Anthony Dean Griffey at SF Performances
General Director of SF Opera

The Eifman Ballet's Don Quixote

Eifman_don_quixote_hula-hoop * Notes *
The Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg is touring a production of Don Quixote, or Fantasies of the Madman. The main conceit of Boris Eifman's busy production is that the protagonist is not Don Quixote himself, but a madman imagining himself to be the knight errant. While an attempt to make to Don Quixote more accessible to a contemporary audience is commendable, unfortunately last night's performance in San Francisco never caught fire, and fell apart in the second act.

The choreography had a good deal of physical humor, but the audience did not seem to understand what was going on at all. They clapped politely when the music stopped, but there was hardly any laughter at key moments. The dancing was lovely, the Eifman Corps de Ballet were almost perfectly synchronized, whether as throng of madman or a crowd of imagined Spaniards. Sergey Volobuev was convincing as the "patient imagined himself being Don Quixote," as he was expressive from head to toe. Both with him and Yulia Manzheles ("Doctor in a madhouse") hardly had to move to convey the story, they had such presence. Their scene early in Act I with the metal circle (a hula hoop) was particularly fine.

Act II was less compelling to me, I was disappointed in tavern scene, not so much for the dancing, but for how flat the tavern girl/Dulcinea was as a character. There was also a regrettable lift in Act II, our Basil, Oleg Gabyshev had a shaky moment holding up Kitri (Nina Zmievets). There was a pause in the recorded music for the audience to clap and this was rather awkward.

* Tattling * 
The audience was disengaged, people looked at their cellular phones and spoke throughout. There were many latecomers, even after Act II started. During the intermission I heard a child on his phone declare that the 45 minutes of Act I were the most torturous of his life. It was somewhat dismaying to see that his parents had him watch Act II as well.