Le Corsaire (The Pirate) is a ballet in three acts based on the poem The Corsaire by Lord Byron, originally choreographed by the Balletmaster Joseph Mazilier to the music of Adolphe Adam. First presented by the Ballet of the Théâtre Imperial de l´Opéra, Paris, France on 23 January 1856. The ballet has been much revised throughout its long and complex performance history by way of later stagings in Russia, most notably by Jules Perrot (1858), Marius Petipa (1858, 1863, 1868, 1885, and 1899), Alexander Gorsky (1912), Agrippina Vaganova (1931), Pyotr Gusev (1955), Konstantin Sergeyev (1972, 1992), and Yuri Grigorovich (1994). By way of these revisions Adolphe Adam's score acquired additional music from six different composers: Cesare Pugni, Grand Duke Peter II of Oldenburg (AKA Prince Oldenburg or Prince Peter Von Oldenburg), Léo Delibes, Léon Minkus, Prince Nikita Trubetskoi, and Riccardo Drigo (often not all of these composers are credited). Today the ballet is performed chiefly in two separate versions - primarily in Russia and eastern Europe companies have mounted productions derived from Pyotr Gusev's 1955 revival, initially staged for the Ballet of the Maly Theatre of St. Petersburg, while outside of Russia and eastern Europe, primarily in North America and some parts of western Europe, many companies have mounted productions derived from Konstantin Sergeyev's version, initially staged for the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet in 1973 and then the Bolshoi Ballet in 1992.
The Birth of Le Corsaire
The first ballet adaptation of Lord Byron's 1814 poem The Corsair was mounted by the Balletmaster Ferdinand/Francois Albert Decombè to the music of Nicholas Bochsa for the ballet of the Drury Lane/King's Theatre in 1837, a production which was revived in 1844 quite successfully.
The second production of Le Corsaire proved to be the most celebrated and enduring, premiering on January 23, 1856, performed by the ballet of the old Théâtre Imperial de l´Opéra (Paris Opera) in the Rue Le Peleteir, Paris (today the company is known as the Paris Opera Ballet). The work was the brainchild of the Minister of State, then director of the Opèra, and of the Empress Eugenie of France, who wanted to create a ballet adaptation of Lord Byron's poem superior to the one mounted in London by Decombè. The choreographer for this production was the Opéra's chief Balletmaster Joseph Mazilier, one of the most celebrated choreographers of his time, who was highly skilled in producing the full-length narrative ballets then in vogue, with many successes to his credit (including Paquita, in 1844). As was standard practice in 19th century ballet, a literary man was commissioned to write the libretto, and here Mazilier looked to the most celebrated dramatist available, Henri Verno, Marquis de Saint-Georges, who fashioned the scenario loosely based on Byron's poem (Verno crafted the scenarios for many ballets throughout his life, most notably Giselle in collaboration with Theophile Gautier in 1841, and later for Petipa's The Pharaoh's Daughter in 1862).
Le Corsaire was created primarily for the talents of the famous Italian Ballerina Carolina Rosati, who was then the Opéra's reigning Prima, celebrated for her great beauty, strong pointes, clean batterie, precision of execution, and easily intelligible mime. The score was commissioned, for a phenomenal fee of 6,000 francs in addition to royalties, from Adolphe Adam, who at that time the most distinguished composer writing for both the ballet and the opera in France (Adam is most noted for his score for the opera Les Toréadors -1849, his score for the ballet Giselle -1841, and as his famous Christmas carol O Holy Night -1847). The libretto for Le Corsaire went through many changes during the long months of the ballet's preparation, requiring Verno to be paid an additional 3,000 francs for the work.
Le Corsaire premiered to a resounding success, with Rosati's powerful interpretation of the heroine Medora becoming the rage of Paris. The stage effects were hailed as the best yet seen on the stage of the Opéra. Designed and executed by the master machinist Victor Sacré, they became immortalized by Gustave Doré's drawing of the ship-wreck from the third act.
