Don Quixote


Charles Kirby and Jacques Gorrissen as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in Don Quixote (ca. 1982). Photo by Barry Gray.


Our History

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Artistic Director Celia Franca added Marius Petipa’s famous Don Quixote Pas De Deux to the repertoire one month after The National Ballet of Canada’s founding. The Pas De Deux was first performed by husband and wife pairing Irene Apiné and Jury Gotshalks on December 10, 1951 at the Forest Hill Community Centre.

In 1953, the National Ballet was invited to perform at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, the longest running international summer dance festival in the United States. This marked The National Ballet of Canada’s American debut and saw the company perform an array of ballets, including the Don Quixote Pas De Deux featuring Apiné and Gotshalks reprising their roles as Kitri and Basilio. The National Ballet of Canada returned to the prestigious festival only once more in 1957. 

Irene Apiné and Jury Gotshalks as Kitri and Basilio in the Pas de Deux from Don Quixote (ca. 1953). 

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Two new versions of the Don Quixote Pas de Deux were staged during the 1963/64 season. The first was by Svetlana Beriosova, daughter of Nicolas Beriozoff, after the original Marius Petipa. The second was staged by National Ballet Principal Dancer Galina Samtsova, after Eugen Valukin. A young Martine van Hamel was cast exclusively as Kitri in both versions throughout the season. After leaving the National Ballet in 1969, van Hamel continued her illustrious performing career as a Principal Dancer with American Ballet Theatre for over 20 years. 

Martine van Hamel as Kitri in the Pas de Deux from Don Quixote (1963). 

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In 1982, celebrated Ballet Master Nicholas Beriozoff mounted the full-length version of Don Quixote on the National Ballet. This version was set to the traditional composition of Ludwig Minkus, orchestrated and adapted by John Lanchbery and featured designs by Emanuele Luzzati. 

Beriozoff’s Don Quixote premiered at the O’Keefe Centre in Toronto on November 12, 1982 with Charles Kirby in the title role, and Karen Kain and Frank Augustyn as the young lovers Kitri and Basilio. 

Nicolas Beriozoff rehearsing Don Quixote with Artists of the Ballet (1982). 

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In the Spring of 1985 The National Ballet of Canada included Don Quixote in its extensive tour throughout Europe. It was performed 17 times in 10 cities, including Luxembourg, Berlin, Zurich and Milan. 

Marcia Haydée, Kevin Pugh and Yoko Ichino backstage after a Don Quixote performance on the European Tour (1985). 

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Artistic Director Erik Bruhn commissioned Desmond Heeley to breathe new life into Don Quixote through the creation of new sets and costumes. The production premiered on November 6, 1985 at Toronto’s O’Keefe Centre and again featured Charles Kirby as Don Quixote alongside American Ballet Theatre’s Cynthia Gregory and Fernando Bujones in the roles of Kitri and Basilio. The pairing of these special Guest Artists was hailed by the press as “a partnership made in heaven”. 

Don Quixote costume sketch by Desmond Heeley (1984). 

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Shortly before his untimely death on April 1, 1986 Artistic Director Erik Bruhn addressed company members in a personal letter celebrating the triumph of the revamped Don Quixote. The new production had been restored as a popular favourite among the National Ballet’s repertoire while at the same time cementing Erik Bruhn’s lasting legacy as the company’s Artistic Director. 

Erik Bruhn’s letter to the company (1986). 

Read Erik Bruhn's Letter to the company 

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The National Ballet of Canada was granted the rare opportunity in the 2006/07 season to mount George Balanchine’s Don Quixote as restaged by Suzanne Farrell. The original production created for New York City Ballet in 1965 had stopped being performed by 1978, only to be revived by Farrell’s own company in 2005. Set to a commissioned score by composer Nicolas Nabokov, Balanchine’s adaptation departs from the traditionally choreographed versions of Miguel de Cervantes’s story and makes Don Quixote himself the central subject in a much darker ballet. 

Balanchine’s modern masterpiece had its National Ballet premiere at the Four Season Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto on June 15, 2007 with Hazaros Surmeyan as the tragic hero Don Quixote and Heather Ogden as his unattainable love Dulcinea. 

Hazaros Surmeyan and Piotr Stanczyk as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in Balanchine’s Don Quixote (2007). 

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"My mom has 5 younger sisters. One of them is an artist and I always thought she was my "cool" aunt Chrissie. When I was little, I lived in Winnipeg and, having only two sons and a husband with no interest in ballet, she took me to the ballet regularly. I still remember many of the ballets we saw vividly, including CarmenSwan Lake, and even The Legend of Lizzie Borden. My mother was not impressed with her sister after I came home dancing and spinning tales of axe murders! But I loved every minute.

Now, as an adult, I have my own season tickets to the National Ballet here in Toronto and I have been going regularly for several years (more than five but I'm not sure if it's an even ten yet!). Two years ago, my cool aunt Chrissie came to visit us in Toronto and her visit happened to coincide with one of the National Ballet's performances; Don Quixote. I purchased an extra ticket and took my aunt to the ballet. When we arrived and took our seats, she started crying and was telling everyone sitting around us that she used to take me to the ballet as a child and now I was taking her, 30 years later. I almost started crying myself! She loved the performance, as did I, and still tells that story to friends and family. I will always be grateful to Chrissie for introducing me to the ballet and fostering my love of the arts. In January 2012, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Scarlet, and I can't wait to take her to her first ballet. Once that happens we will have truly come full circle :)"

Ms. Sheila Balkissoon, Subscriber & Donor, 5+ years