CriticalDance Forum

"Le Corsaire" in London 2003
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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sat Jul 12, 2003 7:53 am ]
Post subject:  "Le Corsaire" in London 2003

Performances of "Le Corsaire":

21 July Mon 19:30

22 July Tue 19:30

23 July Wed 14:30 and 19:30

9 Aug Sat 14:30 and 19:30

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<small>[ 18 September 2003, 06:23 PM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Wed Jul 16, 2003 7:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Le Corsaire" in London 2003

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"Le Corsaire" is not one of my favourites, although it does present us with some fine steps. Ismene Brown does enjoy the ballet and here’s her review of the last Kirov production in London in 2001:

The Kirov's bazaar of swashbuckling fun
Ismene Brown for The Daily Telegraph savours a cutting edge 19th century theatrical spectacle

SHIPWRECKS! Pirates! Slavegirls! Fountains on stage! They weren't worried about high art in the days when Le Corsaire was made. Once the cutting edge of theatrical spectacle in 1856 (hydraulics were the new technology), Le Corsaire is nowadays a defiantly archaic old warhorse, and the Kirov, performing it with dead-straight aplomb, shows what a fabulous entertainment an old panto-ballet can be.
Derived from a swashbuckling poem by Byron, originally created in France before Russia leapt gratefully on it (and started adding and improving bits), Le Corsaire is more bazaar than ballet. Its story is a tangle of comic romance and abductions that allows two heroines, two heroes, three villains and various improbably marooned ethnic dancers to show their specialities on an idyllic Greek island setting to no coherent effect.

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Here is the link to all the newspaper articles and readers' reviews from the 2001 Kirov "Le Corsaire".

<small>[ 21 July 2003, 06:52 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  Joanne [ Tue Jul 22, 2003 1:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Le Corsaire" in London 2003

Review from The Times.

From beginning to end, Le Corsaire is a jolly ride, a 19th-century swashbuckler about pirates, shipwrecks and damsels in distress that is loosely (very loosely) based on Byron’s poem. The music (five composers share the credit) is fun and does everything the choreography asks for. The sets and costumes are a festival of colour and exotic location. The acting is hokey and the dramatis personae caricatured, but so what? This is not a story that begs to be taken seriously.


Author:  Joanne [ Tue Jul 22, 2003 2:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Le Corsaire" in London 2003

Review from The Independent.

Here's one of the world's best ballet companies back in London, from the renowned Maryinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, although for some odd reason it tours under the out-of-date Soviet name of Kirov Ballet. And the opening presentation of the three-week season, Le Corsaire, is a highly enjoyable work seen in Britain only from them.


Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Jul 22, 2003 11:58 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Le Corsaire" in London 2003

By Judith Mackrell for The Guardian

Le Corsaire is one of the most skittish ballets in the Kirov's 19th century repertory - a burlesque mix of Byron and Ali Baba, wedged together with some cracking classical dance. But precisely because it's so slippery in tone, Corsaire is one of the hardest works to bring off. Dancers have to rise to its virtuoso challenges, while pitching a comic tone that's halfway between naive romp and affectionate irony. It's up to them whether we relish the ballet's period nonsense or roll our eyes at its absurdities.

The roles which most visibly define the ballet's style are its principal characters, the buccaneering hero Conrad, his adoring sidekick Ali and his girlfriend Medora whose abduction by slave traders services most of the plot.

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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Jul 22, 2003 10:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Le Corsaire" in London 2003

Le Corsaire
By Clement Crisp for The Financial Times

I heard on Monday of a man who thinks that every ballet should contain a shipwreck. And, considering the tosh we are offered by certain European doom merchants, this is no bad idea. What better proof, indeed, than the storm-tossed havoc at the beginning of Le Corsaire, with which the Kirov Ballet opened its London season.

Orchestral thunderings. Brilliant lighting, howling winds, mountainous seas: it is the best possible introduction to a staging which is so ludicrous - and so enjoyable - that we sit back and grin at the antics which bulge at the seams of its three acts. Its nearest equivalent is the Marx Brothers at the opera.

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A ship that failed to set sail
Luke Jennings for The Daily Telegraph reviews the Kirov Ballet at Covent Garden

To open their London season, the Kirov Ballet have chosen a work that has been in the company's repertoire for more than a century. Loosely based on a poem by Lord Byron, Le Corsaire is a pirate epic freighted to the gunwales with cardboard theatrics, magic potions and implausible plot reversals.

The principal characters are Conrad, the eponymous corsair, and Medora, the Greek girl who hides him when he and his friends are shipwrecked and whom he later rescues from slavery at the hands of the Turks.

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Author:  Joanne [ Wed Jul 23, 2003 12:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Le Corsaire" in London 2003

Le Corsaire - Tuesday 22nd July, 2003, Royal Opera House

The Kirov's opening production of this London season served to whet everyone's appetite to the quality that can be expected over the next fortnight. From the opening notes we were treated to lavish sets and beautiful, colourful costumes that illuminated the opera house stage.

