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Bruce Wall

ENB, Le Corsaire, January 2020

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Posted (edited)

What a fantastic evening .... The dancers - ALL the dancers - were on fire and the stunning ENB Phil provided the flames.  Every aspect was a thrilling winner .... I'm sure there will be those who will write a page - and this performance deserves it.  Sadly I have a mound of work to still get through.  I just wanted to say that I thought Cirio and - most especially - Frola were entirely world class this evening.  Frola's jump!  My word --- talk about levitating .... and then to land in silence with perfect placement.  I well remember cheering alongside DonQFan at the Theatre des Champs d'Elysees when Frola was giving his Nijinsky for the NBoC in Paris - a performance he, himself, lists as the highlight of his career on the ENB website.  That was certainly one of the highlights of the teens for me.  No question.  I have no doubt in my mind but that his performance in Le Corsaire this evening will mark out perhaps the first highlight of this current decade.  Stunning.  Simply stunning - as were ALL.  Oh, and God Bless Gavin Sutherland.  (Certainly I do!!!)

 

Edited by Bruce Wall
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I totally agree with everything you say I too was blown away by Frola’s jump.  A privilege to be at the performance tonight - well done ENB

 

 

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BTW, I've put what I think is the updated casting here:

 

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Initially disappointed that Alina wasn't appearing (hope she's not injured), but Erina Takahashi was a great replacement.  All the guys were great  - lie Bruce we marvelled at Frola's jumps. I thought Shiori Kase was an absolute delight too.

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Adding to the talk about high kicks, from where I was sitting I was also astounded by the height achieved by Erik Woolhouse as Birbanto. A memorable evening for so many reasons. 

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Erik Woolhouse and Shiori Kase were the stand outs for me - for their dancing and their characterisation.

A great company show with everyone giving their all.

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Yea, yea and thrice yea! What a rip-roaring, rollicking, barnstorming joy of a performance from ENB last night.

 

Capybara, I'll go with your two standouts of Erik Woolhouse and Shiori Kase, both of whom raised the rafters every time they were on stage but, my goodness, let's also hear it for the fabulous Conrad of Francesco Gabriele Frola, whom I haven't seen before, and who buckled his swash so gloriously in a role that can sometimes seem wimpy in comparison with the swaggering machismo of the other men on stage. Nice chemistry with Takahashi, too.

 

I was also taken with the delicacy and precision of Julia Conway's odalisque and it goes without saying that Jeffrey Cirio  delivered everything that could be expected of him as Ali, although comparisons are bound to be made with the utterly spectacular Ali of Cesar Corrales last time round.

 

Precious Adams and Adela Ramirez also caught my eye and Brooklyn Mack gave a convincing interpretation of the sleazy, money-grubbing Lankendem.

 

As always, there is something of the pantomime about this piece and it is none the worse for it. Was I impressed? Oh, yes, I was!

 

 

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Unfortunately, I spoke with Cirio last night after his performance, and he performed on an injured foot. Hoping he can finish the rest of his performances, as I am in London and got tickets for Corsaire and the gala performances. Etudes is one of my favorites and I was looking forward to him in that. 

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17 minutes ago, fromthebalcony said:

Unfortunately, I spoke with Cirio last night after his performance, and he performed on an injured foot. Hoping he can finish the rest of his performances, as I am in London and got tickets for Corsaire and the gala performances. Etudes is one of my favorites and I was looking forward to him in that. 

 

I hope so too, fromthebalcony.

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Worth noting that tickets were available for both today's performances from the tkts booth in Leicester Square.

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Travelling back from the matinee. Every time Fernanda Oliveira come on I was smiling. Loved the show, hope to see more of the well known dancers at the Gala. 

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Posted (edited)

Just back from the evening performance. I thought the dancing was amazing. Erina Takahashi was a thing of beauty in motion and Francesco Frola jumped as though suspended in air.

 

I loved all the parts but Daniel McCormick shone as Ali in particular. I'm no expert but he looks like he's got the potential to go far.

Edited by Tango Dancer
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34 minutes ago, Tango Dancer said:

 

 

I loved all the parts but Daniel McCormick shone as Ali in particular. I'm no expert but he looks like he's got the potential to go far.

