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Le Corsaire is a ballet typically presented in three acts, with a scenario originally created by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges, loosely based on the poem The Corsair by Lord Byron. Originally choreographed by Joseph Mazilier to the music of Adolphe Adam. First presented by the ballet of the Théâtre Impérial de l´Opéra in Paris on 23 January 1856. All modern productions of Le Corsaire have their roots in the revivals staged by the Ballet Master Marius Petipa for the Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg throughout the mid to late 19th century.

The ballet has many celebrated passages which are often extracted from the full-length work and performed independently: the scene Le jardin animé, the Pas d'Esclave, the Pas de trois des odalisques, and the so-called Le Corsaire Pas de Deux, which is among classical ballet's most famous and performed excerpts.

Today Le Corsaire is performed chiefly in two different versions: those productions derived from the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet's 1977 production (initially staged by Pyotr Gusev for the Maly/Mikhailovsky Theatremarker of Leningrad in 1955); and those derived from the Ballet Master Konstantin Sergeyev's production (initially staged for the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet in 1973, and later for the Bolshoi Balletmarker in 1992). The most well-known production derived from Sergeyev's version is American Ballet Theatre's 1998 staging.

The score for Le Corsaire contains a substantial amount of additional material, primarily acquired by way of revivals staged by Marius Petipa during the late 19th century in St. Petersburg. By the turn of the 20th century, the Imperial Ballet's edition of Adolphe Adam's score included musical contributions from ten composers: Cesare Pugni, Prince Pyotr Georgievich of Oldenburg, Léo Delibes, Riccardo Drigo, Baron Boris Vietinghoff-Scheel, Yuli Gerber, Albert Zabel, Ludwig Minkus, Mikhail Ivanov, and an unknown composer known as Zibin. Nearly all modern productions retain the music of these composers, though their contributions typically go uncredited. Although many modern stagings credit Léo Delibes jointly with Adolphe Adam for the score, it is Cesare Pugni who has the greater musical contribution aside from that of Adam.

Origins

Lord Byron's 1814 poem The Corsaire appears to have served as the inspiration for at least six known ballet productions concerning pirates, buccaneers, etc., during the 19th century. The first production was staged by Giovanni Galzerani in 1826 for the ballet of La Scalamarker in Milanmarker.



On 12 August, 1835 a second work on a similar subject was presented in Paris by the ballet of the Théâtre de l'Académie Royale de Musique (known popularly as the Paris Opéra) under the title L´Ile des pirates. The ballet featured the legendary ballerina Fanny Elssler in the principal role of Mathilde (the velvet toque worn by the Ballerina during her performances in the ballet caused a small fashion craze among Parisian women). L´Ile des pirates was mounted by the Ballet Master Louis Henri to a libretto drafted by the noted singer/dramatist Adolphe Nourrit. The score—a pastiche typical of the early Romantic ballet—was assembled and adapted by the Opéra's resident composer of ballet music Casimir Gide from the airs of Ludwig van Beethoven, Gioachino Rossini and Luigi Carlini. L′Ile des pirates was received with a measure of indifference by the balletomanes and critics, and was given twenty-four performances over the course of three years before being removed from the Opéra's repertory.

The third ballet concerning pirates, etc. was staged by the Ballet Master Ferdinand Albert Decombe (known to history simply as Albert), for the ballet of the King's Theatremarker in London. The score was the work of the french harpist Nicholas Bochsa. Albert's work, staged under the title Le Corsaire, was first presented to the public on 29 June, 1837 with the ballerina Hermine Elssler in the role of Medora, Pauline Duvernay as Gulnare and Albert himself in the role of Conrad. Apart from the choreography, Albert was also responsible for creating the libretto in a version based on Byron's poem. Albert presented a revival of the work on 30 September, 1844 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lanemarker, in which he reprised the role of Conrad. The great ballerina Clara Webster performed the role of Medora, and Adèle Dumilâtre—famous for creating the role of Myrtha in Giselle in 1841—performed the role of Gulnare.

The Ballet Master Filippo Taglioni presented the fourth 19th century ballet inspired by pirates. Taglioni's work, set to the music of Herbert Gärich, premiered on 13 March, 1838 at the Prussian Court Opera of the Königliches Opernhausmarker in Berlin.

During his one and only season with the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburgmarker, Russiamarker, the renowned Ballet Master Joseph Mazilier staged L′Écumeur de mer (The Pirate), known in Russian as Morskoĭ Razboĭnik, a ballet in 2 acts and 5 tableaux, for the great Marie Taglioni, who was engaged in the Imperial capital at that time. The music was composed by Adolphe Adam, who accompanied Mazilier to Russia to compose for the court of Tsar Nicholas I. L'Écumeur de mer premiered at the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre on .

The sixth 19th century ballet on the subject of pirates was also staged by Mazilier, again to the music of Adam, and proved to be one of the most enduring ballets ever created. Le Corsaire was first presented on 23 January, 1856 by the ballet of the Théâtre Impérial de l´Opéra. The work was the brainchild of François Crosnier, director of the Théâtre Impérial de l´Opéra, and of the Empress Eugénie, wife of Emperor Napoleon III, who also made several suggestions concerning the ballet's scenario.

An accomplished literary man was commissioned to write the libretto. Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges, who fashioned a scenario loosely based on Byron's poem, crafted libretti for many noted ballets throughout the 19th century. Among these works: Giselle in collaboration with Théophile Gautier in 1841, and later for Marius Petipa's The Pharaoh's Daughter in 1862. The libretto for Le Corsaire went through many changes during the long months of the ballet's preparation, requiring Vernoy to be paid an additional 3,000 francs for the work.

Le Corsaire was created primarily for the talents of the famous Italian ballerina Carolina Rosati, who was then the Opéra's reigning Prima. The role of Conrad—which contained no dancing in Mazilier's original staging—was created by the Italian Domineco Segarelli. Although he was an accomplished dancer, it was Segarelli's abilities as a mime artist that won him the many roles he created on the stage of the Opéra. It would not be until many years later that the role of Conrad included any dancing.

Le Corsaire premiered to a resounding success, with Carolina Rosati's interpretation of the heroine Medora becoming the talk of Paris. The ballerina Claudina Cucchi received laurels for her performance of the character Gulnare, as did Domineco Segarelli for his portrayal of the hero Conrad. Mazilier's choreography and his arrangement of the mise en scène were highly praised by the balletomanes and critics. Among the ballet's most notable passages was the Pas des Éventails of the second scene of act I—an elaborate Grand pas that featured passages in which the heroine Medora and the corps de ballet created a "kaleidoscope effect" of sorts reminiscent of a male peafowl's extravagant plumage. The stage effects—designed by the master machinist Victor Sacré—were hailed as the best yet seen on the stage of the Opéra. Sacré's realistic execution of the sinking Corsaire ship of the final act became immortalized by Gustave Doré's drawing.

In attendance for the first three performances were Emperor Napoleon III and his wife, the Empress Eugénie, both of whom were fanatic balletomanes. So moved by Le Corsaire was the Empress that she exclaimed "In all my life I have never seen, and probably never shall see again, anything so beautiful or so moving."

Adam's score was highly praised for its melodiousness, orchestration, and dramatic intensity. It was to be the composer's last work for the ballet—he died of a heart attack on 3 May, 1856, nearly four months after the premiere of Le Corsaire. On the evening of the day of his death, Le Corsaire was given at the Opéra with the royal family in attendance with their guest of honor, King William I of Württemberg. As equally moved by the ballet as was the Empress Eugénie, Emperor Napoleon III gave orders that all of the evening's box office receipts, totaling some 10,000 francs, be given to the composer's widow.

Mazilier's original production of Le Corsaire was given forty-three performances at the Opéra with only Rosati in the role of Medora. Her interpretation was considered by all to be incomparable, and after her departure from Paris in 1859 the ballet was taken out of the repertory. Not long afterwards the Ballet Master Mazilier retired.



Le Corsaire in Russia

The first production
Le Corsaire was first staged in Russia for the Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg by Jules Perrot, the renowned Ballet Master of the Romantic Ballet, who served as Premier Maître de Ballet of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres from 1849 until 1858. Le Corsaire was performed for the first time on at the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre, with the Prima ballerina Ekaterina Friedbürg as the heroine Medora, and the young Marius Petipa as the Corsaire Conrad. For this production Petipa assisted Perrot in rehearsals, and even revised a few of the ballet's key dances, the most noted being the Pas des Éventails and the Scène de séduction of act II-scene 1.

Marius Petipa's revivals
Over the course of his long career Petipa presented four revivals of Le Corsaire, each time adding a substantial number of new pas, variations and incidental dances. His first revival was staged especially for his wife, the Prima Ballerina Maria Surovshchikova-Petipa, with the Premier danseur Christian Johansson as Conrad. The production premiered on , and included a score supplemented and revised by the composer Cesare Pugni.

Four years later Joseph Mazilier came out of retirement to mount a revival of Le Corsaire in honor of the 1867 Exposition Universelle, given that year in Paris. The celebrated ballerina Adèle Grantzow performed the role of Medora, and Adolphe Adam's former pupil, Léo Delibes, composed new music especially for her performance. The revival premiered on 21 October, 1867, and was given thirty-eight performances with Grantzow as the heroine Medora. After the ballerina's departure from Paris in 1868 Le Corsaire was again taken out of the Opéra's repertory, never to be performed by the Parisian ballet again.

In the winter of 1867, Granztow was invited to perform with the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg by Emperor Alexander II. For her début, Petipa staged a revival of Le Corsaire, which was given for the first time on . For the production Petipa again called upon Cesare Pugni to compose music for new dances.

Petipa's third revival of Le Corsaire was staged especially for the Russian Ballerina Eugeniia Sokolova, given for the first time on .

Petipa's final and most important revival of Le Corsaire premiered on , at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatremarker. This production was mounted especially for the benefit performance of Pierina Legnani, Prima ballerina assoluta of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres. The Prima ballerina Olga Preobrajenskaya performed the role of Gulnare, and the Imperial Theatre's Premier danseur Pavel Gerdt performed the role of Conrad.

