Choreography Marius Petipa / Ivan Liška · Composer Adolphe Adam / Léo Delibes u.a.

Thursday, 06. May 2010
07:30 pm – 09:50 pm

Duration est. 2 hours 20 minutes · 1. Akt (est. 07:30 pm - 08:05 pm ) · 2. Akt (est. 08:05 pm - 08:40 pm ) · 3. Akt (est. 08:40 pm - 09:20 pm )

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Michael Schmidtsdorff
Marius Petipa
Ivan Liška
based on
Doug Fullington
Set Design
Roger Kirk
Christian Kass
Musical Preparation & Dramaturgy
Maria Babanina

Lisa-Maree Cullum
Natalia Kalinitchenko
Konrad, Korsar
Lukáš Slavický
Ali, Sklave
Tigran Mikayelyan
Birbanto, Korsar
Alen Bottaini
Cyril Pierre
Pas des Odalisques I
Zuzana Zahradníková
Pas des Odalisques II
Séverine Ferrolier
Pas des Odalisques III
Ekaterina Petina
  • Soloists and corps de ballet of the Bavarian State Ballet
  • Bayerisches Staatsorchester
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The ballet of the 19th century, motivated by exotic beauty, heros and love stories, is not the only artistic medium in which pirates are immortal. Le Corsaire looks back at an ever-changing, successful history of creation and performance. It seems as though, Lord Byron's Poème of the Corsaire triggered a whole series of pirate ballets that surfaced in a variety of European cities. The version danced by the Bavarian State Ballet was created by a French team centered on Saint-Georges, Mazilier and Adolphe Adam and was premiered in 1856 Paris. Léo Delibes was added to the team just a year later in order to create additional music. The name of choreographer Marius Petipa, a key player in everything great that has come out of 19th century dance, first appears in connection to Le Corsaire as the work traveled to Russia. His re-working granted the piece choreographic immortality.

At the core of Le Corsaire is the love story between the Corsaire Konrad and the Greek Medora who is about to be sold to a Harem. Konrad has to abduct her twice before the two lovers can finally follow the call of love.


Conrad, the noblest of the corsairs, his friend Birbanto and the other corsairs aboard their ship fight against the violence of stormy seas.

It is market day. Traders offer their goods for sale, among them two small slave traders with several young women. Among the customers a group of urchins get up to mischief. Lankedem, the richest merchant in town, is sitting at a table with his servant and slave Ali, his confidant, to play his favourite game of chess.
Dance of the women, entrance of female slaves, variation of Lankedem

Birbanto and the other corsairs appear. Like in every town of the Levante, there is a girl impatiently waiting for Birbanto. Conrad, doubtlessly the leader of the corsairs, is last to appear.
Entrance of Birbanto and the corsairs, variation of Conrad and Birbanto

The beautiful Greek Medora, foster daughter of slave trader Lankedem, attracted by the strange men, appears on the terrace and immediately falls in love with Conrad. She throws a Selam to Conrad, a bouquet of flowers, each with a special meaning. He understands the symbolism and at once falls in love with Medora. Lankedem resents their meeting. In the first variation Medora presents herself as an independent, strong young woman who soon has an encounter with Conrad. Lankedem separates them and angrily sends Medora back into his house.
Entrance Medora

Grand entrance of the Pasha. Preceded by his spiritual and juridical advisors, Imam and Muphti, accompanied by two eunuchs, he is carried onto the marketplace, to the excitement of merchant and costumers. Slave traders at once present to him their most attractive slave girls in a provocative dance.
Oriental dance

But the spoilt Said Pasha is not interested. Lankedem seized upon his chance and presents his special treasure: the slave Gulnara. He leads her to dance a pas de deux with Ali that reveals her cheerful, frivolous character.
Pas d’esclave; pas d’action entrée, adage, variation Ali, variation Gulnara, coda

The Pasha is enchanted and buys Gulnara. She is immediately brought to the harem.
Said Pasha is about to return to his palace when he catches sight of Medora on the terrace of Lankedem’s house. Spellbound he asks Lankedem to present her to him. Lankedem is reluctant. After all Medora is his foster daughter, not a slave. However, he beckons her down to meet the Pasha.
Variation Medora

The Pasha wants to buy Medora and tries to allure her with precious gifts which she refuses. Lankedem, too, resists the Pasha’s offers at first. Only when the Pasha offers ten times more then the prize that he was originally prepared to pay, Lankedem agrees. He is to receive the price on delivering Medora to the palace. If he does not take good care of Medora – the Pasha threatens – he is to be beheaded. Medora implores Conrad to rescue her. He plans to elope with her. The slave Ali offers his help.
Conrad’s manoeuvre of abduction begins with a fiery dance of the corsairs with the market women to divert everybody from the planned action.
Dance of the corsairs

The abduction happens very fast: we see Conrad disappear with Medora. The corsairs steal what they can get, above all a group of slave girls. Lankedem entreats Birbanto not to leave him without Medora. Birbanto takes Lankedem with him.


Finally Conrad and Medora are united and happy. The corsair shows Medora her new world.
Entrée  Medora – Conrad

The corsairs appear with their loot, the abducted slave girls and Lankedem. They are welcome by their girls. Pistol shots open a dance of joy at their happy return.
Entrance of the corsairs (fugue) and pas de Forbans

Then Medora and Conrad celebrate their happiness in a grand dance. Ali who is now a free corsair, no longer a slave, assures Medora and Conrad of his devotion.
Pas d’action: entrée, adage, variation Conrad, variation Medora, coda

Medora, in her new happiness, asks Conrad to set free the abducted slave girls. A group of the corsairs, led by Birbanto, protest against the plan. In the ensuing fight between Birbanto and Conrad, Conrad wins. The corsairs are split in two groups now.
Scene of quarrel between Conrad and Birbanto, dance of Birbanto and the corsairs

Birbanto plots revenge. Just then Lankedem comes and offers him a pernicious poison. If the powder is sprinkled on a bouquet of flowers anyone who smells their scent will soon fall in a deathlike sleep, be defenceless. They try the effect on one of the pirates. If Birbanto can hand the bouquet to Conrad, he will get his revenge and Lankedem will get back Medora.

