The dancers have done full length story ballets, but nothing like this. One man at the Preludes program in which Corella himself spoke about the production, asked how it could be called a world premiere when it is such an old ballet. This is the mindset Corella is up against, a puzzlement about what can be new. Corella was hired to break this open and show that even old ballets can be made new, once you get away from the ingrained notion that the works must be performed exactly as they were by previous generations.
The choreography is "after Petipa," meaning the ballet follows the basic pattern which has survived down the decades, though what we see today is no doubt a far cry from Petipa's original production for the Imperial Ballet of Russia. For one thing, the score Corella acquired amounted to more than five hours of music. The present ballet runs to two and half hours, with two intermissions. That appears to be the most a modern audience can handle before their hands start twitching for the touch of their smart phones.
You can call this a world premiere because Corella, his music director and rehearsal accompanist took that score and went through it, putting together a version uniquely their own. I can only imagine that the remaining hours of music contained more of the Don himself than we see in today's productions, which focus almost entirely on the story of Kitri and Basilio. Corella tightens this focus even more, to the point where the Don's mistaking Kitri for his vision of Dulcinea, and his final intervention in the plight of the young lovers isn't entirely clear.
That they managed to put the score together at all is a testament to their efforts. The original arrived only three weeks before the start of rehearsals, and during that time they had to put together the parts they intended to use, and the music director then had to orchestrate it in a manner suited to the current Pennsylvania Ballet orchestra. The results were a bit uneven, and the scuttlebutt in that area is this is known and will be addressed. Work in progress.
Corella was keen to find a set that would truly invoke Spain, rather than some sets he's seen which invoke too much of the Moorish flavor and look more, he said, like somewhere in Turkey than anything in provincial Spain. He finally found sets from San Diego Opera's production, got them into a warehouse and proceeded to rearrange them until he found a series of combinations which produced the look he wanted.
Corella also ransacked the company costume warehouse, finding a set of costumes used, once upon a time, for the grand pas de deux done as a gala excerpt. They're not the greatest, but they worked for those company members who didn't happen to have their own. Which some of them did, so there have been some interesting photo shoots. Corella was also able to recycle some tutus from older productions. For the matadors and gypsy dancers, however, he scoured the shops of Barcelona for authentic gear. I have some entertaining imaginings of him getting all that stuff home on his Vespa. To hear him tell it, he came into the company wardrobe department like Santa Claus, with a giant duffel bag from which he began pulling headpieces, fandango frocks, and castanets. The matador costumes took a little longer. Mama Corella spent six months doing the heavy gold embroidery by hand, then flew over from Barcelona for a chance to see her handiwork in the spotlight.
The desire to infuse more authentic flavor ran to having flamenco musicians play along with the orchestra during the gypsy camp scene. Might have been where I was sitting, but the mix was not the greatest. The gypsy flamenco itself also doesn't translate well with "bare feet." Barefoot gypsies might be authentic, but in this case a bit of artistic license is forgivable. Give 'em some boots and character shoes and let's hear the flamenco. It might help those gypsies clapping in the background understand that they're part of the flamenco, not just an audience clapping along. Work in progress.
The Philadelphia Academy of Music is a beautiful venue, with not so beautiful sight lines unless you've got a lot of money to spend on your ticket. During the prologue scene, when Don Quixote has his vision of Dulcinea, she is flown in from far stage right, so anyone sitting left of center in the theater might have missed her. From where I was sitting, by leaning out and over in the limited space, I could just see a few wisps of tulle. Work in progress.