Set in the exotic surroundings of the Ottoman Empire and with a narrative encompassing abduction, murder and shipwreck, Le Corsaire is a swashbuckling pirate drama that delights for its spectacular nature and which includes some of the most bravura male dancing in the ballet repertoire. The work’s evolution has been a complex one, its libretto and choreography subject to numerous revisions since its first appearance in Paris in 1856, and in this English National Ballet production – the first British staging of the work – former-ballerina-turned-choreographer Anna-Marie Holmes adapts the 1974 Petipa-Sergeyev Kirov version to create ‘brisk, stylish entertainment’ (Guardian) that is visually enhanced by Hollywood designer Bob Ringwood’s ‘superb’ (Daily Telegraph) Orientalist sets and costumes. First-rate dancing by the company and its soloists – including Alina Cojocaru’s ‘radiant performance’ as Medora (Independent), Yonah Acosta’s ‘vividly drawn and villainous’ Birbanto (Financial Times) and Vadim Muntagirov’s ‘compelling’ (Daily Telegraph) portrayal of Conrad – underscores the ‘roaring, madcap success’ (Financial Times) of this production.
Written in 1724, just after Giulio Cesare and just before Rodelinda, Tamerlano comes from one of the most fruitful periods of Handel’s career, full of compelling inspiration, yet it has been relatively neglected on disc. This Avie recording was made live at Sadler’s Wells in London in collaboration with the BBC in June 2001, marking a welcome return to disc of Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert. The result is delicate on a smallish scale, less sharply focused than Pinnock’s Archiv recordings, but with unerring judgement on style and pacing.