The notation of Petipa's 1899 revival
In 1894 the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres began a project by which the choreography of the ballet company's repertory would be documented in the method of choreographic notation devised by Vladimir Stepanov. The scene Le jardin animé from Le Corsaire was among the first pieces to be notated not long after the project began, and by 1906 nearly all of the choreography for the danced numbers of Petipa's production of Le Corsaire were documented. After the Russian revolution of 1917 the Imperial Ballet's régisseur Nicholas Sergeyev brought the choreographic documentation out of Russia, and used it to stage such classics as The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, and The Nutcracker, as well as Petipa's definitive staging of Giselle and the Imperial Ballet's production of Coppélia for the first time in the west primarily for the Vic-Wells Ballet (today the Royal Ballet). From there these ballets went on to be staged all over the world. In 1969 Harvard Universitymarker purchased this collection, where it now resides as the Sergeyev Collection.

In 2007, the Bavarian State Ballet utilized the notation to reconstruct 25 dances from Le Corsaire for their new production. The Bolshoi Ballet made use of the notations as well when the company staged their production of Le Corsaire in 2007.

Notable additional pieces

A myriad of supplemental pas, variations and various other dances were added to Le Corsaire throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, primarily by Marius Petipa. Below is a list of the origins of the most notable of these pieces, many of which are still performed today.

Overture
For his revival of 1858 Jules Perrot commissioned the composer Cesare Pugni to revise and make additions to Adolphe Adam's score. For his revival of 1863 Marius Petipa again called upon Pugni to revise the score further. Among the new numbers added was a miniature overture which opened the first scene.

The Bolshoi Ballet's 2007 revival of Le Corsaire restored Pugni's overture of 1863.



Pas d’esclave
In 1858 Petipa interpolated a pas de deux into the first scene of Le Corsaire to the music of Emperor Paul I's grandson, the composer Prince Pyotr Georgievich of Oldenburg. Petipa titled the piece as the Pas d’Esclave. The music was likely taken from the ballet La Rose, la Violette et le Papillon, the only ballet ever set to music by the Prince Pyotr Georgievich of Oldenburg, which premiered only four months prior to the 1858 revival of Le Corsaire.

Petipa arranged the Pas d’Esclave as a Pas d’action for two dancers, where a slave girl was presented to the potential buyers of the Turkish bazaar by a slave suitor. In Soviet Russia the slave girl and her suitor were replaced by the characters Gulnare and LanquedemAs was standard practice during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the original variations of the Pas d’Esclave were substituted at the behest of various dancers. The traditional variations which are performed in modern productions of Le Corsaire have been included in the Pas d’Esclave since the early 20th century. The first variation, traditionally danced by the character Lanquedem in modern productions, was inserted into the Pas d’Esclave by the danseur Pierre Vladimirov in 1914. The Mariinsky Theatre's score for Le Corsaire titles the solo as 21/12/1914; Variation pour Vladimirov, and credits the music to an unknown composer named only as Zibin. Today the variation is performed with choreography created by Vakhtang Chabukiani in 1931.

The music of the female variation, which is traditionally performed by the character Gulnare in many modern productions, is by Riccardo Drigo. This solo was originally created as an additional variation for the ballerina Maria Gorshenkova when she performed the role of Claudia in Marius Petipa and composer Mikhail Ivanov's 1888 grand ballet La Vestale. Today the variation is performed with choreography created by the Ballet Master Pyotr Gusev, which he arranged circa 1940.

The Sergeyev Collection contains choreographic documentation of the Pas d’Esclave among the notations for Le Corsaire as it was performed at the turn of the 20th century by the Imperial Ballet. The notations document a 1905 performance as danced by the ballerina Vavara Rhyklyakova and the danseur Sergei Legat.

Finesse d'amour
In 1868 Petipa added a Scène dansante to the first scene of Le Corsaire which came to be known as Finesse d’amour. This piece, set to the music of Cesare Pugni, was originally created for the ballerina Praskovia Lebedeva's performance in the title role of Petipa's 1866 revival of Mazilier's Satanella (this ballet was originally staged as Le Diable amoureux at the Paris Opéra in 1840).

The scene Finesse d’amour took place during the first scene set in the Turkish bazaar, with the heroine Medora teasing the Sa`id Pasha while the slave-trader Lanquedem attempts to sell her. Today this piece is only retained in selected stagings of Le Corsaire. The Boston Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and the Bolshoi Ballet are among the companies who include this piece in their productions.

Pas de six
For his revival of 1868, Petipa replaced Mazilier's Pas des Éventails in the second scene of act I, with a Pas de six set to new music by Cesare Pugni. The pas was staged for the characters Medora, Conrad, and four coryphées, and included only one variation for the character Medora along with a dance for the coryphées.

