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Kirov Ballet

'Le Corsaire'

by Rosie

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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