In attendance for the first three performances were Emperor Napoleon III himself, with his wife the Empress Eugenie, who had played a large part in work's gestation. 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. Unfortunately it was to be the composer's last work; he died of a heart attack on May 3, 1856, nearly four months after the ballet's premiere. On the evening of the day of his death, Le Corsaire was given at the Opèra as a memoriam to him, and in attendance was the royal family with their guest of honor, King William I of Württemberg. As equally moved by the ballet as was the Empress Eugenie, the Emperor gave orders that all of the evening's box office receipts be given to the composer's widow.
Le Corsaire was given 43 performances in 1856 alone with only Rosati as Medora. Her interpretation of Medora 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 Mazilier retired.
Perrot and Petipa mount Le Corsaire in Russia
Le Corsaire was then taken to St. Petersburg, Russia, where it was to become one of Russian Ballet's most enduring and popular works. It was staged at the St. Petersburg Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre by the great Balletmaster Jules Perrot for the Imperial Ballet (today known as the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet), premiering January 12, 1858 (it is important to note that until 1886 the Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre was principle theatre of the Imperial Ballet). The production was mounted especially for the Ballerina Ekaterina Friedbürg with the young Marius Petipa as Conrad. For this production Perrot essentially restaged Mazilier's original choreography, while Petipa, who also assisted in mounting the work, refashioned some of the original dances, among them, the Pas de Éventails of Act I (in which Medora and 6 coryphèes create a "peacock effect" with large fans), and the Scéne de Seduction.
The Pas d'esclave
For the 1858 production of Le Corsaire Petipa interpolated a Pas de Deux, taken from his 1857 ballet The Rose, The Violet, and the Butterfly, a work set to the music of Grand Duke Peter II of Oldenburg (AKA Prince Oldenburg or Prince Peter Von Oldenburg). This Pas was interpolated especially for the Ballerina Lyubov Radina, who danced Gulnare, and it came to be known as the Pas d'Esclave - a dramatic Pas d'Action in which the slave trader Lankendem (known as Isaac Lanquedem in the original production) attemps to "show off" his beautiful slave Gulnare, in order to sell her.
Petipa's revival of 1863
It is significant to note that by 1863, Jules Perrot had left Russia, and Petipa was serving as the Imperial Ballet's second Balletmaster. The great choreographer Arthur Saint-Léon held the position of Maître de Ballet (first Balletmaster) until his death in 1870. Upon the death of Saint-Léon Petipa was named Maître de Ballet, a position he would hold until 1904.
Petipa presented his own completely new revision of Le Corsaire on January 24, 1863, which was produced especially for his wife, the Prima Ballerina Mariia Surovshchikova-Petipa. For this new production Petipa commissioned the composer Cesare Pugni (who was at that time the First Imperial Ballet Composer to the St. Petersburg Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre and the Imperial Ballet) to make additions and modify the ballet's score. Among Pugni's additions was the Corsaire's Mazurka for the second act, which is still retained in modern productions.
The Grand Pas de Trois des Odalisques
For his 1863 revival Petipa also expanded the Pas des Odalisques of Act II. Originally this Pas consisted of only Adolphe Adam's waltz from the original score. Petipa decided to revise this Pas into a standard Classical Pas de Trois (which consist of an Entrée, 3 variations, and coda). Petipa retained Adam's original waltz, which became the Entrée, and added the three variations and a coda: the first two variations and the coda were set to new music by Pugni, while the third variation, tranferred into the Pas from another scene, was originally written by Adam as a variation for Gulnare. This Pas was transformed into what is now known as the Grand Pas de Trois des Odalisques (AKA the Classical Trio of the Odalisques), and is still danced today.
Mazilier's revival of 1867 and Petipa's revival of 1868
Four years later in Paris, Joseph Mazilier came out of retirement to mount a revival of Le Corsaire especially for the famous German Ballerina Adèle Grantzow, and in celebration of the Universal Exposition (World's Fair).