Le Petit Corsaire
For his revival of Le Corsaire in 1868, Petipa inserted a new Pas de caractéristique to the music of Pugni into the second scene of act I. This piece came to be known as Le Petit Corsaire (The Little Corsaire). In this number the heroine Medora performs a dance with a prop megaphone while imitating and costumed as a corsaire. During her dance, the character Medora uses mime to express the following: "I have no moustache, but nonetheless my heart is as strong as a mans!". The variation ended with the Ballerina shouting in french "Au bord!", a nautical command given by corsaires before plundering another vessel.

Le Petit Corsaire went on to become one of the most celebrated passages of Le Corsaire. In her famous biography Theatre Street, the legendary ballerina Tamara Karsavina (who made her début in the role of Medora at the Mariinsky Theatre in 1909) gives an account of this dance:

A performance of Le Petit Corsaire was one of the first pieces of the art of ballet to ever be filmed. It was Alexander Shiryaev (1867-1941)—famous character dancer and Ballet Master to the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres—who was responsible for filming the anonymous dancer in this piece during the early 20th century. Shiryaev was the grandson of Cesare Pugni, who composed the music for Le Petit Corsaire.

Pas de trois des odalisques
In 1858 the Pas des odalisques from act II of Le Corsaire was expanded. Originally this number consisted only of Adolphe Adam's waltz. For the revival the pas was expanded into a classical pas de trois, consisting of an entrée (being Adam's original waltz), 3 variations, and a coda. The first two variations and the coda were set to new music by Cesare Pugni, while the third variation was transferred from another part of Adam's original score. The expanded Pas de trois des odalisques was first performed by the danseuses Nadezhda Amosova, Anastasia Amosova and Anna Prikhunova.

Danse des forbans
In 1868 Petipa added a new mazurka into the first scene of act I titled as the Danse des forbans, set to new music by Cesare Pugni. The Ballet Master choreographed the mazurka to be lead by the character Birbanto, who made his entrance with two prop muskets which he "fired" on stage to the musical accents. The mazurka proceeded with the male corps de ballet dancing with their prop sabers. For his revival of 1899 Petipa transferred the Danse des forbans to the second scene of act I, where it is still retained in many modern productions of Le Corsaire.

Le jardin animé
Joseph Mazilier revived Le Corsaire in honor of the Exposition Universelle held in Paris in 1867. For this production, the Ballet Master inserted a new Grand pas known as the Pas des fleurs into the second act especially for the ballerina Adèle Grantzow, who performed the role of Medora. Mazilier commissioned Léo Delibes—a pupil of Adolphe Adam—to compose the required music.

In 1868 Grantzow was invited to perform with the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg. For the occasion, Marius Petipa prepared a revival of Le Corsaire, which included an elaborately staged version of Mazilier's Pas des fleurs which was re-named as Le jardin animé. The composer Cesare Pugni arranged a new version of Delibes' music—he expanded the opening waltz in accordance with Petipa's new staging, and also composed new variations for the principal ballerinas.

Nearly all productions of Le Corsaire familiar to modern audiences contain an edition of the scene Le jardin animé as revised by the Ballet Master Pyotr Gusev. Gusev originally created his revival of the full-length Le Corsaire in 1955 for the Maly Theatre in Leningrad, a production that was later included in the repertory of the Kirov Ballet. Gusev's version of the scene Le jardin animé simplified Petipa's elaborate choreography, while omitting the additional passages added by Pugni to Delibes' music. Many ballet companies today perform this version of the scene Le jardin animé, notably American Ballet Theatre and the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet.

In 2004 the Pacific Northwest Ballet School presented a reconstruction of Marius Petipa's choreography as notated in the Sergeyev Collection for the final performance at the end of the school year. Since the school did not have access to the music used in the late 19th century, the choreography had to be adjusted accordingly, and Richard Bonynge's recording of Adam's score for Le Corsaire was utilized.

In 2006 the Bavarian State Balletmarker included the reconstructed choreography for the scene Le jardin animé in their production of the full-length Le Corsaire, and in 2007, the Bolshoi Ballet also included the restored edition for their production, although the company did retain elements from other stagings.

Alternate variations in Le jardin animé
For Petipa's 1899 revival of Le Corsaire variations from other works were used in substitution for the characters Medora and Gulnare during the scene Le jardin animé. The first, danced by Olga Preobrajenskaya as Gulnare, was taken from the 1876 Petipa/Minkus ballet Les Aventures de Pélée. The second variation, danced by Pierina Legnani as Medora, was taken from the 1883 Petipa/Trubetskoi ballet Pygmalion, ou La Statue de Chypre. This variation is by the composer Riccardo Drigo, and was composed especially for Legnani when she performed the principal role in Pygmalion in 1895. Today, this variation is still retained in many productions of Le Corsaire, most notably the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet's staging.

The variation danced in 1899 by Olga Preobrajenskaya as Gulnare is no longer performed in Le jardin animé, and has been replaced over time by a variation Petipa choreographed in 1880 for the Ballerina Eugenia Sokolova to the music of Albert Zabel (principal harpist in the orchestra of the St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theatremarker during the latter half of the 19th and early 20th centuries). Today Sokolova's variation is retained in almost all productions of Le Corsaire during the scene Le jardin animé as a variation for the character Gulnare.

