What an extraordinary dancer Tamara Rojo is. Here she was, fabulous at forty, able to toss off the fiendishly difficult – and long – role of Kitri in Rudolf Nureyev's Don Quixote. No balance is missed, and some are held for an improbable length of time, usually interrupted only by the demands of the music, and her legendary fouettés are as secure as ever with interspersed quadruple turns during the first sixteen. But she is no performing seal and every aspect of the character is right under her skin: the playfulness, the determination, the cunning. Her appearance is also spot on with her hair gleaming like a helmet, eyes flashing and a wide smile that effortlessly reaches the back of the theatre. It is curious how a true star can shine without a follow spot.
For this Don Quixote at La Scala, Rojo was paired just a couple of days before the opening, with the young Claudio Coviello who stepped in for an ailing Ivan Vasiliev. Both had danced the choreography before, but not together. It hardly showed. They both seemed as though they were enjoying themselves, even while executing Nureyev's most complex passages, and there was constant communication between them as they danced: flirty glances, tender gazes and impish grins. Their final act adagio was beautifully judged.
Coviello has changed considerably since he stood in for Vasiliev (it's getting to be a habit) eighteen months ago in Notre-Dame de Paris. His shy stage presence and slight awkwardness has been replaced by confidence and a winning personality, maybe helped by Basilio's character, and certainly aided and abetted by Rojo, but no matter, there is no turning back; he's out of his shell. Combine that with a very secure technique and you are witnessing the birth of a world class dancer. Coviello's feet are wonderful and all his lower body movements are fleet and controlled; he has clean, elegant lines, his renversés during the pas de trois brought delighted gasps from the audience and he was always respectful of Nureyev's challenging choreography. An honest dancer. I wonder what Vasiliev would have done with the role?
Coviello is also proving to be a good actor, and his interaction with everyone on stage was witty and spot on. Maybe he just needs to beef-up his upper body muscles a little to help him in partnering but La Scala certainly mustn't let this one get away!
Add to this an assured Nicoletta Manni as the Queen of the Dryads – her Italian fouettés were perfectly executed – and a company who are seeming like a true company rather than the ragbag collection of dancers that have been seen on and off over the last seasons, and the result is one of the best overall performances of Don Quixote that this theatre has witnessed in years.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.