Premiere of Adolphe Adam's ballet choreographed by Joseph Mazilier – 23 January 1856, Opéra de Paris
Premiere of the ballet staged by Marius Petipa – 24 January 1863, Mariinsky Theatre
Premiere of Pyotr Gusev's version – 29 April 1987, Kirov Opera and Ballet Theatre (Mariinsky Theatre)
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes
The performance has two intervals
Music by Adolphe Adam, Cesare Pugni, Léo Delibes, Riccardo Drigo and Pyotr Oldenburgsky
Libretto by Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Joseph Mazilier, edited by Yuri Slonimsky and Pyotr Gusev
Choreography by Marius Petipa and Pyotr Gusev
Production by Pyotr Gusev (1987) after the composition and choreography of Marius Petipa
Set design by Teymuraz Murvanidze
Assistant designer: Mikhail Shishliannikov
Costume design by Galina Solovyova
Lighting design by Vladimir Lukasevich
Three sailors are struggling to save their boat during a storm.
The boat sinks.
The Sea Shore
The sea casts the three men, Conrad, Ali and Birbanto, onto a beach. Young Greek women come to their aid. Among them is Medora. Conrad, attracted by Medora, tells her that he is a corsair. Danger now threatens in the form of a Turkish patrol. Medora and her friend Gulnara hide the corsairs, but the Turks take the girls prisoner. The evil Lankedem, a slave-trader, is pillaging the Greek coast, and he has connived with the patrol officer to seize the girls.
The Slave Market
Lankedem is selling his slaves in the market place, where Seyd Pacha is seated in the place of honour, looking for fresh beauties for his harem. He is attracted by Gulnara, and buys her. As she is taken away, Medora is brought in, looking so beautiful that Seyd Pacha is prepared to pay any price for her. But suddenly a new buyer appears, whom Medora recognises as Conrad in disguise. As the auction for Medora proceeds, Seyd Pacha is astonished, and asks the new bidder to name himself. At once, Conrad and his followers throw off their cloaks and are revealed as armed corsairs. They carry Medora away, seize Lankedem, and make off to sea. The Turkish guard has proved useless, and Seyd Pacha is furious.
The Corsairs´ Cave on a Greek Island
The corsairs rejoice at having seized such a rich booty from the market, and at having saved the beautiful young women. They dance in celebration, and Medora dances with Conrad and his friend Ali to the delight of the corsairs. The other young girls ask Medora to intercede with Conrad so that they may return to their own villages. Conrad allows himself to be persuaded, but Birbanto and the other men wish to keep the young women there. Conrad is adamant, and Medora leads the girls to the shore. Lankedem has observed this conflict of opinions and, in exchange for his freedom, he offers Birbanto a potion which will induce a heavy sleep when administered. The potion is poured over a bouquet of flowers and given to Medora who then presents it to Conrad in thanks for his chivalry towards the girls. Lankedem thereby abducts Medora once again.
Seyd Pacha´s Harem
Gulnara is the jewel of the harem, and none of the other slaves brought by Lankedem pleases the Pasha. When Lankedem reappears with Medora, the Pasha is delighted. He buys her and is greeted by a scene in a garden of beauties. But mysterious pilgrims suddenly appear in the palace, and they are invited to join in evening prayer.
Medora recognises Conrad and his men, again in disguise, and this time she truly escapes from the Pasha.
Out on the open sea, the corsairs sail away, together with Conrad, Medora and their friends, heading towards new adventures.
The plot of the ballet Le Corsaire contains all the components required to make it a success with the audience: a story about pirates with a shipwreck, abductions, loving passions and perfidious treachery... Moreover there is the variety of the cast and the choreography, the oriental flavour of the vivid costumes, the exotic character dances and the triumphant harmony of classicism. It is not by chance that this ballet has been in the international repertoire for more than a century and a half. It traces its roots back to the mid 19th century, when the composer Adolphe Adan wrote a score based on the plot of George Byron's poem The Corsair, while the choreographer Joseph Mazilier created the dances and in 1856 staged his production at the Opéra de Paris. Since then who has not laid his or her hands on it. New scenes appeared in the ballet, the score came to feature musical extracts by other composers and, in a word, Le Corsaire set out on an independent voyage taking in the stages of Europe. It came to St Petersburg thanks to the choreographer Jules Perrot, and Marius Petipa ennobled the loudly-screeching diversity of the Eastern bazaar with the refined classical scene Le Jardin animé. To us, too, Le Corsaire has come down as a colourful marathon of varied dances, intermingled with pantomime explanations of the relationships between the characters. The dances in the production involve the corps de ballet as well as the soloists. The choreography presents, in all its beauty, the expressive means of virtuoso classical dance, both female and male: in the ballet there are two ballerina roles and three male principal roles. And the few young dancers do not dream of dazzling with virtuoso technique in the variations and duets in this ballet, of interrupting well-earned applause with their perfect performance of fouettés or diagonals that stun the imagination with their flying tricks. Olga Makarova
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