Boston Ballet Presents North American Premiere of Ivan Liška's LE CORSAIRE

Boston Ballet's 53rd season begins with the North American premiere of Ivan Liška's adventure and romance-filled Le Corsaire, with music by Adolphe Adam, Léo Delibes, Cesare Pugni, Riccardo Drigo, and Prinz von Oldenburg, performed by the Boston Ballet Orchestra.

The narrative follows a beautiful maiden, a wealthy aristocrat determined to add her to his harem, and a dashing pirate even more resolved to save her. Based on Marius Petipa's 19th-century classic, Liška's version of Le Corsaire was created for the Bavarian State Ballet in 2007. Liška enlisted the assistance of dance historian Doug Fullington to decipher the choreography from its original Stepanov dance notation, which is housed in Harvard University Library's Theatre Collection. Le Corsaire will run from October 27 to November 6, 2016 at the Boston Opera House.

"Le Corsaire hails from the golden era of classical ballet, and it hasn't been in our repertoire for several years," said Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen. "Liška's production is magnificent, with opportunities for spectacular, virtuoso dancing; technically challenging roles for both men and women; and brilliant corps de ballet scenes with stylish costumes and sets."

French for "The Pirate," Le Corsaire follows the noble pirate Conrad on his quest to rescue his beloved Medora from the Pasha's harem. After battling the stormy seas, Conrad, his friend Birbanto, and their fellow corsairs arrive at the market of Andrinople. Medora, the beautiful foster daughter of the merchant Lankedem, spots Conrad from her terrace and immediately falls in love. She throws him a bouquet of flowers, each with a special meaning, and Conrad, understanding the symbolism, falls in love just as quickly. When the Pasha arrives at the marketplace, he is immediately entranced by Medora and buys her from Lankendum. Medora implores Conrad to rescue her, and they escape to a grotto on the pirate island with the corsairs and a group of slave girls. Conrad is later betrayed by Birbanto and poisoned, causing him to fall into a deep sleep, and allowing Lankedem to steal Medora and return her to the Pasha. When Conrad awakens, he and the corsairs sneak into the harem and free Medora from the Pasha.

Choreographic highlights from Le Corsaire include the pas de deux with Medora and Conrad in Act II and the elegant pas de trios des Odalisques in Act III, some of the most widely recognized and commonly performed excerpts of classical ballet. Act III is "like that special box of chocolates, lots of mouth-watering flavors and textures to suit every palate" (Alison Kent, Dance Europe), a highlight being the renownedJardin Animé scene. This magnificent showcase of the corps de ballet also includes more than 20 Boston Ballet School students, giving young students a unique opportunity to perform with professional Company dancers.

Since its original premiere in 1856, Le Corsaire has undergone numerous revisions and additions to its musical score. It was the last ballet by Adolphe Adam, composer of 16 ballets and 46 operas and operettas. Jules Perrot later added music by Cesare Pugni, and Petipa's first contribution was the well-known pas d'esclave in Act I with music by Prinz von Oldenburg. In the late 1860s, Petipa incorporated music by Leo Delibes, a student of Adam's, for Jardin Animé, which became both a musical and choreographic highlight of Le Corsaire.

Le Corsaire is loosely based on Romantic poet Lord Byron's verse tale, The Corsair, which sold 10,000 copies on its first day of publication in 1814 and prompted several stage adaptations, including an opera by Verdi and numerous ballets. Its best-known version, with choreography by Marius Petipa, premiered in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1863 by the Imperial Ballet. In 1997, Boston Ballet became the first non-Russian ballet company to present the full-length ballet (The Pirate) Le Corsaire, with choreography by Konstantin Sergeyev (after Petipa). To recreate the version being presented this year, Liška and Fullington revived the 19th century choreography from the Mariinsky Theatre by deciphering its original Stepanov notation, a method of choreographic notation developed in the 1890s by Mariinsky dancer Vladimir Stepanov. This system was based on the Western musical notation system and used staves and notes to denote timing and placement of the body, as well as details regarding mime conversations, formations for dancers, and other production details. The Stepanov notation for Le Corsaire is part of the Sergeev Collection, currently housed in the Harvard University Library, and includes choreographic notations, libretti, full scores, printed programs, photographs, and drawings. Stager Gregory Mislin, a Benesh notator, is currently working with Liška to notate and preserve Liška's version of Le Corsaire.

Ivan Liška was a principal dancer with Hamburg Ballet and later served as Artistic Director of the Bavarian State Ballet from 1998 to 2016. He increased the company's repertoire, adding classical works like Raymonda and his productions of Sleeping Beauty and Le Corsaire, as well as neoclassical and contemporary works by George Balanchine, Ji?í Kylián, John Neumeier, Jerome Robbins, and William Forsythe, among others. Liška was honored with the German Dance Prize for his career as a dancer and his work as artistic director of the Bavarian State Opera Ballet, and in 2012 he received The Maximilian Order for outstanding achievements in arts and sciences, the highest honor of Bavaria.

All performances of Le Corsaire take place at the Boston Opera House (529 Washington Street, Boston MA 02111):

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