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This re-working by Kader Belarbi has produced a new full length ballet with a radically re-worked concept in mind,
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This review is from: Adam: Le Corsaire [Maria Gutirerrez, Davit Galstyan, Takafumi Watanabe, Juliette Thelin] [Blu-ray]  (Blu-ray)
This new version of the Corsaire ballet could not be further from the familiar story and ballet as performed by the American Ballet Theatre for example.
Kader Belarbi has attempted to transform the normal story and concept of the story into something for the current generation. To quote him from the usefully detailed sleeve notes - 'What I'm doing with this new production of Le Corsaire is creating a version for our age. - epic scale, with an oriental flavour,but without slipping into cliché . I had a kind of cinematic vision for this ballet. It's all about giving a work resonance and meaning today.'
The intention was to create a more cohesive narrative and structure to the ballet and this has been achieved by re-visiting the original Byron tale then adjusting the familiar ballet score by adding further music by Adam, re-orchestrating most of the score, incorporating a limited amount of existing music from other sources and composing new music written specifically for this ballet.
Musically the score has been re-worked and enlarged as described above by the conductor, David Coleman who is highly experienced in this sort of work. The result has been, as intended, a tighter and different narrative and structure.
Essentially the story is now far more serious and clearly one of forced abduction by the sultan, deceit on the part of the sultan's favourite, the defeat of the band of corsairs and the eventual death of the lovers. Gone is the previous tale of swashbuckling pirates, duped orientals and general air of chaotic macho adventure all given with a dash of humour and lots of athletic dancing. What we now have is a much more sombre ballet paced at a generally slower tempo, particularly in the first act focusing on the sultan and his palace.
The scenery is also more subdued and minimalist which draws attention to the actual dancing, all of which is of a high standard delivered with much grace. Thus we see presented the sultan's concubines dance with controlled elegant beauty reflecting their subservient situation and even the dance of the dervishes is restrained. The duel between the corsair and the sultan that closes the first act is delivered in slow motion to underline the inevitable defeat of the corsair.
The corsair's den in the second act is more up-beat initially with much celebration upon the return of the escaped leader and the slave girl but this is relatively short-lived. The arrival of the sultan leads quickly to the corsairs' surrender, laying down of arms, the execution of the corsair's companion and the reunion of the sultan with his favourite concubine who has triumphantly engineered this tale of revenge and destruction. This is convincingly portrayed. The final death and eternal union of the corsair and the slave girl in the concluding sea storm is thus approached from an entirely different perspective in the new ballet version.
The staging is effectively minimalist and the props are simple but elegant and functional. The costuming is appropriate throughout. The dancing by the main characters is expertly delivered within character in the context of this new vision. Special mention needs to be made of Maria Gutierrez as the slave girl, David Galstyan as the corsair, Takafumi Watanabe as the sultan, and Damian Vargas and the corsair's companion. The non-dancing role of the sultan's favourite concubine is grimly and forebodingly portrayed by Juliette Thelin whom one hopes is a nicer character in real life!
The corps de ballet is also excellent and make for convincingly restrained concubines and enthusiastic pirates. David Coleman's role as arranger, composer and conductor is beyond reproach and Kader Balarbi must be congratulated on creating a convincing transformation of the original ballet and delivering on all of his stated intentions.
Opus Arte have provided excellent and sympathetic camera work and very crisp HD definition imagery. The sound is of an equal standard and presented in both DTS-HD 5.1 and stereo. The sleeve notes provide a good synopsis and a detailed breakdown, item by item, of each musical section in terms of provenance and of any adjustments and by whom. There is also a brief interview with both Kader Balarbi and David Coleman in the text. There are no further extras other than the usual Cast Gallery of stills.
As other reviewers have suggested, this is a major re-think of a traditional ballet that has transformed the narrative and structure and has brought much needed clarity but in so doing has also completely changed the focus and emotional impact of the story. It now is much closer to the Byron original.
I would therefore agree that this is well worth considering as a significant new ballet. However, it must also be remarked that for those who love the sheer swashbuckling display of other earlier versions supported by more lavish scenery may feel that there is still plenty of room for the previous traditional tale of pirate adventure, however confusing and lacking it can be in essential gravity.
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I thought that you might like to know that before I buy a recording I now look through all the reviews to see if you have posted one. Your assessments and opinions are invaluable. Thank you. (US review)
I particularly like your format of review. They give the prospective purchaser an idea of the style of the playing and relevant comparisons. They are succinct. Keep up the good work! (UK review)
I'm sure there are many other serious collectors, besides myself, who wait for your synopsis and opinion before spending their hard-earned money on new releases...
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Thank you (UK review)