San Francisco Ballet's Spectacular Don Quixote Leaves Audience Cheering
February 27, 2022—San Francisco Ballet's spectacular full-length Don Quixote opened last evening to an explosively enthusiastic audience. SFB's first full-length production of the season, the sumptuous staging and dynamic dancing filled the longstanding need of an audience craving quality performance while still emerging from pandemic deprivation. The quality of dance was outstanding, with leads Misa Kuranaga, as Kitri, and Angelo Greco, as Basilio, especially impressive, to say the least. The superb San Francisco Ballet Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Martin West.
Following a film tribute to departing Helgi Tomasson and the Don Quixote Prologue, the dancing began in Act I, A Square in Barcelona, as a festival takes place. The warm, pastel peach of the flared costume dresses had an inviting and comforting effect, despite the enthusiastic and festive crowd. Close to forty dancers and character actors were on stage, a very lavish spectacle.
Misa Kuranaga was engagingly charming as the independent, young Kitri defying her father to pursue her lover Basilio, danced by the dynamic Angelo Greco. Kuranaga's energy and superlative dance skills often evoked thunderous applause and cheers to her jetés, fouetté arabesques, endless pirouettes, and a fish dive or two, and, of course, the famous Kitri kick, when leaping Kitri's back foot nearly touches the back of her head. Greco's sissonnes, mid-air splits, cabrioles, and much more were over the top impressive, inspiring cheers and a whoop here and there.
However, Sarah Van Patten, in the role of Mercedes, unfortunately, didn't have much of a challenge to her routine, dancing around knives embedded in the marley floor, that could demonstrate her admirable skills.
Kitri's father Lorenzo was played by character actor and choreographer Val Caniparoli in a non-dancing role. The vain dandy Gamache was played with comic genius by soloist, choreographer, and unofficial scene-stealer Myles Thatcher.
In addition to the festival scene in Act I, impressive and delightful spectacles abound in this production: the dance of the toreadores in orange and yellow outfits, swirling their capes; Don Quixote's and Sancho's live horse and pony; the exuberant and colorful Gitanos in Act II, especially Esteban Hernandez and exciting Ellen Rose Hummel, and, of course, the nymphs in the Act II Dream scene. Sasha Mukhamedov as Queen of the Driads was lovely, while Norika Matsuyama as Cupid was endearing as well as stunningly skilled, assisted by numerous Driads and several Little Cupids from the San Francisco Ballet School.
As gratifying as this grand spectacle was, the thunderous final applause and multiple curtain calls left the audience craving for one thing: More!
San Francisco Ballet's Don Quixote runs through March 6th at the Memorial Opera House. For more information, see sfballet.org.