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Don Quixote


George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust


Don Quixote


Nicolas Nabokov






No. Dancers:


Photo by Martha Swope


©The New York Public Library for the Performing Art

This Balanchine-Nabokov full-length production is an original work without reference to nineteenth-century Russian versions. The ballet depicts episodes in the hero’s search for perfection, and for his ideal woman, Dulcinea, who appears as a housemaid, shepardess, the Virgin Mary, and in other guises. Balanchine performed the role of Don Quixote on several occasions.

Nicolas Nabokov (1903-1978) Born to a family of Russian gentry, Nabokov enjoyed a privileged life and was well-educated from an early age by private tutors, but he did not show a strong interest in music until he was 11 years old. He received his first formal instruction in music composition from Vladimir Rebikov in 1918, when his family moved to escape the Bolshevik revolution. His family left Russia in 1919 and he continued his studies in Stuttgart and Berlin. Beginning in 1923, Nabokov earned degrees from La Sorbonne.  In 1928, he wrote his first major work, a ballet-oratorio called ODE for Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo. Two years later, at the invitation of the Barnes Foundation, he moved to the United States to lecture on western music. Nabokov taught at many universities across the U.S. while continuing to compose. In 1952, he became the Secretary General of the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) and became internationally known for planning international conferences on politics, science, and the arts. During his tenure at the CCF, Nabokov was commissioned by the New York City Ballet to compose the music for their production of Don Quixote. After the CCF disbanded in 1967, he continued to teach at more universities across the United States. Among his many honors, Nabokov was a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the Berlin Academy of Arts and Letters, the French Society of Composers, and Commander of the Grand Cross of Merit of the German Federal Republic.

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