However, it was the quality of the dancing that will excite the London ballet fans. From the corps de ballet upwards we were treated to near perfect technique and were able to marvel at the sheer strength running through the company. The corps timing and formation placing seemed spot on and all dancers captured the exuberance and energy of the piece beautifully.

The highlight for me was definitely Act 2 where we were treated to some fine soloist performances. Diana Vishneva made a beautiful Medora and I'm sure many lost count of the perfect pirouettes she delivered with startling ease. Zelensky was certainly a crowd favourite last night and commanded the stage with assured confidence from the moment he strode on. His jumps continue to show amazing elevation and he covered the opera house stage with fluency and panache.

And mention should be made to the female soloists and coryphees who took on the roles of the Odalisques with assurance, really seizing the opportunity to show off the strength of their technique.

Le Corsaire made a perfect summer evening's light entertainment and a good start to the Kirov's season.

Author:  Rosie [ Wed Jul 23, 2003 3:15 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Le Corsaire" in London 2003

Despite Le Corsaire being one of the most ridiculous ballets to hit the stage, I love it every time I see it.

The plot is truly preposterous. Greek lovely, Medora, and her friends rescue a band of pirates who have been shipwrecked. Medora and Conrad, head pirate, fall in love instantly, but are thwarted when pantomime villain slave dealer, Lankadem, captures the women. In course of the three acts, Conrad and his mates rescue Medora twice from the clutches of Lankadem and potential buyer Seid Pasha (though hindered slightly by a sleeping potion, and a traitor pirate with his Keystone Cop-esque accomplices), before they all sail off happily into the sunset.

So the story is nonsensical but it doesn’t matter as the real meat of the ballet is found in the spectacular set pieces dotted around the ballet: the Act 1 pas de deux for Lankadem and Gulnara; the famous Act II pas de trios for Medora, Ali and Conrad; the Odalisques in Act III; and the living garden sequence towards the end of the ballet. If done well, Le Corsaire is an exhilarating experience. The tone of the ballet is all important. To really lose yourself in the absurdity of it all, it has to be done with just the right combination of irony and sincerity. If the dancers’ tongues are too firmly in their cheeks, then the set pieces lose their impact, too little, and the time starts to drag. The Kirov is expert in getting this right, and the dancers crank up the camp to just the right level.

I was disappointed that Monday night’s opener didn’t sizzle as it should. Svetlana Zakharova has matured hugely since I last saw her a couple of years ago. She now holds the stage with authority, and is a ballerina with a capital B. She’s learnt how to control her long, long limbs to use them to awesome effect, and is technically extremely impressive. But I found her performance a little harsh and unmusical, and I couldn’t warm to her Medora. Leonid Sarafanov, as Ali, was also technically very strong, but he hasn’t got the measure of the role yet, and was lacking any kind of character or real presence on stage. I enjoyed Anton Korsakov’s Lankedem, who danced beautifully, but I felt he could have made more out of the comedy (or maybe I was sitting too far back for it to carry).

Tuesday night was much better. Diana Vishneva danced with charming panache, and made Medora much more human and tender. I love the way she uses the space on stage, and she was glorious to watch. Igor Zelensky, as Ali, unleashed fireworks in the pas de trios, and was a commanding figure throughout. Andrian Fadeyev was a fantastically funny and slimy Lankadem who just about stole the show.

Tatiana Tkachenko (Monday) and Elvira Tarasova (Tuesday) were sparky Gulnaras, and Vladimir Shishov, a corps de ballet dancer, did very well as Conrad at both performances. I found the corps de ballet to be disappointingly underpowered both nights.

Author:  Matthew [ Wed Jul 23, 2003 3:15 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Le Corsaire" in London 2003

I would have to say the highlight of the evening was to see Vishneva and Zelensky dance with such ease and power. They both have such a gift, and to see a dancer at their peak is special. They are such a strong, incredible company, and I am sure that this will be another London success!

Author:  Emma Pegler [ Wed Jul 23, 2003 5:09 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Le Corsaire" in London 2003

Indeed the story is weak and the frills and spills in Act III are a show-piece too far. There is a certain place in my affections for show -case presentation of virtuosity dancing, but Act III is one Act too much. Vishneva snd Zelensky were superb ang bring class to everything. Certainly, without the best dancers in this ballet, it is lost on me but all the dancers danced perfectly for their roles and so it was a famous evening. The audience was pretty joyful and the auditorium was packed.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Wed Jul 23, 2003 1:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Le Corsaire" in London 2003

“Le Corsaire”, The Kirov Ballet, Royal Opera House, London, 23rd July 2003

A couple of years ago the BBC Radio4 Critics visited the Royal Ballet’s “Don Q” and were shocked at what they saw as a lack of artistic purpose, apart from the technically demanding dancing. Just as well they didn’t see “Le Corsaire”, as this has the weakest and most convoluted plot ever and as far as I can see none of the emotional drive of a work such as “La Bayadere”, never mind a serious drama like “Manon”. Many find “Le Corsaire” great fun, but not me I’m afraid. And then of course there is the small matter of the pirates kicking to death the Pasha, an amiable bumbler, at the close. In addition, the music is a forgettable assemblage from 5 composers and the sets for the Kirov production appear too large for the ROH stage and tend to dominate the action on-stage.

