Le Corsaire


Le Corsaire ballet. Choreographed by Manuel Legris to a libretto by Manuel Legris and Jean-François Vazelle. Music by Adolphe Adam. Staged 2016 at the Wiener Staatsoper. Stars Robert Gabdullin (Conrad), Maria Yakovleva (Médora), Liudmila Konovalova (Gulnare), Kirill Kourlaev (Lanquedem), Davide Dato (Birbanto), Alice Firenze (Zulméa), Mihail Sosnovschi (Seyd Pasha), Natascha Mair, Nina Tonoli and Prisca Zeisel (Odalisques) as well as dancers from the Wiener Staatsballet and the Balletakademie der Wiener Staatsoper. Valery Ovsianikov conducts the Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper. Set and costume design by Luisa Spinatelli; lighting design by Marion Hewlett; choreographic assistance by Albert Mirzoyan. Directed for TV by François Roussillon. Released 2019, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A

The show opens with our bodacious boatload of buccaneers beating across the boisterous billows boldly breaching beaches boasting beautiful bimbos. Wherever these pirates venture, wild adventures await:


Alas, on the beach 6 bimbos from a nearby village have been kidnapped by a band of slave traders led by Lanquedem (Kirill Kourlaev) in the red vest. Cowering on the beach to your left is the beautiful maiden Gulnare (Liudmila Konovalova) and the even more beautiful maiden Médora (Maria Yakovleva) on your right. All these girls will soon be sold to the highest bidder:


The girls will be auctioned off at the market where we now meet Conrad (Robert Gabdullin), captain of the buccaneers:


Conrad’s second-in-command is Birbanto (Davide Dato) standing center behind his new flame Zulméa (Alice Firenze):


Conrad and Médora fall in love. Conrad has forgotten the rule that to have a beautiful doll like Médora, you must first be able to afford her:


While Conrad mopes around, Seyd Pasha (Mihail Sosnovschi) buys Médora (and Gulnare too). He leads them away to join his concubines:


The villagers dance up a storm following Birbanto and Zulméa:


Conrad is short on funds but long on gall. He absconds with Médora in a highway robbery, returns to the village, and kidnaps Lanquedem and his entire remaining inventory of slave girls:


Now everyone (except Gulnare) is present to celebrate at the pirates’ hideout in a cave on a mysterious island:


The feast is crowned with a pas de deux for the King and Queen of the pirates:


A brilliant pirates’ dance led by Birbanto. You will notice the slave girls in the background are not exactly participating in the festivities. They have not been invited to join the group. They are the pirates’ biggest investment and retirement account:


Médora explains to Conrad that she will be his Queen, but only if he gives the other girls back their freedom:


Conrad lets the slave girls go. Birbanto and the troops are furious to see their new-found wealth disappear. It’s mutiny!


So now Médora life is back in turmoil again. Let’s see how Gulnare is doing. Quite well, really. She is now the Seyd Pasha’s favorite and he bestows precious jewels on her:


The concubines take good care of Seyd Pasha, who likes to nap. He dreams of Gulnare and also Médora, whom he never got to enjoy. Manuel Legris bolsters his women corps with girls and boys from the ballet school and manages a truly impressive white act!


After this magnificent display of the white corps, you know this story must have a happy ending. We will not spoil any more of the plot for you except to observe that when two people are truly in love, having each other is all that really matters:


The plot and the music for this ballet are both miserably thin. What counts here are sets, costumes, props, lighting, personal directing, choreography, and the enthusiasm of beautiful young dancers who can also act — in all these departments Manuel Legris and his forces shine bright with impressive professionalism. François Roussillon provides brilliant PQ with a minimum of motion blur. We did a ballet wonk worksheet. Roussillon also provides superb video content with a lovely pace of 14.3 seconds per clip, 82% whole-body shots, and not a single close-up! No DVDitis in this production! If we could only get the people who make symphony concert videos to hire Roussillon (or Vince Bataillon)!

We now have 3 versions of Corsaire. But with the resources of the Wiener Staatsoper Ballet committed, it’s not a fair fight and this version is distinctly better than the competition in every way. It’s a fun 2 hours of viewing, especially while imbibing your favorite beverage. We give this an A, which is probably the highest grade conceivable for this kind of swashbuckling second-tier classical ballet.

Here is a clip from Naxos:

And here is a clip of the production from the Wiener Staatsoper: