St Petersburg, Mariinsky Theatre

Le Corsaire

Ballet by Adolphe Adam

200 years of Marius Petipa



Anton Torbeev

Age category 6+


Music by Adolphe Adam using music by Cesare Pugni, Léo Delibes, Riccardo Drigo and Pyotr Oldenburgsky
Libretto by Eldar Aliev based on the libretto by Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Joseph Mazilier

Choreographer: Eldar Aliev (using fragments of Marius Petipa’s choreography)
Set Designer: Semyon Pastukh
Costume Designer: Galina Solovieva
Lighting Designer: Eldar Aliev
Assistant Lighting Designer: Nikita Kursov
Assistant Choreographer: Reiko Otsuka (Japan)
Repetiteur: Alexander Kurkov


Corsairs are sailing at full sail through a terrible storm towards an Eastern shore.

Act I
Scene 1. At the market
The Corsairs led by Conrad arrive at a marketplace in Adrianople. Fanfares announce the impending arrival at the market of rich and influential Seid Pasha who intends to buy girls for his harem.
Seid Pasha and his retinue, accompanied by slave trader Lankendem arrive at the market. His first purchase is Gulnara, a carefree beauty with inexhaustible energy. After him Lankendem exhibits Greek girl Medora. Seid Pasha, and everyone around him, is stunned by her beauty. Conrad and Medora's eyes meet and the world ceases to exist. As a sign of this sudden surge of love, Conrad gives the girl an amulet in the form of a bracelet, which will now protect her and bring happiness. Neither Seid Pasha, who has bought Medora without haggling, nor his resplendent procession, just out of view, can return the lovers to reality.

The action is over, the market place empties. The Corsairs are the last to leave.

Scene 2. At the Grotto
Returning to the grotto, where the Corsairs are staying Conrad, dreaming of Medora, falls asleep.

Scene 3. A lively Garden
Conrad dreams of a magical flower garden where he and Medora are happy and carefree.

Scene 4. At the Grotto
Awakening from his sweet dream, Conrad realizes that life without Medora is meaningless and vows to find her come what may.

Act II
Scene 5. Seid Pasha’s Palace
Joy and gladness reign in Seid Pasha's harem. The wives, of whom Gulnara is now one, are preparing for the arrival of their master. Only Medora is sad: She cannot forget the beautiful Conrad, to whom she devotes all her thoughts and feelings.

Medora's friends ask her to share her sadness with them, and reveal the significance of the bracelet that she always wears. She tells the story of a stranger, who suddenly awakened in her a feeling of love; although they are never destined to meet again, she cannot forget him. The arrival of Seid Pasha causes commotion in the harem. All his attention is drawn to Medora. Gulnara tries to distract him with the dancing of the beautiful odalisques, which lulls Seid Pasha to sleep. He is carried, accompanied by Gulnara, to his chambers.

Midnight: Medora is alone and dreaming of her loved one.

Conrad, who has secretly made his way into the palace of Seid Pasha, finds Medora. The happiness of the lovers has no limit. Their noise brings Gulnara, who decides to help them, and shares her plan: dressed in the robes of her friend she will attract the attention Seid Pasha, and thus give the lovers the chance to hide and evade pursuit.

Medora and Conrad leave the palace and Gulnara, who has managed to gain access to Seid Pasha, successfully executes her plan.

Scene 6. At the Grotto
The Corsairs greet their leader and his sweetheart and celebrate their return. Medora and Conrad are happy and vow to be together for the rest of their days.

Out on the open sea, the Corsairs sail away, together with Conrad, Medora and their friends, heading towards new adventures.

About the production

What can be more beautiful on the stage near the sea than a ballet based on a marine theme? Le Corsaire choreographed by the head ballet master Eldar Aliev is the show to see on the Mariinsky Theatre Primorsky Stage. Since the time of its creation Le Corsaire was off to a long and successful journey. It was composed practically by the same brilliant artistic alliance that fifteen years earlier brought the immortal Giselle to the world. The librettist Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges, the composer Adolphe Adam (whose music score later was added with pieces of other composers), and the choreographers Jules Perrot and Marius Petipa presented a new ballet masterpiece for musical theatre. This new ballet was just as romanticist and romantic as the sad and illusory Giselle yet it was very different.

Le Corsaire is filled with sunlight, bright colors, and hubbub of the Middle East bazaar, sensual luxury, and the delight of Turkish harem. Romanticists expressed their interest for the Middle East exotics in their total dedication to Ottoman style which used to be quite fashionable in the previous times (for example Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail). An explosive exotic mix is complimented with a pirate adventure and a shipwreck. Le Corsaire is a real Treasure Island with an incredible pirate story. Love is above all collisions and twists of the story which happily ends. Would you be surprised that this ballet was an absolute success when Marius Petipa worked on its improvement? In the original version of the ballet there was only one leading character performed by a prima ballerina. Initially the role of the corsair Conrad was limited to a simple pantomime. Petipa performing Conrad at the ballet premier in St. Petersburg decided to stand for men’s rights in the ballet and made the role of corsair a brilliant virtuosic performance. His followers continued this tradition adding latest elements of the classical male ballet dancing technique of their time. Petipa also came up with the famous Pas d’esclave and the scene of Le Jardin Anime (Animated Garden) – the scene of Asian paradise – where Islamic houris (pure beings of paradise) are presented as hovering beauties of harem.

Eldar Aliev’s choreography carefully preserves artistic elements of the legendary Petipa’s version. The renewed costumes and scenery of the show will please the most sophisticated ballet fans. The romance of the sea and the lure of the Turkish Middle East always make their way to the hearts of any audience whether they are adults or children. Le Corsaire is a proper family show.

Nadezhda Koulygina

World Premiere: 23 January 1856, Opéra Garnier, Paris
Premiere in Vladivostok: 25 April 2015

Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes
The performance has one interval

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