Their story is based on the ‘pirate finds girl; pirate loses girl; then pirate gets girl back again’ you’ll find in Lord Byron’s daft poem, written in 1814. Conrad is the swashbuckling pirate; Medora is his beautiful girl, who has been sold into slavery somewhere deep in the Ottoman Empire. The slave trader, Lankendem, wants to sell her to the Pasha, and through various plot twirls she does indeed enter his harem. Conrad, aided by his pirates, rescues her, despite a betrayal by one of his own, Birbanto. There’s much more nonsense to it than that, but if you miss out on some of the tale you can catch up with the programme notes. But most important, of course, is the excellent dancing. Conrad was danced by Matthew Golding, who commanded the stage in flamboyant solos, leaps and perfectly executed turns, partnering ENB’s Artistic Director Tamara Rojo, (Mendora) in perfect pas de deux. Rojo was equally impressive, making the most difficult shapes look effortless. These two principals were well-supported by a thoroughly talented cast of outstanding young dancers: Junor Souza (Lankendam), Fabian Reimar (Birbanto), and Lauretta Summerscales (Gulnare, another slave girl) particularly caught my eye, standing out because of their technical ability and their artistic interpretation. We were asked to vote for one of the young dancers in the Emerging Dancer Competition, but how can you pick out just one from such an array of talent?The 50+ strong orchestra, conducted by Gavin Sutherland so well that you hardly noticed him, played the nine composer rag-bag of Russian-ish music subtly and without intrusion, keeping the pace just right for the dancers and the audience’s need to applaud regularly. Bob Ringwood deserves huge congratulations for his amazing sets and costumes. In a previous life he designed for Hollywood films, such as Batman, Star Trek Nemesis and Troy, and for Le Corsaire, his large-scale design elements do give the whole production a cinematic edge, completely nailing the Eastern theme. His finale shipwreck scene is terrific.
I’m sure that both ballet regulars and newcomers will be absolutely enchanted by ENB’s most entertaining tale of courageous pirates, slave girls, rich sultans, kidnap and rescue, treachery and romance, all told through exciting dance, inspiring music and nice touches of humour.