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Miguel de Cervantes’s famous epic about the tragic knight who sets off into the world with his servant Sancho Panza to fight the wrongs of society and mistook a windmill for a dangerous enemy or dreams of being swept off to a magic garden in the kingdom of the Dryads, was turned into a ballet by Marius Petipa in 1869 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.
In 1966, Rudolf Nureyev chose to focus on the turbulent love story of Kitri and Basil – whom Don Quixote helps to unite despite her father’s resistance – in his Don Quixote in Vienna, creating an opulent story ballet with highly demanding dances, precise characterisation and colourful scenes full of Spanish flavour that succeeded in bringing together what were then two competing worlds of ballet: Soviet virtuosity was combined a story that was told in a coherent, dramaturgical form.
The ballet remained in the Vienna repertoire for almost 20 years, from its world premiere until 1985, with Nureyev himself regularly taking to role of Basil. In 2011, Manuel Legris, who had danced several roles in the production in Paris, brought it back to where it had been created in a scrupulously worked reconstruction. Now Nureyev’s comedy ballet, which is a calling card for any company with the extreme technical demands it makes of the dancers, can once again be seen with the Vienna State Ballet from 2023.