The Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden
It's a packed pit, for Minkus's romantic score, arranged for Carlos Acosta's 2013 staging by Martin Yates, who's conducting here.
A packed stage too, with a busy town square set, and the versatile corps de ballet rushing around as gypsies, bull-fighters, dryads and more. Amongst all this local colour, the more classical pink tutus of Quixote's dream are a welcome moment of calm, superbly staged to some of the work's most attractive music.
The prologue, with our hero visited, like Scrooge, by apparitions in his bedchamber is nicely staged with an effective balance of drama and slapstick. Christopher Saunders, who played an important part in this new staging, is the errant knight, touchingly characterized, with Philip Mosley padded up as his fat companion.
Alas, after this, Cervantes' central characters tend to be relegated to the sidelines, envious onlookers, wall-flowers at the dance. Though he does get to tilt at a windmill, and has an impressive entrance with a warhorse Rosinante on wheels. The action – I don't say plot – revolves around young lovers Kitri and Basilio. Rather as if The Merchant of Venice were rewritten around Jessica's love life.
Sarah Lamb does not look especially Spanish, but enjoys the humour and the sun-kissed silliness of it all, ably partnered by Federico Bonelli,, with fluent leaps and lifts. Eye-catching work in support from Ryoichi Hirano as the fop Gamache, and Lara Turk in the Gypsy and Fandango divertissements.
Not the greatest ballet – much loved by the Russians, whose style it suits perfectly. But in this colourful revival, danced with verve and style against Tim Hatley's charming designs, it can hardly fail to please the festive crowds in Covent Garden.