Musings of Cervantes

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MUSINGS OF CERVANTES STUTTGART BALLET DON QUIJOTE OPERA HOUSE STUTTGART, GERMANY DECEMBER 10-31, 2000

Having danced Basilio in numerous versions with ballerinas all over the world, Maximiliano Guerra has, at 43, launched a new career as director/choreographer with his Don Quijote production for the Stuttgart Ballet. The Argentinean follows thus in the footsteps of Nureyev and Baryshnikov.

Claiming that he aims to restore dignity to the tottering knight by identifying him with his author, Cervantes, and thus show him as a rebel against the social and political evils of Spain during the seventeenth century, he starts promisingly by introducing this idea in the prologue. As Cervantes reads in his library and daydreams, Dulcinea takes over as his muse and leads him and his servant Sancho Panza into fancy adventures as the apostles of knight-errantry. From then on the ballet proceeds very much as known via the square in Barcelona, the introduction of Kitri and Basilio and their romantic entanglements, then the gypsy camp, the Don's fight against the windmills and his initiation into the order of Dryads. Then it's back to a tavern and the wedding celebration of Kitri and Basilio, and the Don's return to the library. Dulcinea steers him to his writing desk, where he embarks on his novel El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha.

Listed among the credits as responsible for the choreography and production--without even mentioning the names of Petipa and Gorsky--Guerra states that only 5 percent of the traditional choreography survives in his version, which might well cause him trouble with Petipa and Gorsky at the celestial court of copyright. For though he has distorted some of what is usually referred to as original choreography--and especially so in the Spanish-tinted character dances--it would be hard to identify steps that are uniquely Guerra's. They never transgress the Competence of a sound ballet master. That makes it hard to accept Artistic Director Reid Anderson's endorsement of Guerra's audacious claim, since he certainly knows the traditional choreography from the Beriozoff production of the National Ballet of Canada.

Far from the promised reevaluation of the character, Guerra's Don prances through the prologue and three acts like most of his balletic predecessors: an aristocratic supernumerary--not the fault of Roland Vogel, one of the company's princely luminaries. …