Le Corsaire is unlikely to convert anyone already predisposed against ballet. One of two productions brought to Brisbane by Russia’s Bolshoi Ballet, it’s a sprawling epic heavily indebted to classical forms, aesthetics and storytelling that will, in the eyes of detractors, embody all of ballet’s most repellent aspects.
It spans three-hours, five acts and two intermissions. A romantic tale of a pirate’s love for a slave girl, it’s punctuated by a myriad of sub-plots and an endless array of narratively-extraneous and showy routines. Often, dancers will effectively break character to soak up audience acclaim. In short; it’s long, self-indulgent and a little bit silly.
Undecided audiences yet to be converted by ballet, however, may finally begin to see the appeal. It’s hard not to get swept up by the grandiose scope of Bolshoi’s work or ignore the sheer beauty of their classicist aesthetics. Similarly, their sense of joy in their work. You can see so much love and passion on stage. Impressive, given Le Corsaire’s size.
It’s a truly massive work. In reviving Le Corsaire, Bolshoi Ballet Artistic Director Alexei Ratmansky aimed to deliver a production of historical accuracy – as informed by Le Corsaire’s initial 1899 airing as possible. As such, Bolshoi Ballet’s Le Corsaire is defiantly traditional in design. Spectacular set pieces, flowery costumes, scrims and material.
It’s an odd beauty. Pristine and alien. It doesn’t conjure humanity so much as a fantasy of imagination and romance. Yet, through Bolshoi Ballet’s performers, it stays grounded and accessible. It’s their sense of joy, play and excitement – contrasted against their dazzling technique and physicality – that brings audiences into their world.
There are little hitches that emphasise the work’s humanity. As of opening night, it’s clear that the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and Bolshoi Ballet haven’t found their rhythm, for example. Some musical cues are played too early. Some dancers linger too long. Yet, it all contributes to the work’s best moments.
In all likelihood, audiences will leave Le Corsaire enamored of any number of aspects. The spectacle of a shipwreck. The slapstick of the sub-plot. The finery of the costumes. However, it’s that humanity that makes or breaks the production. Le Corsaire could have ended in a storm of laborious technical exercises or self-indulgent frippery.
To their credit, Bolshoi Ballet have actually made it genuinely beautiful. Again, it’s highly unlikely ballet skeptics will leave converted. It is genuinely a long, silly, self-indulgent work. However, it makes a fine argument as to why those can be such wonderful things to have in a world.
Bolshoi Ballet & QPAC present
Venue: Lyric Theatre, QPAC, Brisbane
Dates: May 30 – June 5, 2013
Tickets: $69 – $274
Bookings: qpac.com.au | 136 246
Performed with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra