Incidental music for Don Quixote (1988)

Northern Ballet Theatre, directed by Christopher Gable, additional choreography by Michael Pink.
Prologue, the Players, the Entrance of the Gypsies, the Storm and the Knight of the Mirrors
First performed at the Palace Theatre, Manchester, by the Northern Ballet Theatre Orchestra, conducted by Brian Fieldhouse

Christopher Gable wanted his production of Don Quixote to reflect the totality of Cervante’s famous story rather than what is traditionally done in the ballet version. To accomplish this, he found he would need more music than was in the Minkus score, and commissioned additional music to cover the extra scenes.

The task was to add music that could stylistically sit beside the original music; consequently the musical language had to be that of the late nineteenth century. Indeed in his sections, Feeney incorporates the leitmotif that appears at the head of the Minkus score, the “Don’s tune”, quite extensively in an attempt to integrate it into the whole, so that the inserted bits would not stick out as alien.

The additional music for the prologue follows the scene closely; indeed the slower music was cut to keep the scene moving along. The music for the players was initially authentically mediaeval in style but in the end it only needed a hint of authenticity for it to work better theatrically. It serves as an interesting antecedant of the opening scene of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which likewise starts with music in an authentic historical style only for it to expand symphonically (much in the same way as Olivier’s Henry V pans out from the Globe theatre to the great wide world).

The climax of Gable’s production is the entrance of the Knight of the Mirrors and the subsequent duel that humiliates and discredits the Don. Feeney’s music is both monumental, in an almost Brucknerian sort of way, and dramatic with a great contrapuntal fugue that represents the fight. It is a fairly common tradition for fights to be portrayed musically by the furious contrapuntal dialogue of a fugue. Feeney was to adopt this convention again with the powerful syncopated fugue that drives the final duel in Adam Cooper’s Les Liaisons Dangereueses.