Yes, yes, yes!
Well those are the answers, and my questions were:
1) Do you sometimes long to go out for some pure escapist ballet fun where nobody really gets hurt and you can grin yourself silly ear to ear?
2) Do you long for wonderful classical dancing in spectacular costumes and gorgeous sets?
3) Do you think English National Ballet have got an enormous winner of a production on their hands?
As you can see I had more than a good time at the first night of ENB’s brand new Le Corsaire. It might have a bonkers plot worthy of Crossroads or Acorn Antiques (think pirates, concubines, ship wreck, pantomime Pasha and slaves) and the music might have all the nuanced depth of Looney Tunes but this is wonderful entertainment based on deep professional understanding by all involved. There is a palpable sense of purpose and swagger around ENB at the moment.
The production, sympathetically put on by Anna-Marie Holmes and based on her 1992 version for Boston Ballet, burrows back into the Russian ancestry for the action and score with its Adolphe Adam base and 8 other composer credits from Delibes to Minkus. It’s a terrific work for the male dancers in a company and all these additions and alterations along the way are really about upping the sparkle and bravura for all. The Holmes production is notable for being very fast-paced – each of the 3 acts is barely longer than half an hour and within minutes of curtain up the story is established and you are knee-deep in colourful dance. No boring bits here.
Much has been made of Bob Ringwood’s involvement – he designed Batman and Alien 3 and I was worried what he might do to the old warhorse. Well no worries – the designs are very traditional with painted multi-layered vistas receding into the distance and richly colourful costumes for all from pirates to harem. And with tons of glitter to catch the eye, too – how the old pasha, Michael Coleman, manages to walk I don’t know.
The great Alina Cojocaru, newly and surprisingly now a member of the company, was Medora and clearly having cheeky fun while delivering the flashy steps with gorgeous musicality. Erina Takahashi (Gulnare) was also well on top of the technicalities and full marks to the 3 Odalisques (Shiori Kase, Alison McWhinney, Lauretta Summerscales), all delivering delightfully honed steps from the outset and very together. On the male side Vadim Muntagirov (Conrad) showed a more effervescent personality then I ever expected and competed with Cojocaru for technical chops (if he still, in his understated way, has a little bit to learn yet). Junor Souza as Ali went for bravura broke, ditto Yonah Acosta as Birbanto and the Pirates proved themselves anything but ramshackle. Was it all perfect – well not quite perhaps, but it’s the vivacious enthusiasm of all on stage that makes the show such a hit.
A first night of superlatives and Tamara Rojo’s done the country (not just London) a terrific service in her first full-evening commission. You’d be daft to miss Le Corsaire as it tours the UK. Bravo all.