 

I agree.  He is simply spectacular ... Much as he has been for a little while now :)   More, please.  MUCH more :) 

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Each time I have written about “Le Corsaire”, I have expressed my distaste for the fact that this story about human trafficking is treated by Anna-Marie Holmes more as a comedy than the dark tale of the original synopsis.  Indeed, Tamara Rojo felt it necessary to write a justification in the programme for presenting a work with such outdated attitudes to women and other cultures, hoping we havethe knowledge and the critical frame of judgement to view [19th century ballets] in the context in which they were created”.  However, unlike the myriad operas of previous centuries which have themes of misogyny and racism inherent in the libretti which it would be inappropriate to rewrite, at least in their original languages (“The Magic Flute” is a prime example), this ballet and its plot have been extensively reworked by Anna-Marie Holmes in the 21st century and therefore I fail to see why she could not have made it much more of a drama.  Indeed, the confrontations between Conrad and Birbanto in Act II show how gripping it could be if the whole piece was given the same dramatic treatment, especially with the superb acting talents on display.  Instead, we have the villainous Pasha and his assistant reduced to buffoons more suitable for a pantomime, and even the doping of the rose becomes a source of laughter.

 

My gripes about the actual ballet aside, it does provide a showcase for the technical virtuosity, mainly of the male dancers, within the company.  They receive the loudest ovations for their relatively short, explosive solos but it is actually Medora who has the lion’s share of the dancing in all three Acts and is a tour de force of a role.  Watching both performances yesterday (9 January), I was struck by how lucky the company is to have two ballerinas in their absolute prime who have devoted their whole careers to ENB and, between them, have clocked up an impressive forty-six years with the company, to take on this marathon of a role and fill in for their indisposed colleague, Alina Cojocaru, plus the delights yet to come of Shiori Kase and Katja Khaniukova.  Fernanda Oliveira (celebrating her twentieth year with the company) led the company for the matinée.  I have always thought that she has the prettiest legs and feet in the company and uses them superbly here, especially in the many développés contained within the choreography, bringing a warm voluptuousness to it as well as a serenity to the jardin animé scene in Act III with her secure, effortless balances.  She delivered all the expected fireworks in her various solos, encompassing the obligatory thirty-two fouetté turns and some stunning diagonals of quicksilver chainé turns (or petits tours). As with her performance I saw in Milton Keynes, the highlight for me was the Act II ‘Bolshoi’ pas de deux with her Conrad, Joseph Caley, and the exquisitely beautiful ‘upside-down’ lift, followed by the end position where she is draped down his body.  Caley, as always, partnered superbly and is more settled in the role now but still does not deliver quite the fireworks one expects in his solos, perhaps because his technique makes them look so effortless!  Lankendem was Aitor Arrieta whose innate nobility makes it slightly hard to believe him as a mercenary, sleazy dealer in women, but his dancing was a pleasure to watch, with his easy jump and gorgeous tours en l’air ending in the softest of grands pliés.  Making a very impressive début as Birbanto was Miguel Angel Maidana, who not only impressed me with the fireworks of his dancing but also by the way he built his character, being totally believable as Conrad’s friend who only turns on him when denied what he believes is his right – the slave girls they have rescued/stolen from Lankendem who Conrad agrees to free at Medora’s request.  His joyous dance with lead villager, the delightful Emily Suzuki, was like a ray of sunshine.  Of course, the loudest cheers of the afternoon were for Daniel McCormick, with London audiences seeing his fabulous, bravura Ali for the first time.  There were audible gasps from the audience during the Act II pas de trois when he suddenly slowed his pirouette à la seconde right down, as if we were watching in slow motion, completing several more turns.  He also brought a noble elegance to his dancing and to his portrayal of the character.  Due to Ken Saruhashi’s injury, McCormick replaced him at the matinée and then repeated the whole thing again in the evening for his scheduled performance, thrilling the even more vocal audience.

