Merging Scores with Care

GIUSEPPE PENNISI enjoys the ballet 'Il Corsaro'


Until 15 May 2022, the curtain of the Teatro Costanzi, the main venue of the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, rises on Il Corsaro (The Corsair) which José Carlos Martínez had signed in 2020 for the Capitoline company, a new choreographic creation interrupted by the pandemic shortly after its debut. The ballet's return to the stage sees the absolute debut on the Rome stage of Vadim Muntagirov, principal dancer of the Royal Ballet of London and Jacopo Tissi, appointed principal dancer of the Bolshoi Theatre on 31 December 2021, both interpreters, on different evenings, of the role of Conrad. The day of the premiere, 10 May 2022, marked another important debut, that of the Argentine star Marianela Nuñez, principal dancer at the Royal Ballet of London, in the role of Medora. From Rome, the show will go to Ljubljana, in a slightly simplified edition (due to the different stage sizes). I was at the 10 May performance and enjoyed it thoroughly.

A scene from Opera di Roma's 'Il Corsaro'. Photo © 2022 Fabrizio Sansoni
A scene from Opera di Roma's Il Corsaro. Photo © 2022 Fabrizio Sansoni

The corsair Conrad and the slave Medora are the protagonists of the adventurous events narrated in the ballet. The libretto by De Saint Georges and Mazilier is from Byron's poem The Corsair. Maestro Alexei Baklan conducts the Orchestra dell'Opera di Roma in a score by Adam, Pugni, Delibes and Drigo. Costumes and scenery are by Francesco Zito and lighting by Vinicio Cheli.

In many respects, although Adolphe Charles Adam's ballet Le Corsaire dates back to 1856 and is a typical expression of the French Second Empire, this is a 'world premiere' because several versions of this work have been made over the course of a century and a half.

This version by José Carlos Martínez not only simplifies the stage action, eliminates secondary events and minor characters; it uses only part of Adam's original music and merges it with scores by Léo Delibes, Riccardo Drigo and Cesare Pugni. While all those who go to opera or ballet know who Delibes is, Drigo and Pugni are unknown today: they were two composers of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century, specializing in ballet music, who worked a lot in London and especially in St Petersburg. Drigo was still active when the Soviet Revolution broke out, an event that advised him to return to Italy, to his native Padua.

Marianela Nuñez as Medora, Vadim Muntagirov as Conrad and Walter Maimone as Lankedem in Opera di Roma's 'Il Corsaro'. Photo © 2022 Fabrizio Sansoni
Marianela Nuñez as Medora, Vadim Muntagirov as Conrad and Walter Maimone as Lankedem in Opera di Roma's Il Corsaro. Photo © 2022 Fabrizio Sansoni

Usually, ballet reviews, especially if new - in Rome Il Corsaro has been seen, in full versions, but different from the one now on stage, only twice - focus on the choreographic aspects. In this case, however, it is necessary to emphasize the musical side. José Carlos Martínez and Alexei Baklan, Ukrainian and long-time artistic director of the Kiev Opera House, have done a real work of mastery and care. They merged the various pieces of different composers (although more or less all of the same era) and introduced leitmotifs to characterize the five main characters - the two 'good', Conrad and Medora, the 'gentle' Guinara, the 'very bad' Lankadem, and the 'traitor' Birbanto. The result is a vaguely late romantic cohesive score that, in addition to effectively accompanying the stage action, gently takes viewers into the realm of fairy tales.

An essential element of the production are the sets and the costumes by Francesco Zito: traditional and elegant as required. Of Zito I remember a magnificent Ernani that I saw in Palermo twenty-three years ago and that I later saw in both Rome and Bologna. He is very busy abroad, but we should see his works more frequently in Italy.

Susanna Salvi as Gulnara in Opera di Roma's 'Il Corsaro'. Photo © 2022 Fabrizio Sansoni
Susanna Salvi as Gulnara in Opera di Roma's Il Corsaro. Photo © 2022 Fabrizio Sansoni

Il Corsaro is known for the pas-de-deux and especially for a truly acrobatic pas-de-trois, which are often performed outside the staging of the full ballet, that is, in evenings dedicated to anthologies of choreutics. On the evening of the premiere, Vadim Muntagirov and Marianela Nuñez literally thrilled the audience who responded with ten minutes of applause and real ovations when the curtain fell. Among others, Susanna Salvi, Walter Maimone and Michele Satriano were excellent.

Copyright © 13 May 2022 Giuseppe Pennisi,
Rome, Italy










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