu Tanigaito and Kohei Iwamoto are beautifully executed and balanced and the audience roars.

We need to accept Don Quixote for what it is: a light, festive, and joyous romp of ballet overprinted on a complacent and underdeveloped storyline with an inaccessible protagonist. The celebration of dance is strong and reminds us of the athletic finesse and focus required of professional ballet dancers. One wonders if decluttering the stage of stationary and perhaps unnecessary actors might further channel our focus on the dance. However the rigorous dancing moves us and reminds us why almost 150 years after it was first created audiences still flock to see this ballet.


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Don Quixote, St James, Wellington

Review by Mona Williams 12th Mar 2015

As the curtain fell on the final Act of Don Quixote, the audience which had packed the St.James Theatre on opening night, gave their verdict in sustained, deafening applause, roars of “Bravo!” and the rolling thunder of percussive feet on the theatre’s floor. They had enjoyed this light-hearted feast for the eyes.

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Consummately crafted, elegantly performed

Review by Lyne Pringle 05th Mar 2015

The Royal New Zealand Ballet delivers a sleek evening of dance with Don Quixote.  Everything about this production is superb.

It is incredible how much this company of fine dancers commit to dancing their hearts out – for us. The thunderous applause and whoops of appreciation say it all.

Choreographically the work is immensely satisfying in Acts I and III. Adrian Burnett is a consummate craftsman. His work is musical, adroit spatially and dynamically varied. The use of asymmetry is particularly pleasing and the mixture of new and traditional vocabulary is eloquently balanced.

Don Quixote is a story about the quest for ideal love. It drips romance. The lovers, Basilio danced by Kohei Iwamoto and Kitri, Mayu Tanigaito are shining stars in these roles.  There is a believable complicité between them as they move  with elegant musicality from gorgeous flirtation, to deeply felt tenderness, to virtuoso brilliance. Tanigaito embodies Kitri with every insouciant flick of her fan.

The very famous pas de deux in Act III left us gasping.  Replete with flying leaps with horizontal-full body-double rotation (yes it is possible) from Kohei Iwamoto and an extraordinary set of fouettes,  from  Mayu Tanigaito complete with flicks of her fan and 360 degree rotation.

His levity and her extension and their complete delight in the tasks at hand and each other will long be cherished by many in the audience. They utterly charmed us.

All of the other characters were well cast and totally convincing; providing many superb moments of dance, where acting and skill combined to propel the story forward.

John Hull is understated as The Don and even though he is the pivot point of this epic story; the choreography allows little development of his character. Consequently we do not engage with the pathos of his confusion in Act II. Instead our attention is consumed by a very traditional ‘white ballet’ with limited choreographic exploration – albeit charming and lovely dancing from the corps. Clytie Campbell is meticulous as the Queen Driad and MacLean Hopper is very easy on the eyes as a sprightly cupid. The opportunity to move beyond the froth and deeply connect with the desires and aspirations of Don Quixote, is side-lined by the demands of the pantomimic balletic form.

Gary Harris’s stamp is all over the design; wonderful palette and invention with scale. An extremely large moon is striking but could do with dimming as the act proceeds. A sunny village square is perfectly evoked and a Fellini movie is brought to mind. Every costume is stunning (congratulations to the wardrobe). As with the choreography the mixture of the modern and the traditional is beautifully balanced. Jon Buswell’s lighting design illuminates the whole to great effect.

With the shine of brass, the lilt of a tambourine, the richness of strings and the click of a castanet, Orchestra Wellington, under the always assured baton of Nigel Gaynor, takes us on a rich aural journey. Once again we celebrate the wonderful partnership of live music and dance.

Meticulous down to, the curl on a cheek, the flick of a table cloth, the twirl of a wrist, the flowers in the window boxes, the stars in the sky, the tiny stitch on a tutu, the subtle lift of the baton, the raise of an eyebrow , the shake of a fluffy dog  and the gift of a rose.

The Royal New Zealand Ballet is in majestic form. This production is a must see! Bravo!


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Effortless, vibrant and comedic

Review by Ann Hunt 05th Mar 2015

First performed by the Royal New Zealand Ballet in 2008, this exuberant production has lost none of its sparkle and indeed appears to have gained from some changes.

Here the Don appears to be an elderly man longing for adventure and dreaming of being “the Don Quixote” of Cervantes’ classic story. Scene One still needs tightening and the projections are still unnecessary.

Set in 1950s Barcelona, most of the pathos of the original book has been removed in favour of an overall comedic treatment.  On the whole this works very well and it looks stunning. Gary Harris’ vibrant costumes and vivid, storybook Mediterranean sets are brilliant, and set the tone for an evening of fun, romance and derring do….

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