 

If Oliveira’s Medora was like wallowing in luxuriant velvet, Erina Takahashi (celebrating her twenty-fourth year in the company) was like the most delicate gossamer, shimmering with morning dew.  In what must be an almost unprecedented chain of events, she performed at the dress rehearsal on Tuesday evening, the opening night on Wednesday (replacing the indisposed Cojocaru at both) and then her own scheduled performance on Thursday and I am lost in admiration for her stamina!  I can only describe her performance as radiant and effortless.  Everything about it was exquisite, from her first jetés onto the stage until the last moment, holding her beloved Conrad as they (hopefully!) survived the shipwreck.  There was an electrifying chemistry between her and Francesco Gabriele Frola as Conrad and, again, for me the highlight was the Act II pas de deux and the spectacular lifts which were done in such an astonishingly carefree manner as Takahashi threw herself into his wonderfully secure arms.  Frola was a revelation as Conrad, with passionate, bravura dancing and acting.  The height of his jumps was extraordinary, as were the panther-like landings and, if it had not been for his exceptional acting skills, it really would have felt like a gala you didn’t want to end!  Adding excellent support was the scene-stealing Junor Souza as the arrogant slaver with a heart (witness his look of regret after he has sold Medora to the Pasha), who partnered the very sweet Gulnare of Emma Hawes sympathetically while remaining completely in character.  Hawes was also delightful in the jardin animé scene.  Birbanto was Henry Dowden, who has also found more to do with the character since I saw him in Milton Keynes, and his confrontations with Conrad were particularly gripping.  His Act I dance with the vivacious Lead Villager of Stina Quagebeur was wonderfully exuberant.  This performance benefitted from a lovely trio of Odalisques, with Anjuli Hudson demonstrating diagonals of true brisés where the feet actually crossed each other and Alison McWhinney bringing charm and elegance to the second solo.  For the first time in the six viewings I have had of this ballet this season, I saw a ballerina performance of the third and longest solo.  This was the radiant and regal Katja Khaniukova whose effortless balances and secure turns, whilst displaying the softest of ports de bras, offer a sneak preview of her Gulnare tonight and her Medora on Monday evening.  For those who have seen the production at the Coliseum in the past, I am sure I am not alone in welcoming the absence of children from the jardin animé scene this time, leaving us free to enjoy the lovely choreography for the flowers, looking as if they had just stepped out of a Degas painting of the foyer de danse at the Opéra.  I was also pleased to see that action at the back of the stage in Act I had been toned down since the performances at Milton Keynes and was blissfully free of slave girls being dragged around!  As always with this production, it is best not to think too hard about the story and just enjoy the profusion of fabulous dancing on display plus the wonderfully uplifting music emanating from pit, whether under the baton of Gerry Cornelius or Gavin Sutherland.

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Discounted tickets for this are still available in the new year sale on the official London theatre website

 

Thank you for your wonderful reviews. On my way to see this now. Really looking forward to it! 

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Just got home from the Friday night show:

Medora - Shiori Kase

Conrad - Brooklyn Mack

Gulnare - Katja Khaniukova

Lankendem - Aitor Arrieta

Ali - Erik Woolhouse

Birbanto - Miguel Angel Maidana

Odalisques - Precious Adams, Emma Hawes, Isabelle Brouwers

 

I just wanted to say how blown away I was by the whole company's dancing this evening. I don't watch ENB on a regular basis anymore, but when I do I am never disappointed & tonight was pure pleasure. The standout for me was Erik Woolhouse as Ali (there are not enough superlatives for what he accomplished & he's gone straight to the top of my 'to watch' list, he will remain long in my memory in this role). I had originally booked to see Brooklyn Mack & I also admired him & his partner the lovely Shiori Kase, but to be honest there were no weak links anywhere in the cast & the dramatic & technical level of ENB is a delight to behold.

 

Other plus points from me included a stage set that gives the glorious dancers space to really show what they are capable of (the men benefitting with their awesome solos) & the ladies corps in the Jardin Anime scene. Also, the ENB orchestra sounding marvellous & possibly making the hotchpotch score sound better than it actually is. The fab designs in particular the view of Constantinopel & it's mosque skyline & the palace interior in act 3.

 

On the minus side (not sure if this due to where I was sitting in the upper circle) some of the lighting felt unduly dark & dull. Ok some of the scenes are set at night, but considering the sets are so beautiful surely more could be done with the Jardin scene especially (I have a vivid recollection of the Kirov /Maryinsky having a glittering scene that drew gasps from the audience. It's a minor quibble, but I just feel more can be achieved with a tweak to the lighting, after all such wonderful dancers need to be seen.

