Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Mikhail Baryshnikov's new ballet production, "Don Quixote or Kitri's Wedding," given its world premiere by American Ballet Theatre at the Kennedy Center Opera House Thursday night, is just what he intended it to be - a lavish, lighthearted entertainment, chock full of robust dancing, complete with all the 19th-century theatrical trimmings but always winking with one eye at its own grandiosity.
And despite the fatigue that has been dodging the company lately, affecting Baryshnikov even more for the labors of bringing forth this magnum opus, all the dancers, Baryshnikov and his leading lady Gelsey Kirkland first among them, found the necessary extra kilowatts for a brilliantly electric first performance.
If this "Don Quixote" is no less than its choreographer wished it to be it is also no more. There's no philosophical subtext here, as in the Cervantes novel, or autobiographical musings, as in George Balanchine's ballet version.
Don Quixote himself, in the Baion on which it is based, enters the picture only as a symbol of romantic yearning, and the role is only acted, not danced. The operative plot for the ballet is a simple tale of an innkeeper's daughter who prefers her poor lover to the rich suitor her father has picked for her.
Yet, as a pretext for superbly virtuosic dancing, Spanish-Gypsy atmosphere, rich pictorial effects and farcical hijinks, it works wondrously well.
The crux of the matter is dancing, and there's a great deal of it, not only for the principals but throughout a host of subsidiary roles and ensemble numbers, so that the piece has the virtue of enabling ABT to display its mettle at all ranks and levels.
At the same time, there are juicy assignments at the top. Baryshnikov, as the poor lover, the rapscallion barber Basil, plays the endearingly impetuous rogue with blazing wit and dash, flavoring the part with bull-ring posturings and vaudevillian double-takes though he did scrap a moustache he sported during dress rehearsal).
And though there were momentary signs of strain in his dancing, in the clutch he came through with his incomparable power, thrust and daring - the blindingly rapid, unswervingly sharp turns in second position of the finale were a feat for the history books in themselves.
As kitri, the hotheaded innkeeper's daughter, Gelsey Kirkland gives us a rousing, spitfire performance that is in acute contrast to the wispy, ethereal wraiths she is most accustomed to portraying.
Though her lyrical fluency hardly deserts her, she acts and dances in this ballet with an earthy oomph that shows a winning new aspect of her stage personality. She also whizzes through the pyrotechnics of the part, which are ample indeed, like a demon.
She makes one entrance in Act I with a series of flamboyant temps de fleche - the "arrow step," a sort of double kick - that take one's breath away in their bursting breadth and sparkle. And her fouettes - whipping turns - in the finale were of a record-breaking speed. and precision.
There are far too many contributors and contributions to this elaborate enterprise to be dealt with adequately in a first-night accounting.
Baryshnikov's own choreographic and staging concepts deserve an essay unto themselves; suffice for the moment to say that they are generally full of charm and good sense, though a few spots (like the mime following Quixote's dream) may call for clarifying revision. Santo Loquasto's large, multilevel set pieces, the curtains, drops, and flouncy costumes are fittingly festive and fanciful, and Jennifer Tipton's lighting provides a wonderful feelingof Mediterranean sunshine.