American Ballet Theatre
Ballet in Three Acts
Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Guillaume Graffin, Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Georgina Parkinson, Kirk Peterson
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 27 and June 30, 2005
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.
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).
June 27: Conductor: David LaMarche, Marcelo Gomes as Conrad, Sascha Radetsky as Birbanto, his friend, Jose Manuel Carreño as Ali, the slave, Herman Cornejo as Lankendem, owner of the bazaar, Paloma Herrera as Medora, Xiomara Reyes as Gulnare, Medora's friend, Roman Zhurbin as Seyd, Pasha of the Isle of Cos, Karin Ellis-Wentz as Lead Pirate Woman, Maria Riccetto, Kristi Boone, Michele Wiles as Odalisques, Karin Ellis-Wentz and Sascha Radetsky in Pirates' Dance and Forband, and Julio Bragado-Young 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.
June 30: Conductor: Charles Barker, Marcelo Gomes as Conrad, Jesus Pastor as Birbanto, his friend, Carlos Acosta as Ali, the slave, Sascha Radetsky as Lankendem, owner of the bazaar, Michele Wiles as Medora, Maria Riccetto as Gulnare, Medora's friend, Flavio Salazar as Seyd, Pasha of the Isle of Cos, Jennifer Alexander as Lead Pirate Woman, Karin-Ellis Wentz, Kristi Boone, Anna Liceica as Odalisques, Jennifer Alexander and Jesus Pastor in Pirates' Dance and Forband, Alejandro Piris-Niño 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 full-length Le Corsaire was a rare treat, as NY audiences usually see the one-act Pas de Deux, with Ali, the slave's macho, virtuosic backward, gravity-defying leaps and top-like spins. The full-length storybook event, with a harem of sensuous slave women in belly-dance attire, a sexy, bare-chested pirate slave, a tall ship with billowing sails, an opulent bazaar, a campy pasha, a poison rose, and silent film style gunshots, with pirates spinning to and fro, is a Turkish Delight. The score is a pot pourri from five composers, some familiar in ballet programs and some not so often heard. ABT has a way with sets and costumes, and the colors and textures were dazzling and blended with both brightness and pastels.
Marcelo Gomes, as it turned out, starred as Conrad both evenings (substituting once for Tamás Solymosi), and he seemed even more vibrant and relaxed the second time around with the newly promoted principal, Michele Wiles, as Medora on the 30th, then with the ever so strong and sensational, Paloma Herrera. Ms. Wiles glowed and glistened with rapturous pride, and her flowing lines were well suited physically and emotionally to Mr. Gomes' stature and style. Yet, as always, Ms. Paloma, as Medora on the 27th, seduced her audience with wily glances and endless pointe work and leaps to her partner's well-timed, often upside-down lifts. Mr. Gomes has fast become one of the lead ABT principals in their outstanding array of male virtuosity.
What the audience awaits, the Act II slave dance, here interwoven into the three-act ballet, was approached somewhat differently each night, by the two Cuban virtuosos, Jose Carreño on the 27th and Carlos Acosta on the 30th, in a debut role. Mr. Carreno had the tighter timing and seasoned leaps and spins, and Mr. Acosta had the freshness and roughness that actually seemed more slave-like, if possible. Mr. Carreno has been seen in so many princely roles, both full-length and one act Pas de Deux, that one expects classy perfection, and that's what one gets. His dance is flawless, and the anticipation is thick. For Mr. Acosta's debut in this balletomane's high point, anticipation was breathless in the impending experience of the unknown, and Mr. Acosta interpreted the dance with wider extensions and macho muscularity. Both slaves received standing curtain call ovations.
Xiomara Reyes, on the 27th, as Gulnare, was much more fitting and flowing as Medora's kidnapped friend, and her initial appearance in the long, yellow veil, her youthful fervor, and her ethereal effortlessness gave her the edge, over the edgier, stiffer Maria Riccetto on the 30th. Sascha Radetsky, as Birbanto on the 27th, and Jesus Pastor, in the same role on the 30th, were equally well-suited to the darting, dashing pirate lunges and leaps, both with driven, dark, devilish demeanor. However, Herman Cornejo seemed to have the edge over Mr. Radetsky as Lankendem, bazaar owner, on the 27th, as his early, bravura dance was so athletic that the audience gasped. Mr. Cornejo is a tough act to follow, as he knows no limits, and the stage floor serves as his trampoline. He seems to sprout wings with soaring skills and daring drive.
Both Roman Zhurbin on the 27th and Flavio Salazar on the 30th excelled as pashas, and Karin Ellis-Wentz, Lead Pirate Woman on the 27th, and Jennifer Alexander, in the role on the 30th, were quite entertaining. Maria Riccetto, along with the about-to-be-promoted Michele Wiles and with Stella Abrera (a dancer to watch), were exceptional as Odalisques on the 27th. On the 30th, with Karin Ellis-Wentz, Kristi Boone, and Anna Liceica starring in this dance, there was equal energy and effervescence. The Pirates' Dance and Forband Dance on both nights were also splendid and powerful. Julio Bragado-Young, as the pasha's assistant on the 27th, was theatrical (as always), while Alejandro Piris-Niño, in the role on the 30th, is an emerging dancer.
A high point of Le Corsaire, both nights, was the onstage presence of numerous young dancers', apparently from the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at ABT, holding flower garlands and posing in petal pastels. Among the children I spotted Skylar Brandt, a young dancer to watch. The children were extremely well poised and affected a noble attitude. The corps, as various pirates, bazaar women, dream-like women, in yellow, orange, and red, wives, guards, and merchants, was always in sync and in step to the ever-contrasting dramatic motif and rhythmic dynamics of this five-composer score. The orchestra was buoyant and brilliant both nights, with the eclectic music, under David LaMarche on the 27th and Charles Barker on the 30th. Kudos to both Conductors for leading a most challenging musical production.