Virtual Museum

Virtual Museum

Don Quixote

About the Ballet

The ballet Don Quixote is based on the celebrated epic novel by Miguel de Cervantes. The production deals with the adventures and misadventures of the rusty old knight, Don Quixote, and his faithful servant, Sancho Panza, as well as the romance between two young lovers Kitri and Basilio. More specifically, the ballet deals with every man’s search for the ideal. The first known use of the story’s theme for ballet was in the 1750s by the choreographer Jean Georges Noverre in Vienna. The version of the ballet that has been passed down to us today was created by Marius Petipa, the French choreographer who is known as the father of classical ballet. Petipa’s production of Don Quixote was first performed at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Russia, on December 14, 1869. Petipa’s original choreography is now virtually lost since his production was generally replaced by a new one choreographed by Alexandre Gorsky in the early 20th century. Though a few variations and dances have been reworked by Russian choreographers, it is basically Gorsky’s version that is presented today.

George Balanchine, the prolific choreographer and founder of the New York City Ballet, is known for his innovative interpretation of the narrative. While Russian productions relegate Don Quixote to an amiable old fool, Balanchine placed him at the centre of the story and commissioned a new score from Nicolas Nabokov. Despite the fact Balanchine’s Don Quixote premiered in 1965 it has only been performed by three companies, New York City Ballet, the Suzanne Farrell Ballet and The National Ballet of Canada.

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Ballet Notes

Get more insight into the production - Ballet Notes are detailed guides to the company's dynamic repertoire. Read the synopsis and articles and view more photos in the Don Quixote Ballet Notes.

Read the 2011 Ballet Notes

Production Chronology

Pas de Deux from Don Quixote 
Premiere Date: December 10, 1951
Choreography: Marius Petipa
Music: Ludwig Minkus

Pas de Deux from Don Quixote 
Premiere Date: October 17, 1963
Choreography: after Marius Pepita, staged by Svetlana Beriosova
Music: Ludwig Minkus
Costume Design: Mark Negin
Lighting Design: Wallace Russell

Pas de Deux from Don Quixote 
Premiere Date: January 15, 1964
Choreography: after Eugen Valukin, staged by Galina Samtsova
Music: Ludwig Minkus
Costume Design: Mark Negin

Don Quixote 
Premiere Date: November 10, 1982
Choreography: Nicolas Beriozoff, after Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky
Music: Ludwig Minkus, orchestrated and adapted by John Lanchbery
Set and Costume Design: Emanuele Luzzati
Lighting Design: Sholem Dolgoy

This production was made possible by a gift from the Build-A-BalletTM Fund, THE VOLUNTEER COMMITTEE, THE NATIONAL BALLET OF CANADA 

Don Quixote
Premiere Date: November 6, 1985
Choreography: Nicolas Beriozoff, after Marius Petipa and Alexandre Gorky
Music: Ludwig Minkus, orchestrated and adapted by John Lanchbery
Set and Costume Design: Desmond Heeley
Lighting Design: Robert Thomson

The original production of Don Quixote is a gift from the Build-A-BalletTM Fund, THE VOLUNTEER COMMITTEE, THE NATIONAL BALLET OF CANADA. The new production of Don Quixote has been made possible in part by special gifts from the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Gulf Canada Limited, Kodak Canada Limited, The Ontario Arts Council, The Canada Council, as well as contributions from many individual donors. 

Balanchine’s Don Quixote 
Premiere Date: June 15, 2007 
Choreography: George Balanchine, staged by Suzanne Farrell
Music: Nicolas Nabokov
Set Design: Zack Brown
Costume Design: Holly Hynes
Lighting Design: Brad Fields

Balanchine’s Don Quixote is a gift from Roger and Kevin Garland. Produced in association with the Suzanne Farrell Ballet Company. 

Top image credit: The National Ballet of Canada tutus on display. Photo by Setareh Sarmadi.