Le Corsaire (The Pirate) is a thrilling ballet about Conrad, a dashing pirate, and his love for Medora, a beautiful harem girl. It is a swashbuckling drama of captive maidens, rich sultans, kidnap and rescue, disguise and conspiracy, love and betrayal, culminating in a shipwreck which is one of the most breathtaking spectacles in ballet.
English National Ballet is the first UK Company to perform the complete work which showcases some of the most bravura male dancing in the ballet repertoire.
Hollywood film designer Bob Ringwood (Batman, Alien 3, Star Trek Nemesis, Ai and Troy) has created new sets and costumes for this ripping period piece, an adventure story which promises unmissable entertainment and great dancing.
A pirate ship sails across the high seas, captained by our hero Conrad and his faithful pirate crew as they navigate towards the Ottoman Empire. They are on a mission to rescue Medora, Conrad’s love, from the hands of the slave trader Lankendem.
Act I – The Bazaar
Lankendem, the slave trader of the bazaar, heads off with his new slave girls to sell.
After safely docking their ship Conrad and the other pirates enter the bazaar where Lankendem is selling his slave girls. Conrad is looking for Medora, Lankadem’s beautiful ward, with whom he has fallen in love. Suddenly he spies her peering from a balcony. Medora throws Conrad a rose as proof of her feelings towards him and Conrad becomes even more determined to free her.
The Governor of the citadel, the Pasha, arrives amidst much fanfare, with his wives and servants, to the market and Lankendem presents three young women he wants to sell to him. When all are rejected, Lankendem quickly presents his “enigmatic dark-eyed lady”, young slave girl Gulnare and the Pasha buys her immediately. Lankendem, suddenly, realises Medora has been freed by Ali, Conrad’s slave, and she is escaping. As he tries to avoid this, the Pasha peering under her veil, faints at the sight of her beauty and insists she must dance for him. Lankendem reluctantly accepts, as this is his favourite girl and he did not want to sell her to anyone.
As Medora dances everyone is entranced by her beauty; the Pasha, unable to resist such temptation, buys her as well. Conrad consumed with love, instructs Ali to steal Medora from the Pasha. Conrad commands the pirates to raid the village kidnapping both Medora and Lankendem and taking them back to their secret hideaway.
Act II – The Pirate’s Cave
Reunited again Conrad shows his hideout to Medora, and promises her all his treasures and possessions. Birbanto, the second in command, has witnessed this and confronts Conrad – as the riches are not his to give.
Conrad summons the pirates to bring their stolen bounty into the cave including the slave girls and the kidnapped Lankendem. Medora, Conrad and Ali dance to entertain the crew. After the festivities, Medora pleads with Conrad, in the name of love, to free all the slave girls. Besotted by Medora, Conrad agrees but Birbanto rebels and persuades Conrad’s pirates to mutiny against him. A ferocious fight ensues with Conrad victorious.
Birbanto, still unhappy with Conrad, devises another plan. Spraying a rose with a sleeping potion he forces Lankendem to help him give the flower to Medora, who unaware of the poison, hands the rose to Conrad as a reminder of their love. Conrad smells the flower, inhaling its aroma and falls into a drugged sleep. As the pirates return to the cave, they see Conrad unconscious and decide to kidnap Medora. In her struggle and trying to defend herself from attack she cuts Birbanto’s arm. In the confusion, Lankendem steals Medora back and escapes. Birbanto is about to kill the comatose Conrad when Ali interrupts him. Conrad awakes to discover his beloved Medora is missing once again and broken-hearted vows to rescue her. Birbanto feigns ignorance and swears his loyalty to Conrad.
Act III – The Pasha’s Palace
Gulnare is entertaining the Pasha by dancing and teasing the Vizier, but they are interrupted by Lankendem entering the palace alongside Medora. The Pasha is delighted Medora has been recaptured and declares he will make her his most treasured wife. He commands her straight to the harem, whilst he smokes on his opium pipe falling into a deep dreamlike sleep.
Scene 2 – The Dream le jardin animee
Asleep the Pasha dreams of his harem in his fantasy garden.
Transition – The Pasha’s Palace
The Pasha is awakened by the arrival of Conrad, Birbanto and the pirates disguised as merchants, minstrels and conjurors. Conrad and Birbanto distract the Pasha as the pirates kill his guards. Unaware the Pasha invites them to enter his private rooms.
Scene 3 – The Pasha’s Palace
Medora, Gulnare and the Pasha’s wives dance around the Pasha whilst Conrad, Birbanto and the pirates enter in their disguises. Revealing their true identities chaos erupts within the palace. Conrad and his men chase away the Pasha, assistants and wives as the pirates dance in victory. Birbanto suddenly rushes in chasing Gulnare; when they collide with Conrad and Medora. Medora exposes Birbanto as a traitor and Conrad shoots him. Ali helps Medora, Gulnare and Conrad escape and they flee to the ship chased by Lankendem, the Pasha and his Assistant.
Scene 4 – The Pirate Shipwreck
Safely on board, Medora, Gulnare, Conrad and Ali sail upon a calm sea. Conrad cradles Medora in his arms at last. Suddenly a fierce and violent storm enrages with lightning bolts illuminating the darkening sky. Severe winds shred the sails and a lightning bolt snaps the ship’s mast in half. The ship sinks.
Scene 5 – The Survivors
Conrad and Medora, having survived the shipwreck, desperately cling onto a rock. Conrad pulls out the symbolic rose that Medora gave him when they first met and hands it to her declaring his undying love. As she takes the flower into her hands Conrad collapses.
Medora – beautiful Greek woman
Conrad – dashing pirate
Gulnare – Seyd Pasha’s slave girl
Lankendem – bazaar owner
Ali – Conrad’s devoted slave
Birbanto – Conrad’s friend
Pasha - a wealthy Seyd
Staged by Anna-Marie Holmes after Marius Petipa and Konstantin Sergeyev
Music by Adolphe Adam, Cesare Pugni, Leo Delibes, Riccardo Drigo, Prince Pyotr van Oldenburg, Ludwig Minkus, Yuly Gerber, Baron Boris Fitinhof-Schnell and Albert Zabel
Edited by Lars Payne and Gavin Sutherland
Libretto by Jules-Henri de Saint-Georges and Joseph Mazilier in a version by Anna-Marie Holmes
Based on The Corsair (1814) by Lord Byron
Sets and Costumes by Bob Ringwood
Lighting by Neil Austin