New York City Ballet last performed George Balanchine’s three-act “Don Quixote“ in 1978. Balanchine died five years later. It was widely assumed that his problematic dance version of Cervantes’ famous book had died with him. However, “Mr. B” bequeathed “Don Quixote“ to Suzanne Farrell, the accomplished ballerina who created the role of Dulcinea in the work’s 1965 premiere. Now, 40 years after that premiere and in the quatercentenary of Cervantes’ birth, Farrell has admirably revived Balanchine’s “Don Quixote“ in a co-production with the National Ballet of Canada.
Don Quixote was controversial from the start. Some critics found it structurally flawed, over-laden with mime and dramatically unconvincing. Many condemned Nicolas Nabokov’s commissioned score. Balanchine himself continued to make remedial changes with each successive revival.
Farrell relied heavily on memory to bring “Don Quixote“ back to life. With only scanty film and video resources, she used her instinctive understanding of Balanchine’s choreographic approach to fill the gaps. New sets and costumes, by Zack Brown and Holly Hynes respectively, echo the 1965 originals but look fresh and appealing.