So for me it’s a case of forget everything except the steps and the way they are performed and pretend it’s a sort of Gala. The good news is that the depth of quality in the Kirov means that there are fine performances throughout and the set pieces can set sparks flying.

The First Act meanders with business about shipwrecks and slave markets, but comes to life with a pas de deux for Lankadem, a slave dealer and Medora the heroine. Anton Korsakov pulled out all the stops for his solos with several wonderful grands jetées. Act II is make or break for this ballet with a series of solos for Conrad, the Pirate Chief, Medora and Ali, a slave and some nifty demi-character dancing by Birbanto, the treacherous no.2 pirate.

The high spot is usually the solo for Ali and this was no exception. Leonid Sarafanov looks more like a sweet boy next door rather than someone to slip a shiv between your ribs. However he dances like a dream, not with huge jumps and aggression, but with the utmost grace, musicality and perfect technique in the most difficult combinations. In some ways he reminds me of Manuel Legris in the quality of his dancing, if not his skill at characterisation, but at 21 there is plenty of time for that to develop.

Ekaterina Kondaura and Vladimir Shishov are both young members of the corps de ballet, not even coryphées, but I suspect they could be Principals in most companies around the world. Kondaurova was particularly impressive in Acts II and III. She has arguably the longest legs ever seen on stage and combined with a supple back and beautiful arms, she conjured up a number of those Wow! moments which mark out top flight performers. Sometimes the high extensions undermined some of her elegance, but she was able to whip the fouettes off with great aplomb. I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of her. Shishov did well without ever quite igniting the role as Ilya Kuznetsov did two years ago.

“Le Corsaire” can be considered a two-seat ballet. That is, you want to be in the stalls for the solos in Act II and higher up for the ensemble work in Act III. As I was in the stalls, Petipa’s symmetries and patterning were not clearly visible, but the corps danced to the high standards we would expect from the Kirov. The Odalisques were very fine, with another tall dancer Daria Sukhorukova performing the second variation with great skill and artistry. Irina Zhelonkina as Gulnara danced with good technique and some verve, but again it was Kondaurova who excelled in her Act III solos.

And then it’s time to kill the Pasha and get back on the boat to conclude this story of boy has girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, boy loses girl again and finally gets her back again - Conrad really is a bit careless. This is never going to be my favourite ballet, but the dance quality shown in the lead performances from young dancers and in the supporting roles made this performance was a worthwhile experience, despite the many deficiencies of “Le Corsaire”.

<small>[ 23 July 2003, 03:20 PM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  mehunt [ Wed Jul 23, 2003 1:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Le Corsaire" in London 2003

Wonderful reviews everyone! I just love Diana Vishneva. I recall reading someplace that she is coached by Olga Chenchikova, is that still the case? Chenchikova was such a dramatic creature.

Author:  djb [ Wed Jul 23, 2003 11:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Le Corsaire" in London 2003

I have the videos of two performances of Le Corsaire, ABT's and the Kirov's. The most striking difference to me is that compared to ABT, the Kirov played it pretty straight. ABT treated the plot as a joke. (I can't imagine an American ballet company ever taking this plot seriously.) I'd like to see the Kirov's take on the ballet now, 10 years after the release of the video. Have any of you who have seen the Kirov this season also seen the video, and, if so, do you see a difference?

<small>[ 24 July 2003, 01:42 AM: Message edited by: djb ]</small>

Author:  Matthew [ Thu Jul 24, 2003 6:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "Le Corsaire" in London 2003

Well, I can't comment on the videos DJB, but II think they did play it straight. As mentioned above, although you come away feeling that "wow, these are great dancers", I am not sure with this story you can come away feeling this is a powerful ballet. It is however, a bright, fun ballet to watch.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Jul 25, 2003 3:12 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "Le Corsaire" in London 2003

Le Corsaire
By Peter Hepple for The Stage

Few ballets can have a longer pedigree than Le Corsaire. First produced by Marius Petipa in 1856, subsequent directors of the Kirov Ballet have made attempts to freshen it up, the version seen here being produced by Konstantin Sergeyev in 1987.

But it still comes across as a museum piece, with its tale of shipwrecked pirates who land on a Greek beach, which is almost immediately occupied by a Turkish patrol seeking fresh beauties for the sultan's harem.

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