Le Jardin Animé
For this revival Mazilier rechoreographed the entire ballet, and staged a new Grand Pas Classique especially for Grantzow, called the Grand Pas des Fleurs to new music composed by Léo Delibes. This revival premiered on October 21, 1867 to an even bigger success than the original production. This was to be Mazilier's last work for the ballet; he died shortly after the ballet's premiere on April 18, 1868. His revival was given a total of 81 performances with Grantzow as Medora, and after her departure from Paris it was again taken out of the Opéra's repertory, never to be performed by the Parisian ballet again.
While performing Le Corsaire in Paris Adèle Granztow was invited to perform with the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg. For the occasion Petipa mounted a complete revival of Le Corsaire in the hopes that she would have as much of a triumph in St. Petersburg as she has in Paris. Grantzow made certain that she could perform the Grand Pas de Fleurs in this staging, and so the Ballerina assisted Petipa in mounting Mazilier's choreography, though she was rather surprised at how much the Balletmaster revised it. Not only did Petipa do this, but he also changed the scene's title to Le Jardin Animé, as it is still known today. The revival premiered on January 25, 1868, and was so successful that performances of other works had to be cancelled due to the public demand.
Petipa's revivals of 1885, and 1899
Petipa then presented his third complete revision of Le Corsaire on November 10, 1885, created especially for the Ballerina Eugeniia Sokolova. The Balletmaster completely rechoreographed the entire ballet for the occasion, and added new variations to the scene Le Jardin Animé composed by Léon Minkus (who was by that time the St. Petersburg Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre's First Imperial Ballet Composer) which were used in substitution for Delibes's original variations. Whether these variations were composed especially for this production or were interpolations from other works is not known.
Petipa then presented his last, and indeed most important complete revision of Le Corsaire on January 13, 1899 at the Mariinsky Theatre, rechoreographing the majority of the ballet. This production was mounted especially for the Prima Ballerina Assoluta Pierina Legnani who danced Medora, with Olga Preobrajenskaya as Gulnare, and Pavel Gerdt as Conrad.
The Le Corsaire Pas de Deux
For the revival of 1899, Petipa commissioned the composer/conductor Riccardo Drigo to score a Grand Pas de Deux especially for Legnani's performance. Drigo came through with one of the most famous pieces of music in all of ballet: a short Entrée for harp, an Adagio, a fiery variation for the Suitor in triple time, a variation in polka time for Medora, and a rousing coda, complete with the required 32 bars of music for Legnani's famous 32 fouettés en tournant. The Danseur Aleksander Chekrygin danced the suitor.
It is not known for certain who was responsible for the choreography of Chekrygin's dancing, though there were occasions where Petipa either allowed the male dancers to choreograph their own dances, or he would have Christian Johansson, the influential teacher of the Imperial Ballet, arrange the variation. Legnani's original variation, which over the years has been substituited out quite often, is perhaps one of the most difficult solos for the Classical Ballerina that Petipa ever choreographed. Legnani, an Italian virtuosa, was well-known for her phenomenal technique, and for her variation in this Pas de Deux the Balletmaster lavished notoriously intricate combinations that still challenge Ballerinas to this day despite more evolved technical innovations.
It is a common misconception that the Le Corsaire Pas de Deux was originally danced as a Pas de Trois in 1899 as it is performed in nearly all modern productions of the full-length ballet. This revision did not come about untill well into the Soviet period - though ballet historians are not certain which production first presented the piece as a Pas de Trois, it was possibly the revisions of Fedor Lophukov during the 1920s that first saw the piece danced in this way. Indeed, according to the program of Petipa's 1899 revival and contemporary accounts, Legnani and Chekrygin only performed the Pas as a Pas de Deux.
