American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera House
Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Georgina Parkinson, Kirk Peterson
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 7, 2006
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
Le Corsaire (1856, Paris; 1998, ABT): Choreography by Konstantin Sergeyev, after Marius Petipa, Staging by Anna-Marie Holmes after Petipa and Sergeyev, Music by Adolphe Adam, Cesare Pugni, Leo Delibes, Riccardo Drigo, and Prince Oldenbourg, Libretto by Jules-Henri de Saint-Georges and Joseph Mazilier in a version by Konstantin Sergeyev, Based on "The Corsair" (1814) by Lord Byron, Sets and Costumes by Irina Tibilova, Additional Costume Design by Robert Perdziola, and Lighting Design by Mary Jo Dondlinger.
Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, David Hallberg as Conrad, Sascha Radetsky as Birbanto, his friend, Angel Corella as Ali, the slave, Herman Cornejo as Lankendem, owner of the bazaar, Paloma Herrera as Medora, Xiomara Reyes as Gulnare, Medora's friend, Victor Barbee as Seyd, Pasha of the Isle of Cos, Marian Butler as Lead Pirate Woman, Maria Riccetto, Stella Abrera, Veronika Part as Odalisques, Marian Butler and Sascha Radetsky in Pirates' Dance and Forband, and Bo Busby as Pasha's Assistant, and the Company as Pirates, Pirate Women, Red Guards, Merchants, Bazaar Women, Pirates' Dance, Forband, Women in Yellow, Women in Orange, Women in Red, Pasha's Wives, and Children from the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at ABT.
This sumptuous ballet takes place in Turkey. In a busy bazaar, slave girls are being traded, but a pirate, Conrad, falls in love with one, Medora, who is the object of desire of the Pasha, who has already bought her and her friend, Gulnare, from Lankendem, owner of the bazaar. Conrad and his pirates kidnap Lankendem and steal Medora. In Conrad's grotto, after the infamous slave dance, Medora persuades him to free all the slave girls. Birbanto tries to thwart his master and help the pirates keep the slaves, and, after first losing one battle, he drugs his master with a potion on a rose. Medora saves her pirate from his mutinous men, and wounds Birbanto. After additional small battles, Conrad pursues Medora, now stolen by Lankendem.
Back at the Pasha's palace, and within a dream garden, the Pasha delights in his purchased slaves, Medora and Gulnare, and dreams about all of his women in shades of pastel. When the Pasha invites some pilgrims into the palace, they are actually Conrad, Birbanto, and the pirates, and they reclaim Medora and Gulnare, who exposes Birbanto as a traitor. Conrad shoots his assistant, and Ali, the slave, helps Medora, Conrad, and Gulnare escape on a ship. A storm brews, and the ship sinks. Everyone perishes, but Conrad and Medora, who remain clinging to a rock, from the strength of their love. (Program Notes).
From the first minute of music to the last breath of dance, tonight's Corsaire was astounding and astonishing. Herman Cornejo, as Lankendem, bazaar owner, who sells veiled nubile slaves to rotund, awkward Pashas, opened the ballet with lightning spins that almost slowed to the motion of a pendulum, and then quickened to the speed of a bullet. Speaking of bullets, there were a few of those too, as this is a tale of pirates, the Turkish sea, a sleep-inducing powder, a dream ballet, with children and floral garlands, odalisques, a slave that dances like a god, thunder, lightning, a sinking ship, and swords and knives, not in such order. The watershed moment is a three-way pirate-lover-slave dance, one that appears on all the ballet competition and gala programs, the Act II Slave Dance in the grotto.
Angel Corella has long perfected this virtuosic role, and tonight was a coup de grace. He was in full character at every moment, magnetic and mesmerizing. His arms and legs straight forward, as he spins en air, are a vision not to be missed. In the air, he creates scissors-kicks, twirls three times, slows down, speeds up, all in a frenzied spin. Each ballet principal, over the years, creates at least one signature role. Ali is one such role for Mr. Corella. Paloma Herrera is also renowned for her interpretation of Medora, with the requisite 32 fouettés. Just last week, Ms. Herrera accomplished this challenging feat in Swan Lake, and tonight's performance became a double treat, over and over again, including her dizzying spins, sometimes triple-time. As Medora, Ms. Herrera appeared in lustful delight with Conrad (David Hallberg), upside down against his torso, on Turkish shoulders in a white veil, in fitful anger with Birbanto (Sascha Radetsky), in anxious collusion with Ali (Mr. Corella), in trembling fear of Lankendem (Mr. Cornejo), in total control with Seyd, the pasha (Victor Barbee), and in close friendship with Gulnare (Xiomara Reyes).
As Gulnare, Ms. Reyes arrived, carried on shoulders with her yellow veil, and at every turn she was her seasoned self, teasing and tempting the wide array of male dancers - pirates, pasha, and more. Ms. Reyes extended the moment en pointe time and again to the delight of her fans, and she has fast become one of the most theatrical and virtuosic female principals in the company, albeit in the ingénue roles. David Hallberg, in his new role as Conrad, was elegantly poised, long-limbed, and dynamic in dance. This hormonal ballet did not disappoint at any juncture, and Mr. Hallberg's turns were aerobic and powerful. As the smitten pirate, he wooed his woman with passion. Sascha Radetsky was confident and fierce, as Birbanto, Conrad's treacherous friend, and his bravura leaps and lunges added drama to an existing dramatic event. The audience was busy all night in accolades, vocally and clapping.
Victor Barbee, Ballet Theatre's Associate Artistic Director, has also been busy of late, appearing in numerous story ballets, and tonight, as the waddling pasha, fat and campy, he was hilarious. Corsaire is neither a deep nor a sad ballet, and even the violence takes out the wicked ones, never the heroes. (Next week, Romeo and Juliet). Marian Butler filled in last moment for Erica Cornejo in Pirates' Dance and Forband, and it was good to see her featured, an under-utilized dancer, who has tremendous spirit and style. As Odalisques, Stella Abrera seemed most ethereal and nymph-like, so light on her feet with effortless abandon. The corps was in force all night, in real dances of pirates and dream dances of "lovely women", showcasing Medora and Gulnare at every turn. With talented corps, such as Isaac Stappas, Craig Salstein, Jennifer Alexander, et al, tonight's Corsaire did not loosen the grip of excitement, not for a second.
Children from the JKO School at ABT appeared in heavenly pink with floral garlands in the Jardin Animé scene. A young dancer to watch, Skylar Brandt, was especially poised, presenting herself with professional awareness. Ormsby Wilkins was an impassioned conductor, and this eclectic score, compiled from music of five composers, rose through the rafters with brilliant blending. Irina Tibilova and Robert Perdziola's costumes are filmy and evocative of Turkish history and dance. Props of giant silk cushions and long scarves, against sets of a bazaar, floral gardens, black grottos, and stormy sea, are seductive and surreal. Kudos to Konstantin Sergeyev and Marius Petipa. Kudos to tonight's cast for a pièce de résistance.
Paloma Herrera and David Hallberg in Le Corsaire
Photo courtesy of Gene Schaivone