Le Corsaire Ballet at National Opera House was magic! It was my first time at the opera house, and Le Corsaire is a new ballet for me. The venue is small, but the ambience and acoustics are dynamite. I can’t imagine any bad seats in the theater.
Everyone wore face masks, and it was necessary to show a covid vaccine record at the entrance. The QR code on my US digital vaccine record is not recognized in the EU scanning system, but they accepted it.
The ballet was directed and choreographed by Russian born Vasily Medvedev. The magnificent talented dancers were accompanied by the National Opera Orchestra conducted by Ciprian Teodoraşcu. It was a vigorous and exciting musical score well-performed by the orchestra.
Composer and Dancers
Early 19th century French composer Adolphe Charles Adam was educated at the renowned Paris Conservatoire. Although his name isn’t as well-known as other composers, Adam created many operas and ballets, as well as the Christmas song O Holy Night. His composition Giselle, is a popular ballet all over the world. I’m attending a performance next week!
There was no program handout. All the artists were amazing! These are some of the soloists and primary dancers:
- Medora – Mihaela Soare
- Konrad – Robert Enache
- Gulnara – Rhine Okuno
- Lankedem – Sergiu Dan
- Ali – Stefano Nappo
- Birbanto – Ionuț Diniță
- Seyd-Pasha – Cătălin Caracaș
“Le Corsaire was an unfailingly popular ballet throughout Europe in the 19th century. Its grandest staging was in Paris in 1856. Some describe it as a romp for pirates, slave girls, and assorted eunuchs, with a shipwreck to round matters off.”
Although the simple plot is clearly sexist, it’s presented in a lighthearted way and was good fun. I doubt the ballet would make it through today’s politically correct gauntlet. Below is my rough summary of the three acts. More detailed information is accessed easily online.
Act I Scene 1 Medora Kidnapped
Slave-girls await buyers, while Turks, Greeks, and Armenians come to the bazaar to examine the wares brought from all corners of the earth. Conrad, a corsair, comes to the bazaar to carry out his secret plan of “meeting a certain beautiful stranger”. Sparks fly when he sees Medora, the ward of bazaar-owner, Isaac Lanquedem.
A rich buyer – Seyd-Pasha – sees Medora and tries to purchase her for his harem. Isaac explains that she’s not for sale. Seyd-Pasha insists and makes Isaac an offer he can’t refuse. Medora is upset, but Conrad kidnaps her from the Pasha’s harem, and his corsairs capture the heartless, greedy Isaac.
Act I Scene 2 The Plotters
The corsairs return to their lair with the booty, slave girls, and treacherous Isaac. Medora begs Conrad to free all the salves. He agrees, but the others protest, especially Birbanto who is second-in-command on the pirate ship. Later, they join captive Isaac in a plot to drug Conrad through an unknowing Medora. When the drug takes effect, they kidnap Medora and plan to return her to Seyd-Pasha. Conrad awakens in time to save himself, and he and his corsairs set off to rescue Medora.
Act II Scene 3 The Corsair’s Captive
Dancing and other antics are taking place in the harem at Seyd-Pasha’s palace when Isaac arrives with Medora. The Seyd-Pasha is overjoyed and offers her jewels and others gifts. Medora only wants her freedom and complains of the cruelty she’s suffered. Pasha banishes Isaac.
A group of dervishes (Conrad and his corsairs in disguise) appear at the palace requesting lodging for the night. Seyd-Pasha agrees and permits them to put up in his garden. He invites them to a celebration that night where the slave girls will dance. Conrad recognizes his beloved Medora among the beautiful dancers.
At the end of the celebration, Seyd-Pasha orders Medora to his private rooms in the palace. Throwing off their dervish disguise, the corsairs threaten Seyd-Pasha with their daggers. Conrad and Medora embrace.
As the corsairs plunder the Pasha’s palace, Medora recognizes Birbanto as one of her kidnappers and informs Conrad. Birbanto runs off. The group is a about to escape the palace when Seyd-Pasha’s guards burst into the hall and disarm the corsairs. Conrad is sentenced to death.
Act III Scene 4 Seyd-Pasha’s Wedding
Seyd-Pasha orders preparations for his wedding, even though Medora indignantly turns him down. As Conrad is led to his execution in chains, Medora begs Seyd-Pasha to show him mercy. Pasha promises to pardon Conrad if Medora, of her own free will, agrees to be his. She accepts the terms and tells Conrad of their agreement. Conrad rejects the conditions, and the two decide to die together.
Thinking Medora has agreed to his terms, Seyd-Pasha frees Conrad and orders the wedding ceremony to proceed. After the wedding, Medora and Seyd-Pasha are left alone. Medora entices Pasha with her dancing and asks him to remove his pistol and knife, because they frighten her.
At the stroke of midnight, Conrad appears. Seyd-Pasha is horrified when he sees Medora hand over his dagger to Conrad, as she points the pistol at him and threatens to shoot, if he so much as opens his mouth. Medor and Conrad escape and sail away in the corsairs’ ship, leaving Seyd-Pasha behind in a state of shock.
Act III Scene 5 Storm and Shipwreck
The corsairs, except for the traitor Birbanto who is in chains, celebrate. Medora pities Birbanto and asks Conrad to forgive him. He does and sets him free. The weather turns dark and stormy. During the confusion of the storm, Birbanto stirs up trouble with the other pirates again, and Conrad throws him overboard. The storm gets worse, and the ship hits a rock and goes aground.
The wind dies down, the sea becomes calm, and the moon shines on two figures, Medora and Conrad, the only shipwreck survivors. As they clamor for solid ground together, they thank God for their salvation.
It was a perfect evening, and I’m looking forward to more ballets and opera at the Bucharest National Opera House!