In 1931 Agrippina Vaganova revised the choreography of the Le Corsaire Pas de Deux especially for the graduation performance of Natalia Dudinskaya, Vaganova's star pupil, who was partnered by Konstantin Sergeyev. Through Vaganova's revision, the Le Corsaire Pas de Deux took on the basic shape it has today. In 1939 Vaganova's revision of the Pas de Deux was interpolated into her own 1931 staging of the full-length Le Corsaire, danced by Galina Ulanova and Nikolai Zubkovsky.
It was the noted Premiere Danseur of the Kirov/Mariinksy 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 and 1940s 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.
The original Ballerina's variation from the Le Corsaire Pas de Deux has been substituted out many times throughout the work's performance's history - in 1958 Rudolf Nureyev danced the Le Corsaire Pas de Deux with Alla Sizova for their graduation performance from the Vaganova Choreographic Institutution (school of the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet). For the occasion Sizova substituted the original Ballerina's variation for the Variation of the Dryad Queen from Alexander Gorsky's 1900 revival of Petipa's ballet Don Quixote, for which he added the variation to new music by Anton Simon (this music is often incorrectly credited to Léon Minkus). In 1960 when Nureyev staged the Le Corsaire Pas de Deux for the first time in the west (mounted especially for a Covent Garden gala performance for himself and Margot Fonteyn), this variation was retained, likely because it suited the more lyrical gifts of Fonteyn. For Nureyev's staging of the Pas the composer/conductor John Lanchbery reorchestrated Drigo's music from a piano reduction, likely because Riccardo Drigo's original orchestral parts were only available at that time in Russia. For many years Nureyev's staging of the Pas became the standard in the west, complete with Fonteyn's interpolated variation. The other variation often danced in substitution of the original Ballerina solo is the Variation of Gamzatti from the Grand Pas d'Action from the Petipa/Minkus La Bayadère.
New Variations for Le Jardin Animé
In 19th century ballet it was standard practice for a Ballerina or Danseur to interpolate a variation from another work into a ballet. Often the composers of the Imperial Ballet would literally "custom score" a variation at the request of a dancer. New variations had found their way into Le Corsaire throughout the work's performance history, but for Petipa's 1899 revival, new variations for Medora and Gulnare were used in substitution of Delibes' original solos in the scene Le Jardin Animé.
The first, danced by Olga Preobrajenskaya as Gulnare, was originally the Variation of Amour taken from the 1876 Petipa/Minkus ballet The Adventures of Peleus (AKA Thetis and Peleus), while the second variation, danced by Pierina Legnani as Medora, was taken from Petipa's 1883 ballet The Cyprus Statue (AKA Pygmalion) to the music of Prince Trubetskoi. The variation danced in 1899 by Olga Preobrajenskaya as Gulnare is no longer performed in Le Jardin Animé anywhere in the world, and has been replaced over time by a variation that is by an unknown hand, though it is believed to be by Cesare Pugni, and is still danced by Gulnare in almost all productions of Le Corsaire in the scene Le Jardin Animé (this unidentified variation is danced by the Ballerina Paloma Herrera in the popular 1999 film of American Ballet Theatre's production of Le Corsaire).
The variation danced in 1899 by Pierina Legnani as Medora is still retained in the scene Le Jardin Animé in the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet's production of Le Corsaire (this variation is danced by the Ballerina Altynai Asylmoratova in the popualar 1989 film of the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet's production of Le Corsaire). In later times the variation for Medora in the scene Le Jardin Animé has been occasionally replaced as well. During Le Jardin Animé, the Mariinsky Prima Ballerina Natalia Dudinskaya preferred to dance the rarely heard Variation of the Flower Girl taken from Léon Minkus's score for Petipa's Don Quixote (this variation is danced by Medora during Le Jardin Animé in most western productions of Le Corsaire, notably by Julie Kent in the popular 1999 film of American Ballet Theatre's production of Le Corsaire).
