Le Corsaire, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, 9 January 2014Posted on 10 January 2014
Britain now has its very own version of Le Corsaire, and what a wonderful romp it is. To the original score by Adolphe Adam, composer of Giselle, producers have almost always interpolated additional material by Pugni, Drigo et al, and what ENB have given us is a pot pourri of glorious music, excitingly played under the baton of Gavin Sutherland. And the dancing was spectacular.
The Company have been rather clever here in first performing it outside London, only bringing it into the capital when it has been honed to perfection, and the cast on the first night showed a mixture of brilliant technique and fine ensemble work. Thrilling solo dancing from Vadim Muntagirov as the pirate chief Conrad, Junor Souza showing great flair as his slave Ali, Yonah Acosta as the rebellious pirate Birbanto, and Dmitri Gruzdyev as the Pasha’s man Lankendem. As the principal girls, Shiori Kase danced beautifully as Gulnare, and Alina Cojocaru was superb as Conrad’s beloved Medora, though their partnership seemed lacking in chemistry. Fine ensemble work and spontaneity from the pirates, and as the odalisques, Senri Kou, Alison McWhinney, and Laurretta Summerscales were wonderfully in tune with one another, and beautifully musical in their solos. Lovely dancing from the corps in the dream scene early in Act III when the Pasha falls asleep, and bringing in students from the ENB School here makes a nice touch.
As for the story, Le Corsaire does not have the compelling narrative of Giselle, nor the fairy tale quality of ballets such as Swan Lake, and since its creation in the mid-nineteenth century has never born much resemblance to Byron’s original poem The Corsair, except in the names of the main characters. For that one needs Verdi’s opera Il Corsaro, but Anna-Marie Holmes has done a fine job of staging the ballet as an exciting conflict among pirates and against the Seraglio of an Ottoman Sultan. This is based on her production in America first seen with the Boston Ballet in 1997, and harking back to an earlier Kirov production in the 1970s.
The front-drop portrays the story as a Victorian tale of far away places with exotic charms, and the excellent sets and costumes by Bob Ringwood, well lit by Neil Austin, bring it fully to life. And whatever the story may lack in dramatic conviction is made up for by theatricality and exciting choreography, providing a wonderful vehicle for the Company to express its multiple talent.
For a later review of the performance featuring Tamara Rojo and Matthew Golding click here.
I look forward to seeing alternative casting on Saturday, and performances at the London Coliseum continue until January 19, and at the Palace Theatre, Manchester on February 11–15 — for details click here.