The Prima ballerina Natalia Dudinskaya preferred to dance a rarely heard variation taken from Ludwig Minkus's original score for Petipa's Don Quixote in substitution of Legnani's variation. This number is retained as a variation for the character Medora in the scene Le jardin animé in American Ballet Theatre's production of Le Corsaire.

The Le Corsaire Pas de Deux

The so-called Le Corsaire Pas de Deux is one of the most popular and performed excerpts in all of classical ballet. Today this celebrated piece has become a major repertory staple of ballet companies all over the world, while many dancers select it for ballet competitions.



On , Le Corsaire was presented in a new production at the Mariinsky Theatre. For this revival the Ballet Master Samuil Andrianov—who performed the role of Conrad—arranged a new Pas d'action for the second scene of act I.

The opening adage was staged by Andrianov for three dancers—the characters Conrad, Medora (performed by Tamara Karsavina) and an additional suitor (performed by Mikhail Obhukov). Then followed variations for the each of the two principals characters, with the piece ending in a rousing coda.

As was the custom of the time, music from various sources was selected in order to serve as accompaniment: the adage was choreographed to a nocturne composed by Riccardo Drigo titled Dreams of Spring. The variation in triple time performed by the character Conrad was taken from the composer Yuli Gerber's score for Petipa's 1870 ballet Trilby, while Tamara Karsavina performed a variation in polka rhythm taken from the composer Baron Boris Vietinghoff-Scheel's score for the 1893 ballet Cinderella, originally staged by Marius Petipa, Lev Ivanov and Enrico Cecchetti. Since 1915, Karsavina's variation has been substituted out quite often. Nevertheless her variation is still considered the "traditional" solo for the character Medora in the Le Corsaire Pas de Deux. The origins of the music for the coda is unknown, though it is typically credited to Riccardo Drigo.

In 1931, Agrippina Vaganova revised the choreography of the 1915 Pas d'action. She transformed the piece into an athletic duet for the graduation performance of her pupil, Natalia Dudinskaya, who was partnered by the danseur Konstantin Sergeyev. In 1939 Vaganova's version was inserted into the Kirov Ballet's 1936 production of the full-length Le Corsaire, with the dancers Galina Ulanova and Nikolai Zubkovsky in the principal roles.

It was the noted Premier danseur of the Kirov Ballet Vakhtang Chabukiani who had the most influential hand in refashioning the male dancing of the Le Corsaire Pas de Deux. During his performances in the pas during the 1930s he gave the male role more athletic and virtuoso choreographic elements. His interpretaion of the male role became, in essence, the standard, and it has remained so to the present day.

When Pyotr Gusev staged his 1955 revival of the full-length Le Corsaire for the Maly Theatre in Leningrad, he restored the Le Corsaire Pas de Deux to its original form, with the opening adage being performed by three persons.

On 5 November, 1962, Rudolf Nureyev performed the Le Corsaire Pas de Deux with Margot Fonteyn for the first time at the Royal Opera House, Covent Gardenmarker in London. Nureyev called upon John Lanchbery to create a new orchestration of the music, which are still in use by many ballet companies. It is Nureyev's staging of the pas de deux that helped make it a major repertory staple with ballet companies all over the world.

Alternate variations
Many variations have been used in substitution of the traditional female variation of the Le Corsaire Pas de Deux. One popular variation is the Variation de la Reine des Dryades taken from Alexander Gorsky's 1900 revival of Marius Petipa's Don Quixote. This variation is by the composer Anton Simon, and features a solo for violin in triple time. When Rudolf Nureyev staged the Le Corsaire Pas de Deux at the Royal Opera House in 1962, Margot Fonteyn performed this variation, which is still retained by many ballerinas today (the variation is often erroneously credited to Minkus)

Another variation which is often danced in the Le Corsaire Pas de Deux by the ballerina is taken from modern stagings of Marius Petipa's 1877 ballet La Bayadère, and is traditionally danced by the character Gamzatti in that ballet. The variation is by Riccardo Drigo, anmd was originally written as an interpolation for the celebrated Pas de Vénus from Petipa's 1968 ballet Le Roi Candaule (a.k.a. Tsar Candavl).

The Slave Ali
Originally, the additional danseur who participated in the piece known today as the Le Corsaire Pas de Deux merely served as suitor for the ballerina, and had no other purpose in the ballet's action. By 1937 when the Danseur Nikolai Zubkovsky performed the role at the Mariinsky Theatre, this suitor evolved into a character known as the Rhab (russian for Slave). By the time the Kirov Ballet's Premier danseur Vakhtang Chabukiani danced the role in the 1930s, the character wore a costume which consisted of baggy pants and chains strapped around a shirt-less torso. When Pyotr Gusev staged his revival of Le Corsaire for the Maly Theatre in 1955, the Rhab character was named Ali, and was given a more prevalent part in the ballet's action. This change in the character from a mere suitor to a slave also gave rise to revisions in the choreography of the Le Corsaire Pas de Deux, with many of the dancers who performed in the role adding in more athletic and exotic elements of choreography.

