Le corsaire (Bolshoi Ballet/Covent Garden) 5 August


A lot of white floweriness in the second act

I had an idea that this had something to do with the poem by Lord Byron

Long mourned his band whom none could mourn beside;
And fair the monument they gave his Bride
For him they raise not the recording stone—
His death yet dubious, deeds too widely known;
He left a Corsair’s name to other times,
Linked with one virtue, and a thousand crimes.

Well, some of the characters had the same names according to the programme–this was really a cartoon with lots of gratuitous dancing, girls, spectacle, shipwreck, costumes, turquoise Turks, pirates who should have spent more time pirating and less time dancing, comedy fights,  a garden in appearing in a palace….My companion complained about the third-rate music and the harps heralding anything ‘touching’, but I thought it was the thought of stuff you could buy by the yard in any decent haberdasher’s, or get a programmable loom or a tame crow to turn out.

At the end of the second act, my companion announced she was going to go home and iron the cat.  In fact, the third act was the most interesting and would have captivated me as a ten-year-old boy if by some miracle I had survived the preceding two hours:  the dancers did a surprisingly lucid job of putting over the plotty bit about Said Pasha saying he would execute Conrad unless Medora she married him, after which Medora danced away with his weapons and Gulnare appeared to make clear it was in fact her that he had married under a veil, silly old Pasha.

And the scene of the shipwreck was highly effective, with the stormy waves projected on a scrim in front of the ship and with the help of some special-effect thunder the storm by Adophe Adam or Pugni or whoever coming off a great deal better than my experience of Mozart (Idomeneo) or Thomas Ades (The Tempest).

A ship behind a scrim

At the end of the ballet Medora and Conrad came out to the front of the stage to show that they had survived, and after it had ended I saw the orchestral players shaking each others’ hands all round, glad that they had survived as well I guess.

Of the dancers, Anastasia Yatsenko as Gulnare made the greatest impression on me, but I did sometimes get confused between her and the Medora of Maria Alexandrova.

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