Paris Opera Ballet: Don Quixote

Opéra Bastille, Paris
April 22 & 23, 2024

Inès McIntosh is a dancer of delightful contradictions. At the end of last year, she portrayed the adolescent Clara, exuding dreamy wonder and youthful tenderness. Come May, she will grace the stage as the titular character in Giselle, a role that her air of old-world romanticism seems particularly suited for. On Monday April 22, she embodied the feisty Kitri, a single performance in the Paris Opera’s twenty four-show run of Rudolf Nureyev’s Don Quixote.

Kitri, perhaps, is the more revealing role. Unlike the two-act Nutcracker, Nureyev’s Don Quixote is an opulent three-act production, requiring sustained feats of technical courage. What it reveals is not just a dancer of great promise, but also one, at only 21 and in her first season as première danseuse (or first soloist), in prodigious command of stagecraft.

Paris Opera Ballet in Rudolf Nureyev’s Don Quixote
Photo Yonathan Kellerman, OnP

From her first blazing entrance, McIntosh carried the performance with gutsy aplomb. Despite Francesco Mura’s (Basilio) rather nervous partnering, she never faltered, blending French elegance with something rarer on the Parisian stage: fire. Though at moments in the first act she seemed slightly ahead of the music, I admired her instincts for risk-taking, her unabashed delight in pushing her already formidable technique. If this is her bid for étoile-dom, I would be surprised if it were not a winning one.

Perhaps this is something Valentine Colasante, who danced Kitri the following evening, would understand. Many years ago it was in this very production that she reached étoile status. With less to prove, Colasante is more measured in the opening moments of the ballet. She calculates her effects and employs them with greater economy. But she knows how to elevate the dramatic and technical stakes of the ballet. The Act One castanet solo is an explosion of brilliance at the right time. The third act is a dizzying display of controlled virtuosity, blending crisp footwork with generous épaulement, simultaneously teasing and chic.

Hohyun Kang (Queen of the Dryads) in Rudolf Nureyev’s Don Quixote
Photo Yonathan Kellerman, OnP

Also evident on Tuesday evening was the connection between Colasante and Guillaume Diop. Nureyev’s choreography for Basilio can feel excessively obstructive, but for the most part, Diop navigated it with open-hearted cheer. Throughout, the couple held each other’s gaze, glittering with challenge in the first act, loving in the second, and beguiling in the third.

Elsewhere, Naïs Duboscq and Milo Avêque (April 23) made for a sultry pairing of Mercedes and Espada. Hohyun Kang (April 22) and Roxane Stojanov (April 23) were benevolent Dryad Queens; Hortense Pajler (April 22), a charming Cupid; and Alexandre Boccara an explosive leader of the gypsies on both evenings.