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LEAPS ON THE HIGH SEAS IN AMERICAN BALLET THEATRE’S `CORSAIRE’

This article originally appeared in the Culture section of Bloomberg News on July 7, 2006.

July 7 (Bloomberg) — American Ballet Theatre’s three-act pirate ballet “Le Corsaire,” at the Metropolitan Opera House this weekend, simply wants to entertain you. Its local color is lavish: the exotic bazaars of Turkey, the high and dangerous seas. Crammed with adventure, “Corsaire” offers kidnapping and shipwreck, raids and romance.

Blithely immune to political correctness, it makes the most of gorgeous gals being sold into slavery. Its excuse? Opportunities for sensational dancing — and it was made a very long time ago.

Ballets inspired by Byron’s vivid poem “The Corsair” have been around for nearly 175 years. ABT’s production, staged by Anna-Marie Holmes, stems from the Russian Marius Petipa’s 1899 version.

“Corsaire” is notorious for shameless tinkering to make the leaps higher, the pirouettes flashier and the lifts trickier. Like the legendary opera stars who tailored their cadenzas to their own specific gifts, ABT’s celebrated male virtuosos have contributed their share of gasp-producing feats.

Be sure to notice: the bravura “Corsaire” pas de deux for the heroine and an ardent male slave, often done out of context as a party piece. Also the Jardin Anime sequence, with its lovely women deployed like the blossoms in a formal garden — a passage of pure classicism that provides relief from the hokey melodrama. And then there’s a shipwreck, a reminder that live-theater effects predate pirate movies.

Heroes and Ballerinas

Three performances this weekend (Friday evening, Saturday matinee and evening) will feature heroes such as Marcelo Gomes, Angel Corella, Jose Manuel Carreno and Herman Cornejo — with ballerinas to match their daring and charm.

© 2006 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

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