Read the full story: Le Corsaire

Boston Ballet in Ivan Liška's Le Corsaire

Photo credit: Liza Voll

Prologue: A ship on the stormy seas

The noble corsair Conrad, his friend Birbanto, and the other corsairs fight the violent, stormy seas.

Seo Hye Han and Lasha Khozashvili in Ivan Liška's Le Corsaire

Photo credit: Liza Voll

Lia Cirio as Gulnara in Ivan Liška's Le Corsaire

Photo credit: Liza Voll

Seo Hye Han and Lasha Khozashvili in Ivan Liška's Le Corsaire

Photo credit: Liza Voll

Lia Cirio as Gulnara in Ivan Liška's Le Corsaire

Photo credit: Liza Voll

Act I: Marketplace of Andrinople

Lankedem, a rich merchant and slave trader, plays chess with his servant, the slave Ali. Birbanto appears with the other corsairs, followed by their leader, Conrad.
 
Medora, the beautiful Greek foster daughter of Lankedem, appears on her terrace. She sees Conrad 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. Lankedem angrily separates them and sends Medora back inside.
 
The Pasha is carried into the marketplace where the slave traders present him with their most attractive slave girls, but he is not interested. Lankedem presents his special treasure—the slave Gulnara. The Pasha is enchanted and buys Gulnara.
 
He is about to return to his palace when he catches sight of Medora. Spellbound, he asks Lankedem to present her to him. Lankedem first refuses—Medora is his foster daughter, not a slave—but eventually beckons her to meet the Pasha. The Pasha tries to impress her with precious gifts, which she refuses.
 
When the Pasha offers ten times the price that he was originally prepared to pay, Lankedem agrees. The Pasha will pay the sum upon Medora’s arrival at his palace, but if Lankedem does not deliver her safely, he will be beheaded.

Medora implores Conrad to rescue her. Conrad, with the help of Ali, makes plans to elope with her. The corsairs create a diversion and Conrad disappears with Medora. The corsairs steal what they can, including a group of slave girls. Lankedem entreats Birbanto not to leave him without Medora, so Birbanto takes him with them.

Act II: A grotto on the pirate island 

Conrad and Medora bask in their newfound love. The corsairs return with their loot and are welcomed with a joyful dance. Ali, who is no longer a slave but a free corsair, assures Medora and Conrad of his devotion. Medora asks Conrad to free the slave girls abducted by his comrades. A group of the corsairs, led by Birbanto, protest against the plan. Birbanto and Conrad fight and Conrad wins.
 
Birbanto plots revenge and Lankedem, seeing his chance to get Medora back, offers Birbanto a poisonous powder. When the powder is sprinkled on a bouquet of flowers, anyone who smells their scent will fall into a deathlike sleep. They test the effect successfully on one of the pirates.
 
Medora and Conrad have withdrawn to a quiet place. Two children present Conrad with a bouquet of flowers as a sign of gratitude from the freed slave girls. Conrad, seeing Medora’s beauty in the flowers, smells their scent and Birbanto’s poison sends him into a deep sleep. Medora tries in vain to wake him.
 
Birbanto and his group of corsairs enter in disguise. As Birbanto approaches Conrad, Medora threatens him and wounds him with a knife, but she is overpowered by the corsairs and carried away. Birbanto returns to stab Conrad. In the nick of time, Ali appears, killing Birbanto and saving his friend’s life. Conrad awakens and swears to find and free Medora.

Boston Ballet in Ivan Liška's Le Corsaire

Photo credit: Liza Voll

Act III: In the palace of the Pasha

The Pasha and his devoted eunuchs play at chess while the women spend their time trying to attract his attention. Gulnara, his present favorite, outdoes herself in playing with the Pasha. The ball he gives her contains a scarf, a special sign of his favor. He wants to retreat with her. She teasingly begins to play with the scarf, handing it to the other women. Bored, the Pasha turns away.
 
Lankedem appears to deliver the broken-hearted Medora and demands payment. Instead of paying him, the Pasha threatens to have Lankedem whipped. Cheated of payment, Lankedem escapes.
 
Gulnara and the other women try to console Medora with the luxuries of the harem while the Odalisques try to divert the Pasha with their dances. A group of pilgrims on their way to Mecca ask shelter for the night. Gulnara and Medora soon discover the pilgrims’ real identity—Conrad, Ali, and the corsairs, come to free Medora. She is overjoyed, but must try to conceal her happiness. Gulnara, however, is not willing to give up the luxury of the harem for the wild freedom of a corsair’s bride.
 
After a short prayer, the Pasha proudly presents them a grand divertissement—the Jardin Animé—a living garden of dancing bodies, to demonstrate the riches and treasures of his possessions. Medora, certain to be freed very soon, is the center of the ensemble, and of course Gulnara is one of its most exquisite flowers. After the dance, the pilgrims unmask themselves and in a sudden attack they carry Medora off to the coast where the corsair ship awaits them.
 

Epilogue: A ship on the stormy seas

The corsair ship is off to new adventures.

The synopsis for 'Le Corsaire' is courtesy of Bayerisches Staatsballett.

The illusion we create is intended to deepen your understanding of reality.

Mikko Nissinen, Artistic Director
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