The ensemble of Don Quixote in Spanish-style costumes stands in a circle around a blanket upon which Sancho Panza is being tossed into the air. The set backdrop is brick and stucco and Spanish-Moorish in design
Derrick Agnoletti as Sancho Panza and the Joffrey ensemble in Don Quixote. Credit: Cheryl Mann

Two years into this pestilence, the misery of war, the disappointment of mankind day after day weighing down desperate minds, with a future certain of nothing but social and planetary destruction, do we not long for a reprieve? As the nobleman Alonso Quijano sought glory in the guise of the knight Don Quixote, as a two-chapter digression within Miguel de Cervantes’s epic novel served as circumstance for a ballet, so hie we to the opera house in search of escape, imagination, and adventure. And lo, does the Joffrey’s Don Quixote, choreographed by Yuri Possokhov (after Marius Petipa) to a rousing Ludwig Minkus score, deliver in a full 100 minutes of high-spirited pageantry and pure delicious pleasure.

Don Quixote
Through 6/12: Thu-Fri 7:30 PM, Sat 2 and 7:30 PM, Sun 2 PM; Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, 312-386-8905,, $35-$172.

In a storybook Spain, in a time long ago, through the fantasy of a fanciful Don, we come to a village with an unstoppable rhythm, where everyone dances all the time. Fans, capes, castanets, beer steins: all that swishes and clacks flourishes fervidly. And within this heat and hubbub, a low-stakes love story emerges. Beautiful Kitri loves handsome but poor barber Basilio, but her father Lorenzo wants her to marry the rich and ill-bewigged Gamache. Don Quixote longs for honor, and Sancho Panza desires meat. Street dancer Mercedes and toreador Espada don’t have beef with anyone; they just generally smolder. As they all sort themselves out, the way of the village must be respected. Why walk when you can flounce? Why stand when you can pose? Why flop when you can flirt? Why breathe when you can flaunt? Why be a man when you can be a matador? Truly, the customs of this place are fabulous.

An interlude when the delusional Don is further bewildered by concussion sends us to a magic forest where the cupid Amore frolics with dryads (and Kitri, because why not?). When he comes to, we all go back to the village, where merriment finds its way to be made.

On opening night, the Joffrey was collectively committed to a heroically maximal rendition of fantastic, frothy fun. Victoria Jaiani was a charismatic and daring Kitri, and Dylan Gutierrez gave Basilio’s whirling jumps the softest of landings. Miu Tanaka was feather-light and fleet as a cherubic Amore. Amanda Assucena and Valeria Chaykina charmed as Kitri’s playfully virtuosic friends. Derrick Agnoletti jested jubilantly as Sancho Panza. And Brooke Linford never let up on a slow burn through her luxurious backbends—together with Stefan Goncalvez as Espada, they scorched the stage with every magnificent scowl.