Le Corsaire in the 20th Century and America
Le Corsaire had been staged at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow as early as 1858 in a version later revised by the Balletmaster Ivan Clustin in 1902. It was not until after Petipa's death that a new revival was mounted at the Bolshoi Theatre by Alexander Gorsky, premiering on January 15, 1912 with Ekaterina Geltzer as Medora and Vasily Tikhomirov as Conrad. This staging, long gone from the repertory of the Bolshoi Theatre, was a restaging of Petipa's 1899 revival with revisions by Gorsky. He also included new dances to the music of such composers as Vasily Soloviev-Sedoy, Rienhold Gliere, Chopin, and even Tchaikovsky.
Petipa retired as Balletmaster from the Imperial Ballet in 1904, and he died in Gurzuf on July 14, 1910. His last revival of Le Corsaire remained in the repertory of the Imperial Ballet (or as it was called after revolution of 1917, the State Academic Petrograd Ballet) until 1928, where up to that point it had been performed 224 times in Petipa's last version, and was not given again for another three years. Many more stagings of Le Corsaire followed in versions that retained all of the ballet's classical dances as set down by Petipa, which by that itme were considered sacred (though they were not entirely immune from revision themselves).
The changes that came along in these revivals were done rather severely to the incidental scenes of action, and as a result, the ballet's plot was transformed from a dramatic tour de force into a rather silly insignificant tale that merely served as the glue that held the dancing passages together. Unfortunately this is the way that Le Corsaire has been passed down to the present day.
Agrippina Vaganova, the revered pedagogue, supervised the first "after Petipa" revival of Le Corsaire at the Mariinsky Theatre in 1931. The next important revival of Le Corsaire was staged by the `Balletmaster Pyotr Gusev in 1955 at the Ballet of the Maly Theatre of St. Petersburg, and was the first to present a completely modified version of the ballet's libretto, written by Gusev and the ballet historian Yuri Slonimsky. Aside from the new libretto Gusev opted to do a complete revision of the ballet's score as well. Although by this time the score for Le Corsaire contained the traditional interpolated dances by many composers ( the Pas d'Esclave, the Corsaire's Mazurka, the Grand Pas de Trois des Odalisques, the scene Le Jardin Animé, the Grand Pas de Deux � Trois/Pas de Deux, as well as the usual supplemental variations), the majority of the score still belonged to Adolphe Adam, as the music for the incidental scenes of action were from his original score of 1856. Gusev opted to discard nearly all of this original music in favor of a music fashioned out of themes from Adam's 1842 ballet La Jolie Fille du Gand, as well as more additions from various ballets by Cesare Pugni.
With this interpolated music Gusev fashioned a new version of the ballet's prologue (this scene included the standard opening of the ballet with the famous shipwreck, followed by a scene set on a beach. Gusev added here a new Entrance for Medora, and an elaborate Pas for Gulnare, Medora, and 10 other Ballerinas. Afterwards the Ballerinas find Conrad and his party washed ashore, only to be kidnapped by Lankendem and his cohorts soon afterwards, which then causes Conrad and his party to go to their rescue. The interpolated music was also used to create lietmotives for the ballet's main characters. As well, Gusev added many individual dances throughout the ballet from Drigo's score for Petipa's 1889 ballet The Talisman. Originally Gusev had intended to mount this revision for the Kirov Ballet, but the company chose to retain Vaganova's 1931 staging (Gusev's production was also staged for the Novosibirsk Ballet in 1964, where it is still retained).
Many more revisions of Le Corsaire were mounted in Russia, perhaps one of the most important being in 1958 for the Stanislavsky Ballet by the former Ballerina Nina Grishschina with the assistance of the Balletmasters Alexei Chichinadze and Vladimir Bourmiester, a production which was revived in 1989. In 1973, the Balletmaster of the Kirov/Mariinksy Ballet Konstantin Sergeyev staged his own completely new revision of Le Corsaire, a production which was soon pulled 4 years later by Oleg Vinogradov, the former director of the Ballet of the Maly Theatre, who was appointed director of the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet that year. Vinogradov opted to stage Gusev's 1955 revision of Le Corsaire, a production that the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet still retains in its repertory to the present day.
