Colón Theatre Ballet

October 7, 1999

Colón Theatre Balle

Colón Theatre
Buenos Aires, Argentina

October 7-20, 1999

Reviewed by Lester Tome

Buenos Aires was conquered by Russian pirates when the Colón Theatre Ballet premiered Le Corsaire (El Corsario). As far as we know, this production, borrowed from the Kirov Ballet, makes the Argentinian company only the third outside of Russia with this Petipa piece in its repertory (after American Ballet Theatre and the Boston Ballet).

Majar Vaziev, artistic director of the Kirov Ballet, together with its regisseur, Viacheslav Jomakov, and his assistant, Elena Vorontsova, staged Le Corsaire for the South American troupe. The production uses not only the Maryinsky’s choreography but also its scenery, costumes, and lighting.

The current Kirov Corsaire was first performed in 1987 and is a reconstruction of the Petipa choreography first made by Piotr Gusev in the 1950s for the Maly (now Mussorgsky) Theater. Gusev based his work on his remembrances of the original version, which was performed until 1928. He created new dance material and added some musical fragments from Minkus and Oldenburg to the Adam-Drigo-Delibes collage used by Petipa. Also, the scenario was rewritten by Gusev and critic Yuri Slonimsky. Colón Theatre Ballet is presently the only company sharing this production with the Kirov.

It seems adventurous that a Latin American dance company has incorporated a production like Le Corsaire into its repertory, but actually it has been a logical step for the Colón ensemble, whose classical catalogue already featured standard works of the nineteenth century, including La Bayadère and Raymonda. With the opportunity for both dancers and audiences of Argentina to enjoy a new piece, a warm reception was assured to Le Corsaire.

Novelty is not the unique attraction of this piece. There are interesting choreographic values and also a major spectacle, marked by an exotic Turkish flavor throughout almost all its passages and by astonishing visual effects, such as the realistic simulation of a shipwreck in the epilogue and the inclusion of three colored-water fountains in the jardinanimé scene. The artistic excellence of the Colón Theatre Ballet has also been important in making a triumph of the presentations.

For the debut season, Kirov principals Svetlana Zakharova, Faruk Ruzimatov, and Evgueni Ivanchenko were invited to play the roles of Medora, Ali, and Conrad. The first appearance of the twenty-year-old Zakharova in Buenos Aires was a highlight of the season. She danced beautifully, with an exquisite femininity and a presence that made it difficult to ignore her whenever she entered the stage. She brought vivacity to the bravura sections. Some could say that her six-o’clock développés, although sparkling, detracted from the classical lines of the choreography.

Ruzimatov, a familiar artist to the Argentinian audience, was bright as Ali, one of his signature roles, which was premiered by him at the first Maryinsky performance of this production. The character is almost secondary, however, and it does not allow him to display his full talent; it was really a pity not to see him dancing more.

This Corsaire does not favor the male dancers, so Ivanchenko looked overshadowed, too, although he made the title part of Conrad, leader of the pirates, come alive. Through his noble interpretation it was easy to guess that princely roles, like Siegfried and Désiré, suit him better than those of corsairs.

As a member of the main cast, Silvina Perillo offered a dazzling interpretation of Gulnara, Medora’s friend. A rising local artist and a favorite of the audience, she was cheered in the pas d’esclave. The merchant role of Lankedem was assumed by Leonardo Reale. There were also performances of a second and a third cast integrated with artists from the Colón company.

The theater orchestra was guided by Gustavo Plis-Sterenberg, a conductor of the Maryinsky staff; the Argentinian Carlos Calleja alternated with him.

Lester Tome is dance critic of the Chilean daily El Mercurio.