July 21 - 22, 2003
-- Covent Garden, Location
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 the 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 piece dances 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 Lankadem,
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 trois 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.
Edited by Jeff
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