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American Ballet Theatre

Le Corsaire 2013

Metropolitan Opera House

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters: Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
James Timm, Director of Marketing and Brand Management
Susan Morgan-Taylor, Manager of Press and Online Media

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 5, 2013

(Read More ABT Reviews)

(See an Interview about Spring Season Ballet Music 2013, with David LaMarche, Conductor)

Le Corsaire (1856, Paris; 1998, ABT): Staged by Anna-Marie Holmes after Marius Petipa and Konstantin Sergeyev, Music by Adolphe Adam, Cesare Pugni, Leo Delibes, Riccardo Drigo, and Prince Oldenbourg, Music reorchestrated by Kevin Galie, Libretto by Jules-Henri de Saint-Georges and Joseph Mazilier in a version by Anna-Marie Holmes, Based on “The Corsair” (1814) by Lord Byron, Scenic Design by Christian Prego, Costume Design by Anibal Lapiz, Lighting Design by Brad Fields.

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. (ABT Program Notes).

Cast on June 4, 2013:

Conductor: David LaMarche

Performed by Ivan Vasiliev as Conrad, Craig Salstein as Birbanto, his friend, Daniil Simkin as Ali, the slave, Herman Cornejo as Lankendem, owner of the bazaar, Natalia Osipova as Medora, Isabella Boylston as Gulnare, Medora’s friend, Victor Barbee as Seyd, Pasha of the Isle of Cos, Marian Butler as Lead Pirate Woman, Sarah Lane, Misty Copeland, Yuriko Kajiya as Odalisques, Marian Butler and Craig Salstein and Company in Pirates’ Dance and Forband, 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.

Cast on June 5, 2013:

Conductor: David LaMarche

Performed by Herman Cornejo as Conrad, Arron Scott as Birbanto, his friend, Ivan Vasiliev as Ali, the slave, Daniil Simkin as Lankendem, owner of the bazaar, Xiomara Reyes as Medora, Sarah Lane as Gulnare, Medora’s friend, Julio Bragado-Young as Seyd, Pasha of the Isle of Cos, Luciana Paris as Lead Pirate Woman, Melanie Hamrick, Kristi Boone, Leann Underwood as Odalisques, Luciana Paris and Arron Scott and Company in Pirates’ Dance and Forband, Roddy Doble 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.

Although there was much anticipation about ABT’s new production of Le Corsaire, it seems that the newness is in Christian Prego’s scenery and Anibal Lapiz’ costumes. The ship faces the audience and sways heavily to each side, with large rolling waves. The new tutus are two-pieced, reminiscent of the bra-like tops that coordinated with the billowy harem pants of the older costumes. But, for the most part, the production seemed close to the previous version. On June 4, Ivan Vasiliev was Conrad, with his partner, Natalia Osipova as his beloved Medora. Daniil Simkin was the faithful Ali the slave. On June 5, Mr. Vasiliev switched to the propulsive role of Ali, with Herman Cornejo as Conrad and Xiomara Reyes as Medora.

The lead casting on the 5th was much stronger, with Mr. Cornejo in more classical dance form, less course, more dramatically courageous, as he fights the forces to free his Medora from being sold at the bazaar. His elevation, speed, spins, and persuasive theatrics were more refined than Mr. Vasiliev’s, who, as Conrad, kept grandstanding onstage, looking to the audience, going for extra acrobatics. Conrad’s partner, Medora, was fuller in personality in Ms. Reyes, who, with Mr. Cornejo, are an exceptional duo. Even though Ms. Osipova and Mr. Vasiliev are real-life partners, their stage chemistry is more internalized, more sensationalized as individuals, rather as a duo partnership. They go for outsized athleticism, rather than nuanced dramatization and pure dance form, which I find in the Cornejo-Reyes duo dance.

Yet, on the 5th, as Ali, the slave, Mr. Vasiliev was incomparable, reminiscent of Carreño, toward his prime. He shot through the air like dynamite, spun like a dervish top, and breathed like a panther. He kept folding his hands across his chest, like the true servant. His muscularity drew a sharp contrast to Mr. Simkin, on the 4th, who is too narrowly built to carry the heavy-breathing role of Ali. Moreover, Mr. Simkin, also of Russian roots, is pale in coloration, short, juvenile in demeanor. He’s fine in roles like Flames of Paris or as Eros in Sylvia, but in the virtuosic role of Ali, with its requisite primal heat and show-stopping solo, he disappoints. Gulnare on the 4th, Isabella Boylston, danced with eloquence and expression, whereas on the 5th, Sarah Lane could not shed her ingénue impishness and sprightliness. Like Mr. Simkin, one of her frequent partners, she’s small of stature and does not rise dramatically to many of the lead roles in story ballet.

Birbanto, Conrad’s friend, who betrays him in the grotto scene, was expertly portrayed by Craig Salstein on the 4th, and Arron Scott on the 5th. Mr. Salstein always has the edge theatrically, as he draws the eye to his over-the-top, operatic characterizations, but Mr. Scott has his own more understated, engaging style, and, choreographically, they’re both superb, vibrant performers. Marian Butler and Luciana Paris, as well, were both outstanding as the tempting, tantalizing Lead Pirate Woman on the 4th and 5th, respectively. They were both featured in the Pirates’ Dance and Forband, with the evening’s Birbanto, with aplomb. Lankendem, the owner of the bazaar, who sells the young women as slaves, was Mr. Cornejo on the 4th and Mr. Simkin on the 5th. Mr. Cornejo definitely had the edge, with his mature acting, as he demands and counts the bags of coins. Seyd, the Pasha, was Victor Barbee on the 4th and Julio Bragado-Young on the 5th. Although Mr. Barbee has rightly owned this role for many years, it was refreshing to see Mr. Bragado-Young’s compelling interpretation on the 5th, a true character actor, along the lines of Craig Salstein and Roman Zhurbin. It’s a silly, bumbling role, a fat Pasha, who trips and twirls, dancing along with Medora and Gulnare.

A minor role is that of Odalisques, a featured dance for three women. Of the six performers, three each night, my eye was drawn most to Misty Copeland on the 4th and Kristi Boone on the 5th. In the Corps, throughout the three Acts, I noticed Christine Shevchenko, Devon Teuscher, Sterling Baca, and Vitali Krauchenka. This new production seems brighter, crisp, more sparkling. The take-away thoughts were Mr. Cornejo’s extended timing, as he held Ms. Boylston in the air, Ms. Butler’s glow in the Pirate dances, Mr. Vasiliev’s propulsive Ali, the JKO School children in the Pasha’s dream scene, Jardin Animé, the chemistry between Mr. Cornejo and Ms. Reyes, the Pirates’ red capes and pyrotechnic, high kicks, the giant, heaving new boat, and, especially, David LaMarche’s exemplary conducting on both nights, making the music swell with the waves, adding power to the Pirates, and finding his tempo with the Pas de Deux à Trois (Ali, Conrad, Medora), with such extraordinary talent catapulting about, while the audience filled each moment with cheers. Maestro LaMarche is a pro, and he made each performance one for the memories. Kudos to all.

Natalia Osipova in
"Le Corsaire"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

Xiomara Reyes and Ivan Vasiliev
in "Le Corsaire"
Courtesy of Marty Sohl

Ivan Vasiliev in
"Le Corsaire"
Courtesy of Marty Sohl

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at