On Friday November 9-Nov. 11, the Segerstrom Center for the Arts hosted the noted Mikhailovsky Ballet and Orchestra from St. Petersburg, Russia.  The company of dancers, orchestra and crew number nearly 180 – 200.  The lavish sets and costumes are breathtaking and spare nothing to transport us to 1600 Spain, with the classic Don Quixote, its Prologue and three acts of mime, dance and bravura.

Through the leadership and funding of Vladimir Kekhman, wily banana trader and influential creative strategist, impresario and leader of the Mikhailovsky Theatre, his intelligent and shrewd picks of the most important choreographers, Ballet Masters, dancers, musicians and leaders to represent this historic company, is masterful.  Through such efforts it has expanded their reputation and an award-winning reach throughout Europe and the United States.  In 2017, the beloved and well-respected Mikhail Messerer was the next choice to become Artistic Director of the company.   Messerer is noted for his brilliant teaching and coaching, and his pedigree and ancestral connections to Asaf Messerer, famed choreographer and teacher at the Bolshoi, and the brilliant ballerina, Maya Plisetskaya,

It is clear that the priorities for the Mikhailovsky (Maly) Company, is craftsmanship, artistry and luxuriance in its lavish sets and costumes.

And Saturday, November 10, was no exception.  The breathless audience awaited the excitement of Ivan Vasiliev, former Bolshoi Soloist as Basilio, and Angelina Vorontsova, trained and performed at the Bolshoi Ballet.   Alexander Omar, Vaganova trained dancer as Espada, and the lovely lyrical Ella Persson, from Stockholm, as the street dancer.

When the curtain rises to reveal the large castle-like set in the Prologue, there was an audible gasp.  We see the namesake of the ballet, Don Quixote in his traditional breast plate, sword and tin hat pacing the floor.  Sancho Panza, Quixote’s devoted man-servant with his master, mime their desires to attain Don Q’s dream, and we are on our journey.

The first act begins with the luxurious set of a Spanish town, brightly hued reds, yellows and oranges, ladies in black velvet bodices, and layered colored skirts, and men in black and mauve velvet knickers, jackets and white flared shirts.

Don-Quixote-Angelina-Vorontsova-and-Ivan-Vasiliev-1-Photo-by-Jack-Devant Don-Quixote-Angelina-Vorontsova-and-Ivan-Vasiliev-2-Photo-by-Jack-Devant Don-Quixote-Angelina-Vorontsova-and-Ivan-Vasiliev-Photo-by-Jack-Devant Don-Quixote-Angelina-Vorontsova-and-Victor-Lebedev-1-Photo-by-Stas-Levshin Don-Quixote-Angelina-Vorontsova-and-Victor-Lebedev-Photo-by-Stas-Levshin Don-Quixote-Ivan-Vasiliev-Photo-by-Nikolay-Krusser Don-Quixote-Ivan-Vasiliev-Photo-by-Stas-Levshin Mariiinsky-Ballet-Don-Quixote-Angelina-Vorontsova-and-Ivan-Zaytcev-Photo-by-Michael-Khoury
Mikhailovsky Ballet - Don-Quixote – Angelina Vorontsova and Ivan Vasiliev - Photo by Michael Khoury

The well-rehearsed Company breaks into Jotas, Fandangos and paso doble filling the stage with high energy and excitement.  One of the highlights are two coryphes (leaders of the corps de ballet) that with joyous abandon and wonderful footwork, connect with the delighted audience as they playfully tease their beats and cabrioles and signal the entire company to join them for a rousing Sevillana with the arrival of Don Quixote on an authentic large white horse followed by Panza on his little gray donkey.

Within all this excitement we are introduced to the lead dancers Vasiliev and Vorontsova, who with great fanfare were supposed to thrill the audience.  Unfortunately, the Vapid Vorontsova is not a match for Osipova, the darling of Mikhailovsky in earlier years.  Technically, Vorontsova was quite adequate and quite beautiful, however, the soul of Kitri is never realized no matter how many Fouette’s and overhead lifts sustained.

The audience also waited for Vasiliev to save us from our indifference. However, the expansive overly effusive Vasiliev, in his excesses seemed thrilled by his own grand jetés, tour en l’air and pirouettes.  With the muscled power to electrify a whole town, it appeared to be an audition rather than work of art, with hardly a moment of art nor breadth.  Even his bow had little to no graciousness, but as the curtain was held open, a huge grand jeté occurred, designed to get yet another wail from the audience.

One of the highlights of the third act was a Fandango danced by Alexander Omar as Espada, and Ella Persson, the Street Dancer.  It had a lyrical engaging sensuality as Persson moved serpentine-like, gliding past Omar’s machismo and spirited portrayal of Espada.

Of course, the traditional Don Q pas de deux, was geared to excite the audience, but the uneven partnership seemed to neutralize this classic tour de force.   The circus like coda appeared to be fine with the cheering audience of fans, however, comparing it to Vakharova or Osipova, and Baryshnikov interpretations; Herrera and Corella, Nuñez and Acosta’s beautiful caring partnerships, therein lies artistry plus technical personification.

Yet putting the two “stars” to the side, the classic spirit and history of this company, its artistic direction, the corps, and orchestra, masterfully conducted by Pavel Sorokin were dazzling, and the ballet itself was a delightful historical gift.  Moving this entire company to the West Coast was a feat in itself and delighted most of the audience with the sheer beauty and artistry of this full length classic so fully constructed and so generously given.  We welcome such a gift to this Media town.  We are truly grateful for sharing with us, an historical dance classic and look forward to the Mikhailovsky Ballet and Orchestra returning to South California.

Featured image: Mikhailovsky Ballet – Don Quixote – Photo: Michael Khoury