Moscow productions of Le Corsaire

In March 1858 Marius Petipa was dispatched to mount Jules Perrot's version of Le Corsaire for the Ballet of the Moscow Imperial Bolshoi Theatremarker (today known as the Bolshoi Ballet), who continued performing the ballet with some regularity for many years in various revivals. In 1888 Petipa supervised the creation of a new production of Le Corsaire for the company, which premiered to a resounding success. In 1894 the Bolshoi Theatre's newly appointed Ballet Master Ivan Clustine mounted his staging of Le Corsaire, which premiered on . Petipa would later allege that Clustine's production apparently plaigarised much of his own choreography, particularly for the scene Le jardin animé.



On Alexander Gorsky—Premier Maître de Ballet of the Moscow Imperial Bolshoi Theatre—presented his revival of Le Corsaire, with Ekaterina Geltzer as Medora and Vasily Tikhomirov as Conrad. For this revival Gorsky supervised a substantially revised edition of Adam's score that included a myriad of new dances. The airs of such composers as Edvard Grieg, Anton Simon, Reinhold Glière, Karl Goldmark, Frédéric Chopin, Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Antonín Dvořák were fashioned into dansante accompaniment for new scenes, pas, variations, and the like. Among the most notable scenes added by Gorsky was a dream sequence set to a Nocturne by Chopin, in which the character Medora dreams of her beloved Conrad. Another interpolation of note was a divertissement for Turkish, Persian and Arabian slave-women that took place during the scene in the bazaar of the first act. Even with the production's large number of interpolated pieces, Gorsky chose to retain many of the additional pas as included in the ballet by Mazilier and Petipa.

Perhaps the most striking interpolation Gorsky included in his 1912 production of Le Corsaire was the pas de deux that would one day be known as the Tchaikovsky Pas de deux. This piece was originally adapated by Tchaikovsky from a supplemental pas de deux composed by Ludwig Minkus for the original 1877 production of Swan Lake. This pas de deux was thought to be lost for many years by ballet historians and musicologists. The fact that Gorsky included this piece in his version of Le Corsaire led to its accidental re-discovery in 1953, when it was found in the archives of the Bolshoi Theatre among the orchestral parts used for Gorsky's 1912 production. Upon learning of the existence of this music, George Balanchine subsequently choreographed the piece as the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux for the dancers Violette Verdy and Conrad Ludlow. Today it is quite popular with companies all over the world.

Gorsky's revival of Le Corsaire remained in the repertory of the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre until 1927. Although the company regularly performed extracts from Le Corsaire for many years thereafter, the full-length work was not given again until Konstantin Sergeyev staged his version for the company in 1992.

The Bolshoi Ballet's revival of 2007
On 21 June, 2007 the Bolshoi Ballet presented a lavish revival of Le Corsaire, which included twenty-five of Petipa's dances as staged for his 1899 revival reconstructed from the choreographic notation of the Sergeyev Collection. The staging proved to be the most expensive production of a ballet ever mounted, estimated at $1.5 million USD.

Adam's original score as performed for Mazilier's 1867 revival was obtained from the archives of the Bibliothèque nationale de Francemarker. The production also made use of a violin répétiteur used for Petipa's productions. The répétiteur halped to restore much of the original music that accompanied Petipa's additional dances. Music taken from Riccardo Drigo's score for Lev Ivanov's 1887 ballet La Forêt enchantée (The Enchanted Forest) was utilized to accompany a Grand pas for the ballet's last act. This Grand pas also included three rarely heard classical variations for the principal dancers set to Drigo's music. These pieces were taken from such works as Petipa's Pygmalion, ou La Statue de Chypre and his Le Miroir magique.

Le Corsaire in Leningrad and the West

Petipa's 1899 revival of Le Corsaire—which was given its final production in 1915—remained in the repertory of the Mariinsky Theatremarker until 1928 (after the 1917 Russian Revolution the ballet company was known as the State Petrograd Ballet, and later the State Academic Ballet, before it was renamed the Kirov Ballet). By 1928 Le Corsaire had been performed 224 times since 1899 at the Mariinsky Theatre.

Agrippina Vaganova, the revered pedagogue of Russian Ballet, supervised the first noted post-revolution revival of Le Corsaire for the Kirov Ballet, first performed on 15 May, 1931. In 1936 another revival of Le Corsaire was given by the Kirov Ballet, with Natalia Dudinskaya as Medora, Mikhail Mikhailov as Conrad, and Vakhtang Chabukiani as the Slave (or Rhab, as the character was known in Russia). This was the first production of the full-length work to include Vaganova's 1931 revision of the Le Corsaire Pas de Deux as staged for Dudinskaya's graduation performance. Over time, Konstantin Sergeyev—artistic director and chief choreographer of the Kirov Ballet from 1951-1955 and 1960-1970—added various new pieces, including a duet known as the Pas de deux de la chambre (Bedroom Pas de deux) for Dudinskaya, set to Drigo's music for the Grand pas from Petipa's 1894 ballet Le Réveil de Flore (The Awakening of Flora). The 1936 revival of Le Corsaire remained in the Kirov Ballet's regular repertory until 1941. From 1941 the production was only given on occasion until it was totally removed from the repertory in 1956.