 

 

 

 

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2 minutes ago, Diandri said:

Just got home from the Friday night show:

Medora - Shiori Kase

Conrad - Brooklyn Mack

Gulnare - Katja Khaniukova

Lankendem - Aitor Arrieta

Ali - Erik Woolhouse

Birbanto - Miguel Angel Maidana

Odalisques - Precious Adams, Emma Hawes, Isabelle Brouwers

 

I just wanted to say how blown away I was by the whole company's dancing this evening. I don't watch ENB on a regular basis anymore, but when I do I am never disappointed & tonight was pure pleasure. The standout for me was Erik Woolhouse as Ali (there are not enough superlatives for what he accomplished & he's gone straight to the top of my 'to watch' list, he will remain long in my memory in this role). I had originally booked to see Brooklyn Mack & I also admired him & his partner the lovely Shiori Kase, but to be honest there were no weak links anywhere in the cast & the dramatic & technical level of ENB is a delight to behold.

 

Other plus points from me included a stage set that gives the glorious dancers space to really show what they are capable of (the men benefitting with their awesome solos) & the ladies corps in the Jardin Anime scene. Also, the ENB orchestra sounding marvellous & possibly making the hotchpotch score sound better than it actually is. The fab designs in particular the view of Constantinopel & it's mosque skyline & the palace interior in act 3.

 

On the minus side (not sure if this due to where I was sitting in the upper circle) some of the lighting felt unduly dark & dull. Ok some of the scenes are set at night, but considering the sets are so beautiful surely more could be done with the Jardin scene especially (I have a vivid recollection of the Kirov /Maryinsky having a glittering scene that drew gasps from the audience. It's a minor quibble, but I just feel more can be achieved with a tweak to the lighting, after all such wonderful dancers need to be seen.

 

 

 

 

I wasn't blown away by the music in part 1. The phrasing was a bit out. But I absolutely agree with your comments re. Erik Woolhouse. The elevation in his jumps were outstanding and he was just technically beautiful to watch

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Like Peanut68, I've been caught out by the Balcony being first to sell out for this run - most unusual :( - and I fear it now means I'm not going to be able to see Takahashi in this, as there are no other seats in my price range :(  I'm really not having much luck with this run!

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I bought my tickets in the new year sale back at the beginning of Dec. The tickets went for that and the gala really quickly and I suspect that's the reason for sell out?

 

If you sign up for the emails, they send notification of when the discounted tickets go on sale. Tickets for Matt Bourne's red shoes were in the sale too

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Unfortunately, I haven't been able to plan my diary very far ahead, and was relying on there still being something available in the balcony 😞

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I thought Le Corsaire was stunning this evening. Yes the plot is pretty nonsensical but the choreography is incredible. My jaw literally dropped on several occasions in Acts 1 & 2 at the leaps & lifts. The cast were all fabulous. A few curtain call photos, as no-one else has posted any on thos thread so far:

 

 

 

Edited by Dawnstar

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I thoroughly enjoyed the matinee of Le Corsaire on Saturday 11th

 

Medora - Fernanda Oliviera

Conrad - Isaac Hernandez

Ali - Jeffrey Cirio

Gulnare -  Shiori Kase

Lankendem - Brooklyn Mack

Birbanto - Erik Woolhouse

Odalisques - Precious Adams, Alison McWhinney, Julia Conway


I did miss Alina Cojocaru in the lead role (replaced due to illness) but Fernanda is a beautiful and reliable dancer and performed with relish.  I hadn’t seen her dance since having her second child and am very glad I now have.  Great.  
 

There were so many very, very good performances... Isaac, Jeffrey, Shiori, Brooklyn .. but the standout performance of the afternoon was Erik Woolhouse as Birbanto.  So dynamic, dramatic and so thrilling in the theatricals.  Fabulous.  
 

Lovely to see Precious in the Odalisques dancing beautifully with some lovely phrasing.  Alison floated through her solo with ease.  Julia has some formidable technique and completed the difficult diagonal with perfect triple pirouettes each time. Bravo

 

Loved the production.  Agree with an earlier comment that the lighting was a little dull in a few places.  And Gavin Sutherland led the orchestra brightly  through this delightful romp of a ballet.  

 

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Overall, a really enjoyable time was had on Saturday night at the Coliseum. This was the first ballet I went to back in January 2016 after a hiatus due to having babies/small children and general pressures of working late quite often in my early career. It was wonderful to return to the performance which 4 years ago ran at the speed of lightning and was over far too soon!

