There's no faulting Boston Ballet's intentions in mounting the seldom seen evening-length version of the nineteenth-century ballet Le Corsaire, renamed The Pirate. Like the quest for the Holy Grail the dream is to find another classic ballet to attract as many dancegoers as the fabled trinity of Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker.
The problem is that Le Corsaire, originally based on a poem by Lord Byron, has been stirred by so many hands since its first incarnation on the stage that it's a stew of divergent flavors from England, France, and Russia rather than a satisfying feast.
Boston Ballet's production is a tribute to the relationship between newly named artistic director Anna-Marie Holmes and Soviet ballerina Natalia Dudinskaya, her former teacher. Dudinskaya came from St. Petersburg to set her late husband Konstantin Sergeyev's 1992 version for the Bolshoi Ballet, assisted by Vadim Desnitsky from the Kirov. Sets and costumes, designed by Irina Tibilova for the Bolshoi, were imported to Boston. The music credited to five composers (Adolphe Adam, Cesare Pugni, Leo Delibes, Riccardo Drigo, and Prince Oldenbourg), is certainly no match for the beloved Tchaikovsky scores of the familiar ballets.
Unlike Swan Lake or The Sleeping Beauty, The Pirate has no compelling central character to adore or believe in. The story--or what's left of it--is about Conrad the Pirate in love with Medora, a young slave girl, who is sold to Seyd, a pasha. Countless kidnappings, plots, and disguises later, Conrad and Medora are seen clinging to a rock in the ocean and declaring their love. In between are scenes set in a Turkish bazaar, on a desert island, and in the harem; there is also a dream variation that looks like a cross between the garden scene in the second act of Don Quixote and the Garland Dance of The Sleeping Beauty.
The most satisfying choreography is the one purely Petipa passage in the Act III dream scene. The rest is a mix of Soviet extravagance and some high-flying virtuoso pas de deux: an Act I Pas d'Esclave and the Act II Le Corsaire Pas de Trois, well known here as a competition pas de deux. On opening night, the company fielded some strong principal dancers as the leads: Patrick Armand in the Act II pas de trots (and never seen again), Jennifer Gelfand and Reagan Messer in the Act I duet, and Natasha Akhmarova and Robert Wallace as Medora and Conrad. Resident choreographer Daniel Pelzig made the Pasha into a funny padded clown. Otherwise the company, whether as pirates or odalisques, made little impression. One wonders why the Boston Ballet School's fine character teacher, Vladimir Kolesnikov, was not asked to coach the corps de ballet.
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|Title Annotation:||Boston Ballet, Wang Center for the Performing Arts, Boston, Massachusetts|
|Author:||Fanger, Iris M.|
|Article Type:||Dance Review|
|Date:||Jul 1, 1997|
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