Pyotr Gusev's revival of 1955
The Balletmaster Pyotr Gusev staged a new version of Le Corsaire for the Maly Theatremarker of Leningrad in 1955. This was the first production of the work to present a modified version of the libretto, written by Gusev and the ballet historian Yuri Slonimsky. A new character was also included—known as the slave Ali—a role which evolved out of the Slave who took part in the Le Corsaire Pas de Deux in the early Soviet productions of Le Corsaire at the Mariinsky Theatre.



Gusev opted to include a completely new version of the ballet's score. Although the Ballet Master retained the traditional interpolations as handed down from Petipa's Imperial-era productions, he opted to discard nearly all of Adam's original score in favor of music fashioned from airs taken from Adam's 1842 ballet La Jolie fille du gand and his 1852 opera Si j'étais roi by the conductor Eugene Kornblit. With this new music, leitmotifs were created for the ballet's main characters.

Additional dances were also added: a pizzicato taken from Riccardo Drigo's additional music for Petipa's 1899 revival of La Esmeralda was used to accompany a dance for coryphées in the scene Le jardin animé. Gusev also added dances for Turkish, Persian, and Arabian slave-women for the scene in the bazaar.

Gusev also created a new prologue in his revival, which included the famous shipwreck transferred from the last scene. There followed a scene set on a beach where Gusev staged a pas for the characters Medora, Gulnare and ten coryphées, followed by a scene in which the heroine and her companions are abducted by the character Lanquedem and his cohorts in order to be sold as harem slaves.

Gusev's revival premiered on 31 May, 1955, and went on to become the most popular version of Le Corsaire in Russia. In 1977 the director of the Kirov Ballet, Oleg Vinogradov, staged Gusev's version for the company, who still retain the production in their repertory. The Novosibirsk Ballet also include Gusev's version in their repertory. In 2009 Maly/Mikhailovsky Theatremarker staged Gusev's version revised by artistic director of ballet, Farouk Ruzimatov.

The Kirov Ballet's staging of Gusev's version of Le Corsaire was given a new production in 1989 for the company's engagement at New York'smarker Metropolitan Opera Housemarker. A performance of the new production was filmed that same year at the Mariinsky Theatre with the ballerina Altynai Asylmuratova as Medora, Yevgeny Neff as Conrad, Konstantin Zaklinsky as Lankendem, Yelena Pankova as Gulnare and Farouk Ruzimatov as Ali. This film has been released onto DVD/video.

Konstantin Sergeyev's revival of 1973
In 1973, the Ballet Master of the Kirov Ballet, Konstantin Sergeyev, staged his own version of Le Corsaire that included new pieces and updated choreography. Sergeyev included a new variation for the characters Conrad and Birbanto in Act I fashioned from themes taken from Adam's original score. Sergeyev also included his Pas de deux de la chambre in the 1973 version.

Sergeyev's revival was pulled from the Kirov Ballet's repertory after only nine performances. It has been said that the Ballet Master had fallen into disfavor with the Soviet government due to the recent defections from the U.S.S.R.marker of Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov, events which caused his dismissal from the post of artistic director in 1970.

The full-length Le Corsaire was not performed again by the Kirov Ballet until 1977 when Oleg Vinogradov (the Kirov Ballet's artistic director from 1977) staged Pyotr Gusev's 1955 version. In 1989 the Kirov Ballet decided to present a revival of Le Corsaire for its upcoming world tour. There was much debate as to whether Vinogradov's staging of Gusev's version would be retained or whether Sergeyev's version would be reinstated. In the end the company chose to retain the Gusev version, which the company still performs regularly.

In 1992 Yuri Grigorovich, director of the Bolshoi Ballet of Moscow, invited Sergeyev to mount his 1973 revival of Le Corsaire for the company. This production—which included a heavily re-edited and re-orchestrated score by the Bolshoi Theatre's conductor Alexander Sotnikov—premiered on 11 March, 1992 to great success, but after only seven performances Grigorovich decided to pull the production from the repertory. After witnessing the success of Sergeyev's production, Grigorovich decided to stage his own version, which premiered on 16 February, 1994. Grigorovich's production was then taken out of the repertory after the director left the company in 1995. In 2005 the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Yuri Tkatchenko recorded the version of the score used for Grigorovich's 1994 production, which was released by the publishing company Shinshokan.

Sergeyev's version is staged in the U.S.A.
The sets and costumes designed by Irina Tibilova for Konstantin Sergeyev's 1992 Moscow production sat unused in the archives of the Bolshoi Theatremarker for almost five years. At the suggestion of Sergeyev's wife, Natalia Dudinskaya, Anna-Marie Holmes staged Sergeyev's 1992 production for the Boston Ballet (with the assistance of Dudinskaya, Tatiana Terekhova, Sergei Berezhnoi, Tatiana Legat, and Vadim Disnitsky).

