[Herald Review] Don Quixote, the romantic comedy of the ballet world

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Jun 30, 2014 - 19:26
  • Updated : Jun 30, 2014 - 19:26
Standing at a towering 195 cm, Korean National Ballet principal dancer Lee Jae-woo took rein of his masculine stature and gave a domineering edge to his role as the barber Basilio in the classic ballet retelling of one of the 17th century’s most beloved tales of humor and heroism ― “Don Quixote.”

After four centuries, Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes’ whimsical tale of the fictional character Don Quixote and his trusty sword-bearing sidekick Sancho Panza still continues to bring laughter and amusement to audiences worldwide.

Following up its April staging of “Swan Lake,” the Korean National Ballet returned to the stage with a resurrection of Marius Petipa’s classic ballet rendition of Don Quixote’s humorous misadventures from the eponymous novel, which is still considered one of the greatest literary works of all time. 
Scenes from the Korean National Ballet’s rendition of “Don Quixote.” (Korean National Ballet)

The ballet premiered more than 260 years ago and has since become one of the ballet world’s most beloved comical productions.

While it initially appeared that ballerino Lee’s skyscraping prominence would hinder his ability to appear graceful during his adagio movements, and in some cases this was arguably true, he nevertheless managed to mesh well with fellow KNB principal dancer Lee Eun-won, who played the role of his love interest Kitri ― the daughter of a local innkeeper.

The spotlight pas de deux moments in both the first and second acts were a bit lumbering at times with Jae-woo’s facial expressions appearing overly robotic to compliment his partner; however, the lack of emotional sincerity at parts was offset by the pair thriving in the ballet’s more comical segments.

Unlike the novel, which primarily follows the story of a middle-aged man who one day decides to knight himself under the name Don Quixote and embark on his own heroic adventures, the ballet rendition focuses on the playful romance between Basilio and Kitri.

With Kitri’s disapproving father condemning the romance between his daughter and Basilio and encouraging her to marry an older, yet wealthy gentleman instead, the tale of Basilio and Kitri is a far cry from a tragic love story.

The scene where Basilio pretends to commit suicide actually sent a ripple of laughter across the audience, with a number of spectators laughing aloud at the comical lengths some would go for the sake of love. While lying on the ground for all the town to see, Basilio sneaks off and kisses and even playfully gropes Kitri every time her father turns his back, while his daughter pretends to be in mourning for her “fallen” lover.

This year’s production of Don Quixote, which closed its curtains on Sunday, also featured principal dancers Kim Ji-young and Kim Ri-hoe in the leading role of Kitri and Kim Hyun-woong and Kim Ki-wan as Basilio.

The Korean National Ballet will present its fourth production of the year this October with its four-day staging of “The Seventh Symphony: The Rite of Spring.”

By Julie Jackson (juliejackson@heraldcorp.com)