In 1989 the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet decided to present a revival of Le Corsaire for its upcoming world tour. There was much debate as to whether Gusev's staging would be retained or whether Sergeyev's version would be reinstated. In the end, they chose to retain Gusev's version, while still lavishing the production with new sets and costumes. This staging premiered to great success in New York at the Metropolitan Opera House on July 3, 1989 with the Ballerina Altynai Asylmuratova as Medora (this production was filmed at the Mariinsky Theatre in April of 1989, and has been released onto DVD/video). Sergeyev then staged a complete revival of his 1973 revision of Le Corsaire for the Bolshoi Ballet, at the invitation of Yuri Grigorovich, the company's director. This production premiered on March 11, 1992 to great success, becoming Sergeyev's last work for the ballet; he died on April 1, that same year. Grigorovich then decided to pull Sergeyev's staging from the Bolshoi's repertory after only seven performances, so that there would be no competition for his own staging, which premiered on February 16, 1994, a production that is still retained in the repertory of the Bolshoi Ballet.
The sets and costumes used for the Konstantin Sergeyev's production of Le Corsaire, designed by Irina Tibilova, sat unused in the archives of the Bolshoi Theatre for almost five years. At the suggestion of Sergeyev's wife, the celebrated Ballerina and teacher Natalia Dudinskaya, Anna-Marie Holmes staged Sergeyev's production of Le Corsaire 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 by Kiorv/Mariinsky Ballet, as well as additional parts taken from the Mariinsky Theatre library. 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. This required the reordering of many numbers, as well as a few new transitional passages which were composed by Kevin Galie. Galie also did a substantial reorchestration throughout many parts of the score primarily to the dance numbers, notably the Grand Pas de Trois des Odalisques, the Pas d'Esclave, and the Grand Pas de Deux � Trois Classique (AKA the Le Corsaire Pas de Deux). This production premiered on March 27, 1997 with the Ballerina Natasha Akhmarova as Medora, to great success. Nearly one year later, American Ballet Theatre in New York rented the Boston Ballet's production for its own staging of Le Corsaire. The production went through even more revisions, with musical modifications done by American Ballet Theatre conductor Charles Parker and the company pianist Henrietta Stern.
This production premiered on June 19, 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 Center in Costa Mesa, California by PBS for Great Performances in 1999, with Julie Kent as Medora, Paloma Herrera as Gulnare, Ethan Steifel as Conrad, Angel Corella as Ali, and Vladimir Malakhov as Lankendem.
Today the full-length Le Corsaire has been staged by many companies all over the world. It is Pyotr Gusev and Konstantin Sergeyev's stagings that serve as the foundation for these productions, though to date there has not been a company who has chose to merge the two. Outside of Russia, primarily in western Europe and the Americas, it is Sergeyev's production that has been staged primarily, while in Russia and in eastern Europe Gusev's revision has been staged mostly.
Pacific Northwest Ballet School's Reconstruction of Le Jardin Animé
Between 1894 and circa 1900 Petipa's production of Le Corsaire was documented in the Stepanov system of dance notation. Today this documentation, known as the Sergeyev Collection, as well as the notation of many other ballets and dances choreographed by Petipa, is housed in the Harvard University Library. In June of 2004 the School of the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle presented a reconstruction of Petipa's choreography for the scene Le Jardin Animè, taken directly from the notation. It was staged by the dance historian and Stepanov notation expert Douglas Fullington, and Manard Stewart, former principle dancer of the Pacific Northwest Ballet.
(NOTE - The following synopsis's detail the two most prominent versions of Le Corsaire. The first is of Pyotr Gusev and Yuri Slonimsky's scenario, used mostly in Russia and eastern Europe (most notably by The Mariinsky Ballet). The second is of Konstantin Sergeyev's 1973/1992 scenario as adapted for American Ballet Theatre's production.
Scenario for the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet's Version of Le Corsaire (by Pyotr Gusev and Yuri Slonimsky)
A groups of Mediterranean Cosaires (Pirates), led by Conrad, Birbanto, and the slave Ali are caught at sea in a fierce storm. Soon, their great ship sinks.
Scene 1: The Sea-Shore Conrad and his friends are washed ashore. Young Greek women appear, led by Medora and Gulnare. They soon discover the shipwrecked Corsaires, and immediately Medora and Conrad fall in love. But soon the women become aware of impending danger, and quickly hide the Corsaires. A patrol of Turkish traders, in league with the villianous slave dealer Lankandem, are hunting for beautiful woman to sell as slaves. The Turks soon capture the young Greek women, and are paid handsomely by Lankendem. They soon head off to the Slave Market in a Turkish Bazaar, and the Corsaires vow to rescue the unfortunate maidens.
Scene 2: The Slave Market Amidst the bustle and barter the wealthy Seid Pasha turns up at the Slave Market to purchase beautiful young slave women for his harem. Lankendem shows of the fruits of his travels from foreign lands, and though he extols the beauty of captive maidens from Palestine and Algeria, the Pasha is not interested. Soon Lankendem presents Gulnare, who enchants the Pasha. Gulnare and Lankendem dance a Pas d'action (the Pas d'esclave). He then pays handsomely for her as she is carried off to his harem. But Lankendem has saved his greatest spoil for last - the beautiful Medora. The Pasha soon makes his offer, but is soon outbid by an unknown trader, who is Conrad in disguise. Conrad then wins Medora and whisks her away, followed by her fellow captives. In the confusion the Corsaires also take Lankendem captive.
The Corsaire's Cave Conrad and his fellow Corsaires take Medora and her fellow maidens to their cave filled with treasure. At the height of the celebrations Medora and Conrad declare their love, and Ali vows to be Medora's devoted slave. The three dance a Grand Pas Classique (the Grand Pas de Deux � Trois). The woman ask Medora to intercede on their behalf so that they may be released. Conrad promises to free them, but Birbanto and his friends protest, and a fight breaks out. Conrad keeps his word and releases the woman. Lankendem, who has witnessed the conflict, strikes a deal with Birbanto and his friends - in exchange for his freedom, he informs them of a potion that, when sprinkled on a flower, can immideiately induce sleep. Birbanto and his friends agree. Conrad and Medora return, relishing in the chance to be alone together. Lankendem then offers Medora a bouquet of flowers to give to Conrad. Conrad then smells the beautiful flowers and falls asleep. Soon, Lankendem, Birbanto, and their cohorts capture Medora. Conrad then awakes, and he and Ali vow to save her once again.
Scene 1: The Seid Pasha's Harem Gulnare is being fêted by the Pasha, and she is enjoying herself. Lankendem soon arrives and presents the Pasha with three woman of ideal beauty to entertain the harem. They dance a Pas de Trois Classique (the Grand Pas de Trois des Odalisques). Soon Lankndem carries in the greatest prize - Medora. Though she is very sad at having been captured once more, her spirits are lifted when she is re-united with Gulnare.
Scene 2: Le Jardin Animé Medora, Gulnare, and the woman of the harem join together to dance a fantastical Grand Ballabile in which they celebrate beauty, grace, and harmony in a garden filled with flowers and magic fountains.
Scene 3: The Rescue Afterwards, the Pasha is warned that mysterious pilgrims have arrived. The pilgrims arrival coincides with the evening prayer, which is conducted by the leader, who is really Conrad in disguise. Their true identity is soon revealed, and they take revenge on the Pasha, his men, and Lankendem. They rescue Medora and Gulnare.
Medora, Conrad, Gulnare, and Ali set sail for new adventures, certain this time of lasting happiness.