Medora and Conrad have withdrawn to some quiet place. In a short solo Medora mocks the pirate life. Conrad is convinced she is the love of his live.
Scène dansante with the variation “Little Corsair” and variation Conrad

Two children present Conrad with a bouquet of flowers as a feigned sign of gratitude from the freed slave girls. Conrad, seeing Medora’s beauty symbolized in the flowers, smells their scent. Soon the poison makes him fall asleep. In vain Medora tries to wake him up.

In disguise Birbanto and his group of corsairs enter. He wants his revenge, wants to kill Conrad and deliver Medora to Lankedem. As he approaches Conrad Medora threatens and wounds him with a knife. Yet she is overpowered by the corsairs and carried away. Birbanto returns to stab Conrad. In the nick of time Ali appears, kills Birbanto and so saves his friend’s life.
Conrad awakes and in despair swears to seek and free Medora


We see a scene of everyday life in the harem. While the Pasha and his devoted eunuchs play at chess – his newest passion, an example of concentration and tactics of government – the women spend their time trying to attract the Pasha’s attention. Especially Gulnara, his present favourite, outdoes herself in playing with the Pasha. The ball he gives her contains a scarf, special sign of his favour. He wants to retreat with her. But mockingly she begins to play with the scarf, hands it to the other women. Finally it is seized by the oldest, Chadidja. Bored, the Pasha turns away.
Dance of the women of the Harem, polka-variation Gulnara, coda

Lankedem appears to deliver his merchandise – Medora. She is in despair. Lankedem demands payment.
Entrée Medora – Lankedem

But the Pasha instead of paying him, threatens to have him whipped.
Lankedem, cheated in his greed by one even greedier, escapes.
Gulnara and the other women lead Medora off to console her with the luxuries of the harem. Three outstanding slaves of the harem, the Odalisques, try to divert the Pasha with their dances.
Pas de Odalisques: entrée, variation1, 2, 3, coda

Gulnara and Medora return, full of excitement: a group of pilgrims on their way to Mekka ask shelter for the night. Gulnara and Medora are soon aware of the pilgrims’ identity – of course Conrad, Ali and the corsairs. They have come to free Medora. She is overjoyed and must try to conceal her happiness. Gulnara, however, realizes immediately that she is not willing to give up the luxury of the harem for the wild freedom of a corsair’s bride.

After a short prayer with his guests, Said Pasha proudly presents them a grand divertissement – the Jardin animé – a living garden of dancing bodies, to demonstrate to them the riches and treasures of his possessions. Medora, certain to be freed very soon, is the centre of the ensemble, and of course Gulnara is one of its most exquisite flowers.
Jardin animé: valse, adage, first interlude, variation Gulnara, second interlude, variation Medora, coda

With the end of this dance scene Said Pasha loses his superiority. The pilgrims unmask themselves as valiant corsairs. In a sudden attack they disperse the troop of the harem and carry off Medora to the coast where the corsair ship is awaiting them. Conrad and Ali dance their happiness into the freedom of the blue horizon.
Variation Conrad and Ali

The corsair ship is off to new adventures.

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Michael Schmidtsdorff was born in Hamburg. He studied conducting in his hometown and in Vienna. After being an assistance conductor at the Hamburgische Staatsoper and the Deutsches Nationaltheater Weimar he became leading conductor and assistant musical director at the Theater Lüneburg.

In 1998, he conducted at the Hamburg Ballett John Neumeier for the first time and traveled around the world with the company over the years. Since 2002, he worked with the Berliner Staatsballett, the Ballet de l'Opéra Paris, the Ballett der Sächsischen Staatsoper Dresden, the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen and the ballet of the Teatro Massimo in Palermo (together with the Martha Graham Dance Company New York in 2015). Further guest performances led him to St. Petersburg, Japan, San Francisco, Muscat (Oman) and to Cagliari.

Since 2005, Michael Schmidtsdorff regularly conducts performances with the Bayerisches Staatsballett. In February 2017 he accompanied the guest performance of the Bayerisches Staatsballett to Hong Kong.

Repertoire with the Bayerischen Staatsballett

The Lady of the Camellias (F. Chopin/J. Neumeier)
Swan Lake (P. Tschaikowsky /P. Bart/M. Petipa)
Brahms-Schönberg Quartett (G. Balanchine)
Große Fuge (L. van Beethoven / H. van Manen)
Le Corsaire (L. Minkus / M. Petipa / I. Liška)
Raymonda (A. Glasunow / M. Petipa / R. Barra)
Onegin (P. Tschaikowsky / J. Cranko)
Illusions – like Swan Lake (P. Tschaikowsky/J. Neumeier)
Giselle (A. Adam/M. Ek)
A Midsummer Night's Dream (F. Mendelssohn Bartholdy/J. Neumeier)
Sinfonie in C / in the Night / Adam is (G. Bizet/F. Chopin/G. Balanchine/ J. Robbins/ A. Barton)
La Bayadère (L. Minkus/M. Petipa/P. Bart)
Paquita (A. Ratmansky/ M. Petipa)
Terpsichore Gala IX & X (The World of the Ballets Russes, 20th anniversary season of the Staatsballetts)

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