Classical ballets, with their elaborately decorated sets, lavish costumes, and most importantly, a dramatic story to tie it all together, have a magical power to sweep us into the worlds far away – the best ones, do of course. Le Corsaire, which opened the 2016-2017 season at the Boston Ballet on October 27 DID just that! Staged by German-Czech choreographer Ivan Liška (after Marius Petipa) it is a story about a pirate Conrad who is crossing the seas to save his beloved Medora from being married into Pasha’s Harem.
We follow the action into the Middle-Eastern marketplace (probably in Greece under the Ottoman Empire), to the Pasha’s Palace, and to the pirates’ caves in the middle of the Mediterranean. We don’t take the action too seriously, though; we know we are in a fairy tale.
I brought my seven-year-old daughter and my parents to the Saturday, October 27, matinee performance (and on another day – a friend) and all age groups left the theater feeling uplifted – is there a better way to celebrate the weekend?
To get my daughter ready for the performance, we attended a Family Day themed around Le Corsaire at the Boston Ballet’s School on a prior weekend. My daughter was not too thrilled, however, to hear the recital of the story by the Head of Children’s Program Luciano Aimar: “I do not want to know what will happen and spoil the surprise!” she said.
Do you really need to know the story to fully enjoy a piece of a classical ballet?
For those still figuring out the answer, here is a full synopsis of Le Corsaire. Both my parents wanted to know. A friend’s five-year-old daughter enjoyed hearing her mom reading it out loud at the theater during the intermission. But there are people like my daughter who would rather get lost in the experience and interpret the dance movement in the moment. This might be especially true for those who are used to the stories being told through dance (My daughter attends several Boston Ballet performances each season, and takes ballet classes regularly).
Regardless of whether you will read the full synopsis or not, these 5 Facts about Le Corsaire at Boston Ballet may be helpful to get you ready for your performance.
1. Le Corsaire the ballet is based loosely on Lord Byron’s poem “The Corsair” (1814)
2. The story was originally staged for ballet in 1856 by Joseph Mazilier at Paris’ Imperial Theater. It experienced numerous interpretations over last 200 years with the most prominent ones by Russian dancer and choreographer Marious Petipa in mid-to-late 19th century . The current version at Boston Ballet is North America premiere of Ivan Liška 2007 version staged after Marius Petipa.
3. Performance of this three-act ballet is 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission (and one long pause between Acts 1 and 2)
4. Music of six composers is incorporated into Ivan Liška’s the score (most notably Adolphe Adam and Léo Delibes)
5. The passages from Le Corsaire, especially “Le jardin anime”, the “Pas de trois des odalisques” and the so-called “Le Corsaire pas de deux,” are among classical ballet’s most famous and performed excerpts.
So, what is special about this verion of Le Corsaire by Ivan Liška? The Boston Globe’s recent article quoted Boston Ballet’s director Mikko Nissinen, noting streamlined scores, vivid sets and costumes and more consistent tone – all to allow the story “to unfold more persuasively”. Comparing the excerpts I have seen on-line from Petipa’s version to Liška’s production, I do believe this version is much lighter with a story easier to follow, although preserving “historical integrity” of Petipa is important to Liška.
There are four alternating casts performing (see full casting information here.) I saw two performances and was especially taken by Lasha Khozashvilli as Conrad in the Opening Night cast and with Maria Baranova’s Medora in another cast. (It is amazing to be able to see several casts, thank you, Boston Ballet for the opportunity!)
Should you bring the kids? Only you can tell – you know your kids. It is a three-act ballet, and very young children may get tired towards the third act, although it is the one that has many young students of Boston Ballet on stage.
The production runs at Boston Opera House through next Sunday, November 6.
For Performance times (and tickets info), go to Boston Ballet’s website . Discounted ticket are available via Goldstar.