The music for this production was copied from the conductor's score used for Sergeyev's production in Sotnikov's orchestration, as well as additional parts taken from the Mariinsky Theatre Library which were interpolated throughout the score. The Boston Ballet music librarian Arthur Leeth, the company pianist Marina Gendal, and conductor Jonathan McPhee performed a cut-and-paste operation on the score as the choreography was adapted for the new staging. New transitional passages were composed by Kevin Galiè, who also reorchestrated passages of the score. This production premiered on 27 March, 1997 with the Ballerina Natasha Akhmarova as Medora, to great success.

Nearly one year later, American Ballet Theatre rented the Boston Ballet's production of Le Corsaire. The staging went through even more revisions both choreographically and musically, with modifications performed by American Ballet Theatre conductor Charles Barker and the company pianist Henrietta Stern.

With regard to the plot, a crucial revision was made by the transformation of french Corsairs into Caribbean Pirates. This production premiered on 19 June, 1998, with Nina Ananiashvili as Medora, Ashley Tuttle as Gulnare, Giuseppe Picone as Conrad, Jose Manuel Carreño as Ali, and Vladimir Malakhov Lankendem. The ABT production was later filmed at the Orange County Performing Arts Centermarker in Costa Mesa, Californiamarker by PBS for Great Performances in 1999, with Julie Kent as Medora, Paloma Herrera as Gulnare, Ethan Stiefel as Conrad, Angel Corella as Ali, and Vladimir Malakhov as Lankendem. The film has since been released onto DVD/video.



Pacific Northwest Ballet School's reconstruction of Le jardin animé
In June 2004 the School of the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattlemarker presented a reconstruction of Petipa's choreography for the scene Le jardin animé, taken directly from the notation of the Sergeyev Collection. It was staged by the dance historian and Stepanov notation expert Douglas Fullington, and Manard Stewart, former principal dancer of the Pacific Northwest Ballet.

Bavarian State Ballet's revival of Le Corsaire
In 2006, the Bayerisches Staatsballettmarker (Bavarian State Ballet) presented a partial reconstruction of Petipa's 1899 revival of Le Corsaire. For this production, twenty-five of Petipa's original dances were reconstructed from the Stepanov Choreographic Notation of the Sergeyev Collection.

The Bolshoi Ballet's revival of 2007
On 21 June, 2007 the Bolshoi Ballet presented a lavish revival of Le Corsaire, which included twenty-five of Petipa's dances as staged for his 1899 revival reconstructed from the choreographic notation of the Sergeyev Collection. The staging proved to be the most expensive production of a ballet ever mounted, estimated at $1.5 million USD.

Adam's original score as performed for Mazilier's 1867 revival was obtained from the archives of the Bibliothèque nationale de Francemarker. The production also made use of a violin répétiteur used for Petipa's production obtained from the Sergeyev Collection. The répétiteur halped to restore much of the original music that accompanied Petipa's additional dances and to reconstruct the original mise-en-scène. Music taken from Riccardo Drigo's score for Lev Ivanov's 1887 ballet La Forêt enchantée (The Enchanted Forest) was utilized to accompany a Grand pas for the ballet's last act. This Grand pas also included three rarely heard classical variations for the principal dancers set to Drigo's music from such works as Petipa's Pygmalion, ou La Statue de Chypre and his Le Miroir magique.

See also

  • Il corsaro, an opera by Giuseppe Verdi, also based on Lord Byron's poem.


References

  • American Ballet Theatre. Theatre program for Le Corsaire. Playbill 24-26,31. 2005.
  • Bayerisches Staatsballett (Bavarian State Ballet). Theatre program for Le Corsaire. 2007.
  • Bolshoi Theatre. Theatre program for Le Corsaire. 2007.
  • Fullington, Doug. Petipa's Le Jardin Animé Restored. The Dancing Times: September, 2004. Vol. 94, No. 1129.
  • Garafola, Lynn, ed. and translator. The Diaries of Marius Petipa from Studies in Dance History: Spring 1992 Vol. III, No. 1
  • Guest, Ivor Forbes. CD Liner notes. Adolphe Adam. Le Corsaire. Richard Bonynge cond. English Chamber Orchestra. Decca 430 286-2.
  • Guest, Ivor Forbes. Ballet of the Second Empire.
  • Guest, Ivor Forbes. Jules Perrot: Master of the Romantic Ballet.
  • Mariinsky Ballet. Theatre program for Le Corsaire. 2004.
  • Sidney-Fryer, Donald. The Case of the Light Fantastic Toe: The Romantic Ballet and Signor Maestro Cesare Pugni.
  • Smakov, Gennady. The Great Russian Dancers.
  • Wiley, Roland John, selector and translator. A Century of Russian Ballet: Documents and Eyewitness Accounts 1810-1910.
  • Wiley, Roland John. Dances from Russia: An introduction to the Sergeyev Collection. The Harvard Library Bulletin: January, 1976. Vol. XXIV, No. 1.



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