ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “Don Quixote” is universally known as the title of Miguel de Cervantes’ epic Spanish novel and it’s the basis for the Broadway musical “Man of La Mancha.”
Perhaps not as well known is that a ballet based on the “Don Quixote” story was created in the 19th century.
The New Mexico Ballet Company and the New Mexico Philharmonic are joining forces to present the ballet “Don Quixote.” Performances are Saturday, Jan. 11 and Jan. 12 at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.
Jolie Sutton-Simballa, the ballet company’s artistic director, restaged the ballet for the performances. In addition, she choreographed the Gypsy section and the adagio portions of the section where Don Quixote dreams of Kitri as Dulcinea.
“The rest is Alexander Gorsky and Marius Petipa, who are the original choreographers,” Sutton-Simballa said in an email.
Antionette Segura is dancing Kitri, the main female role in the ballet; Segura is a principal ballerina in the company.
The philharmonic will play Ludwig Minkus’ original ballet music. His music is probably less familiar to the orchestra’s musicians than Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky’s music for “The Nutcracker” ballet or Sergei Prokofiev’s music for the “Romeo and Juliet” ballet, said Grant Cooper, who is guest-conducting the philharmonic.
“But the music of Minkus is very straightforward, classic middle-of-the-19th-century ballet music,” Cooper said. “The music is characterized by extremely regular metrical structure. That is to say it is easy to count and keep track of. It is also music that is extremely melodious, which means there is an obvious emphasis on the melody and its accompaniment.”
And each little scene of the ballet immediately creates a sense of character – musical and stage character, he said. The result is the audience knows right away if the music is supposed to be dreamy or sinister or frantic, for example.
One of Minkus’ goals, Cooper said, was to quickly capture that sense so the listener immediately knows what the music is about.
“It’s beautiful music. Listeners will love the score,” said Cooper, the artistic director/conductor of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra.
“In that regard it fills its function as a standard Russian traditional ballet extremely well. So listeners will hear this ballet and feel very satisfied that the music enhances their appreciation of the dance.”
Sutton-Simballa believes the music informs the choreography.
“I always feel that music tells you exactly what to do: I almost always choreograph to particular instruments,” she said in the email.
“For example, I don’t often use counts. I ask dancers to enter or dance on particular instruments or musical passages. Often the dancers themselves refer to the instruments. Just the other day one of the dancers asked if he was supposed to come in on the strings or the trumpet. I was proud! This is why I always must have musical dancers in the company.”
Sutton-Simballa said in the original Gorsky-Petipa libretto, Don Quixote is delusional. It focuses on the trials of the young couple, Kitri and Basilio, “and the wackiness that ensues from their shenanigans. …
“In my version, I of course have Kitri and Basilio in love, but they ultimately exist in the framework of Don Quixote’s search for his Dulcinea.
“I see Don Quixote not as crazed, but present him more as an idealist who dreams and searches for a land where chivalry is honorable, where his gallantry will be rewarded with the love of his idealized woman, Dulcinea,” she added.
Dancing the role of Basilio is Bailey Moon, a dancer/choreographer from New York City.