Scenario for American Ballet Theatre's Version of Le Corsaire (derived from Sergeyev's version)
A pirate ship, manned by Conrad, his slave Ali, and his friend Birbanto, sails toward Turkey.
The Bazaar Dealers and buyers fill a noisy bazaar where slave girls are being traded. Conrad and his men arrive where Lankendem, the owner of the bazaar, is selling girls. Conrad sees Medora, a slave girl, and falls immediately in love. Seyd, a Pasha, arrives on the scene amidst much fanfare. Lankendem presents three young women, who dance a Pas de Trois Classique (the Grand Pas de Trois des Odalisques) whom the Pasha rejects. Lankendem then presents Gulnare, a lovely slave girl, and together Gulnare and Lankendem dance a Pas d'action (the Pas d'Esclave). The Pasha buys her. Lankendem then presents a young slave girl, Medora, and everyone is entranced by her beauty. The Pasha buys her. Conrad instructs the slave to steal Medora back and the Corsaires raid the village and kidnap Lankendem.
The Grotto Conrad shows Medora his cave filled with treasure. Birbanto calls all the Corsaires to bring in their stolen bounty to the grotto, as well as the slave girls and Lankendem. Medora, Conrad, and the slave Ali dance a Grand Pas (the Grand Pas de Deux � Trois Classique). Afterward, Medora entreats Conrad, in the name of their love, to free all the slave girls. He agrees, but Birbanto rebels against the idea and instead persuades the pirates to riot against Conrad. By the force of Conrad's commanding personality and physical presence, he single-handedly instills terror into the hearts of the Corsaires and they abandon their mutinous plan. Not to be thwarted, Birbanto devises a new scheme. He sprays a rose with a sleeping potion and forces Lankendem to help him pass the flower to Medora, who unwittingly gives it to Conrad. He inhales its aroma and falls into a drugged sleep. The Corsaires return to the grotto and attempt to capture Medora. While struggling, she snatches a dagger and cuts Birbanto's arm. In the confusion, Lankendem steals Medora back and escapes. Birbanto is about to kill Conrad but is interrupted by the slave. Stunned and broken-hearted, Conrad discovers Medora missing. Birbanto feigns ignorance and swears his loyalty to Conrad.
Scene 1: The Pasha's Palace The playful Gulnare is interrupted by Lankendem bringing a veiled Medora. The Pasha is delighted that Medora has been recaptured.
Scene 2: Le Jardin Animé' (The Animated Garden) The Pasha then decides to take a nap. He dreams of all of the beautiful women of his Harem dancing in an enchanted flower garden. The woman dance a Grand Ballabile.
Scene 3: The Pasha's Palace Conrad and his party arrive at the palace in disguise, waking the governor. Once inside, the maurauders attack the Pasha and his guards. After the residents flee, Medora names Birbanto as the traitor and Conrad kills him. Conrad, Ali, Medora and Gulnare all escape to the Corsaire ship.
Scene 4: The Storm The Corsaire ship sails upon a calm sea. Conrad, at the helm, cradles Medora in his arms. Suddenly a fierce storm blows across as lightning illuminates the darkening sky. Gusting winds shred the sails and a lightning bolt snaps the ship's mast in half. The ship sinks amidst the relentless, turbulent waters.
As the wind subsides and the sea calms itself, the moon rises in the sky. It sheds light upon Conrad and Medora, clinging to a rock and offering thanks for their miraculous survival, a testimony to the strength of their love.
The music of Le Corsaire on CD
The following list is of recordings of music from the ballet Le Corsaire. Though there are bootleg recordings available taken from the soundtrack of the American Ballet Theatre and the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet's DVD releases, this list concentrates only on officially released recordings.
The following list is of recordings of Drigo's Le Corsaire Pas de Deux as orchestrated by John Lanchbery for Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn in 1962. Except where noted, all of these recordings contain the Variation of the Dryad Queen from Don Quixote to music by Anton Simon in substitution for the original variation Drigo composed for Medora.