 

This time, I took my balletomane-in-training 12 year old daughter with me. This is one of those productions which is dazzling on the eye - beautiful sets conjuring up the image of a marketplace in Constantinople, the Pirates' Cave filled with treasure chests, a Middle Eastern palace and of course, the pirate ship with the billowing sail.  Costumes are awash with vivid colours and sparkle in places and the big corps de ballet dance scenes were vibrant and joyous. I was also pleased that my daughter commented on how much she enjoyed the music.

 

Standout male performances came from Daniel McCormick as Ali, Jonor Souza as Lankedem and Francesco Gabriele Frola as Conrad. All were technically precise and of course these roles have the ability to wow with giant leaps and turns. It was wonderful to hear the much deserved loud cheers for Daniel McCormick after his solo in the act 2 pas de trois. In terms of female performances, I really enjoyed Emma Hawes as Gulnare and as always, Alison McWhinney's delicately expressive Odalisque. She always seems to get so much joy from the roles she is performing.  Erina Takahashi was a bit of a disappointment. She didn't seem to be technically strong enough for this role and there were a few areas where she seemed to struggle. There has to be a special mention for Stina Quagebeur who shone as the lead villager and dealt so professionally with a wardrobe mishap - ducking on and off set as if it was all part of the piece.

 

In general, I have a minor criticism about the quality of acting in the company. There are some standout company members, for example Jeffrey Cirio (who didn't perform last night) who throws as much into the character as he does virtuosity, but in general, acting ability could really be stepped up a notch.

 

The London Coliseum is a great venue for ballet, with great sight lines wherever you are sitting, but it is somewhat lacking in places to sit outside of the auditorium and bar spaces are quite cramped for such a large venue. I am also not at all keen on drinks being allowed in the auditorium, now a bigger gripe given that this means that everything is served in plastic to enable people to take their drinks in, which really goes against the majority of businesses really trying to cut back and consider our environment.

 

Very much looking forward to next week's Gala.

 

 

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13 minutes ago, Blossom said:

I am also not at all keen on drinks being allowed in the auditorium, now a bigger gripe given that this means that everything is served in plastic to enable people to take their drinks in, which really goes against the majority of businesses really trying to cut back and consider our environment.

 

 

 

 

I didn't realise that this had been allowed to happen, but I am fed up with the, generally, poorly behaved audiences at the Coliseum, so have almost stopped going unless it's something I am really desperate to see. 

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1 hour ago, Blossom said:

In general, I have a minor criticism about the quality of acting in the company. There are some standout company members, for example Jeffrey Cirio (who didn't perform last night) who throws as much into the character as he does virtuosity, but in general, acting ability could really be stepped up a notch.


Agree. On Friday night, I felt the dancing was amazing but not the acting.

For example, Aitor Arrieta (one of my faves even before he won Emerging Dancer) was cast against type as Lankendem. He's naturally boy-band handsome, so looks the part of any prince role — and btw would be a perfect cheeky Franz in Coppélia. But he didn't 'scare me' as an evil slave trader should. Perhaps as the plot itself is a pantomime about a subject that would be horrific if realistically played. It lists Ali as a slave on the cast sheet, but his famous solo is proud and heroic.
 

Excited to see Jeffrey Cirio on Monday and another Emerging Dancer fave, Daniel McCormick. 

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3 hours ago, Blossom said:

In general, I have a minor criticism about the quality of acting in the company. There are some standout company members, for example Jeffrey Cirio (who didn't perform last night) who throws as much into the character as he does virtuosity, but in general, acting ability could really be stepped up a notch.

 

Completely agree about Cirio - and this was cruelly apparent at yesterday's matinee when he shared the stage with Hernandez. (Bluntly: I find Hernandez something of a charisma-free zone, which made it a struggle to take an interest in the rather underdeveloped role of Conrad.)

 

I would though like to put in a word for Shevelle Dynott, who looked like he was having an absolute ball as the Pasha's assistant.

 

On the ladies front, I'd echo Fiona E's praise for the trio of Odalisques (Adams, McWhinney and Conway - I was thrilled to see that line-up on the cast sheet). Fernanda Oliveira was excellent as Medora - bang on time with her fouettes, if anyone is interested - but Shiori Kase as Gulnare stole the show for me: beautiful, expressive dancing. I usually book for ENB before the casting has been announced and have largely missed out on her until now. I really hope I'm luckier in future!

Edited by Lizbie1
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