The Bolshoi in Cinemas—Le Corsaire

~By Norm Robins~

Pirates, slave girls, pashas, eunuchs, heroes, a spurned wife, damsels in love and in distress, flamboyant costumes, 120 dancers, a shipwreck (what’s a ballet without a shipwreck?), this ballet has them all. Originally done a century ago, based on a poem of the same name by Byron, and choreographed by Marius Petipa, Le Corsaire has been gloriously updated and rechoreographed by Alexei Ratmansky and Yuri Burlaka.

The ballet opens with a well-lit square where beautiful slave girls are being put up for sale. Bazaar owner Isaac’s beautiful ward Medora comes out onto the balcony of her guardian’s home. She sees the corsair Conrad, and they fall in love. She makes a bouquet of flowers and throws it to him. He is thus convinced she loves him.

A very rich buyer, Seyd Pasha, and his entourage come into the square to buy slave girls. None of them please him. Then he sees Medora and is enchanted by her. He tries to purchase her, but her protector refuses to sell her. Seyd Pasha insists. He makes the price so attractive Isaac relents and sells his ward. But Conrad will have none of that. He tells Medora he and his corsairs will kidnap her and some other slave girls.

The corsairs start a spirited dance with the slave girls to the delight of the others. On cue from Conrad, the corsairs make off with them. Isaac, who has been threatened by Seyd Pasha if he doesn’t deliver what he sold, tries out of fear to snatch Medora from them. Conrad orders that Isaac be captured and take away also.

In their hideout Medora is saddened by the plight of the other slave girls. She implores Conrad to release them which he agrees to do. Birbanto and other pirates object. They think they have a right to the women. Birbanto picks a flower from the bunch and sprays it with a sleeping potion. Isaac tells a slave girl to give the flower to Medora which she does. Medora clutches the poisoned flower to her breast and gives it to Conrad. He takes this as a sign of her love and kisses the flower falling into a dead sleep.

Medora is surrounded by corsairs who threaten her. She tries to defend herself stabbing Birbanto in the arm. She attempts to escape but is unsuccessful. As ladies of fashion did years ago, she faints. Meanwhile, Birbanto is about to finish off Conrad when he awakes. Awakened and hearing that Medora has been abducted he and his fellow corsairs take off in pursuit.

The scene changes to Seyd Pasha’s palace. A group of dervishes pass by the palace and request lodging for the night. They seem embarrassed by the beautiful dancing girls so Seyd Pasha has them put on a show for the dervishes. But they’re not dervishes. They are corsairs among them Conrad. Conrad sees Medora among them. The corsairs take to plundering Seyd Pasha’s palace. His guards burst onto the scene and route the corsairs taking Conrad prisoner. He is sentenced to death.

Seyd Pasha instructs his people that preparations are to be made for his marriage to Medora. She gets Seyd Pasha to give her his pistol and dagger saying they scare her. Later on Conrad shows up. Medora and Conrad escape. They have made it to his ship. Three shots of a canon tell that the corsairs’ ship has sailed.

At sea a storm is kicking up. The ship goes aground with a loud crack. The sea gets calm, and Medora and Conrad show themselves. They have been saved and are together.

Le Corsaire will be broadcast to the Century Riverside 12 and Century Summit Sierra one time only on Sunday, November 17th. Curtain time is 12:55 PM and the run time is 3 hours 35 minutes.

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