American Ballet Theatre

"Le Corsaire"

Metropolitan Opera House, New York, NY

Choreography by Konstantin Sergeyev, after Marius Petipa
Staged by Anna-Marie Holmes, after Marius Petipa
Music by Adolpe Adam, Cesare, Pugni, Leo Delibes, Riccardo Drigo, and Prince Oldenbourg
Liberetto by Jules-Henri de Saing Georges and Joseph Mazilier
Sets and Costumes by Irina Konstantinova Tibilova, additional scenery and costume design by Robert Perdziola
Lighting Design by Mary Jo Dondlinger

June 19, 2002
By Kate Snedeker

After seeing such an unbelievable performance of Le Corsaire on Monday night, it was hard to view Wednesday's matinee performance without making constant comparisons. The atmosphere and approach on Wednesday, though quite different, and notably tamer, still made for great dancing.

Much of the cast was the same as on Monday, with the major cast changes in the roles of Lankendam, the Pasha, Conrad, Medora and the Odalisques.

Ethan Stiefel and Julie Kent take a very different approach to the lead roles than Carlos Acosta & Paloma Herrera. Stiefel and Kent are very tongue-in-cheek, giving the story a distinctly Americanized, Disneyesque feeling. Acosta and Herrera put more straight emotion into the story, and look much more authentic in a story of slaves, pashas and pirates set on the Mediterranean. The difference in stage presence also is quite clear – Stiefel is an enthusiastic, energetic pirate, but does not have the same emotional weight as Acosta. When Acosta is on stage, he draws the focus of the audience.

Stiefel is a great comic dancer, and clearly enjoys the good-natured romp that is Le Corsaire. Unfortunately, I think he was trying too hard to be "Acosta-esque" and lost some of his unique touch in the bravura sections. Stiefel's performance (wisely) was toned down considerably from Acosta's fireworks, but even then fizzled in several places. In the first act, he tried to end with a spectacular leg-contorting double tour en l'air, which he popped into a single, awkward looking rotation. During the pas de trois, it appeared as if he lost his focus shortly into the coupe jetés en ménage and never got it back, leaving the ménage obviously unfinished. He's certainly capable of solid bravura dancing, and thus one had to wonder if he was feeling the pressure of living up to Acosta.

The Odalisques danced solidly, though Carmen Corella was having obvious balance difficulties during the multiple pirouettes. Xiomara Reyes reprised her role as Gulnare, and was wonderfully speedy and precise. Call me crazy, but I'd love to see her and Angel Corella in the pas de deux from Stars and Stripes – they've got the spins and cheek to pull it off with pizzazz!

Sean Stewart was an excellent Lankendam, demonstrating a wonderful knack for the mime and characterization, as well as great skill in the 1st act solos. He even did the low pliés which Malakhov left out on Monday night. As the Pasha, Carlos Molina was not nearly as effective. It's a role that requires precise timing and the just the right balance of humor and seriousness- something that Molina will learn with time. Molina is also rather tall for the role.

Corella, though toned down from Monday, put on his usual spectacular show of pyrotechnics during the pas de trois. It was interesting comparing the effect of the pas de trois on the two days. I've only seen Corella with Acosta and Stiefel, but the two partnerships are very different. Corella is clearly the far better bravura dancer than Stiefel, but with Acosta, Corella is matched or bettered, feat for feat. With Corella and Acosta it's a competition to celebrate stealing away the women, not a slave outdancing his master. Interestingly enough, though he's slighter and shorter, Corella seems more comfortable with the high lifts during the pas de trois. Kent is a tall dancer, so she's a handful for both Stiefel and Corella.

Julie Kent went the full length on the fouettés, though choosing to do all singles, with no multiples thrown in during the sequence. It was nice to see straight singles-it gives the fouettés a beautiful balanced look.

Joaquin De Luz, as Birbanto, was equally as spectacular as he'd been on Monday. He's a small dancer, but powerful and precise, slicing through the air in his delayed splits. He also ad-libbed well when one of his pistols failed to fire, giving the gun a quizzical look and then shrugging his shoulders, as if to say – oh well, such is life!

The pirate corps danced well in the Grotto scenes, with much zest and energy. However, Stiefel needs to control his energy in the fight scenes – at one point he threw down one of the "pirates" with such force, that it appeared the dancer might be hurt. When the dancer rose and stepped back with the rest of the group, the other dancers were quite clearly concerned about him and were obviously asking him if he was OK. I'm sure it was an accident, but just the same, Stiefel needs to be more careful in the future.

The third act was well danced, and I enjoyed Justin Morris as the Pasha's assistant very much. Corella looked uncharacteristically glum during the bows, so I hope all is well with him.

It was a great afternoon, though obviously on a different level from Monday's performance.


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Edited by Marie.

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