The characters of ‘Le Corsaire’: Medora, the damsel in distress
The epic pirate story, Le Corsaire, is not particularly kind to its female characters. Medora, its female lead, is kidnapped not once but twice and the entire plot revolves around the pirate Conrad’s search and rescue efforts for his ladylove.
But despite being the ultimate damsel in distress in the world of ballet, the character of Medora is considered among the most sought-after roles in classical dance for the many unique challenges that its choreography poses to ballerinas.
Le Corsaire was first staged in 1856 in Paris based on the poem by Lord Byron, with the role of Medora made for the Italian prima ballerina Carolina Rosati. When Le Corsaire was brought to Russia two years later, Ekaterina Friedbürg – a foreigner – was cast as Medora opposite Marius Petipa’s Conrad. This angered the Imperial Ballet’s prima ballerina Marfa Muravieva and Petipa had to create what is now known as the Pas d’Esclave to placate her. The Pas d’Esclave was originally performed by two anonymous slaves but is now being performed by Lankadem and Gulnara.
When Petipa revived Le Corsaire in 1863, he created the Le Petit Corsaire especially for his wife, prima ballerina Mariia Surovshchikova-Petipa. In this variation, Medora is dressed as a pirate and dances for Conrad and his men.
Other notable Medoras include German ballerina Adèle Grantzow, Russian ballerina Eugeniia Sokolova, Italian prima ballerina assoluta Pierina Legnani, Russian prima ballerina Ekaterina Geltzer, and Russian prima ballerina Natalia Dudinskaya.
Ballet Manila’s very own Medoras include prima ballerina and artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, Aileen Gallinera, Pamela Asprer, Natalia Khakimova, Elline Damian, Sandra Lynn Huang, Christine Rocas, Mylene Aggabao, Elena Chernova, Sarah Abigail Cruz, and Dawna Reign Mangahas.
This October, Ballet Manila is bringing back Le Corsaire with two new Medoras: guest principal artist Katherine Barkman and principal artist Abigail Oliveiro, both of whom are making their debut in the role. They will be partnered by guest principal artist Joseph Phillips and soloist Mark Sumaylo, respectively. Performances will be held at the Aliw Theater on October 20 at 6 p.m. and October 21 at 3 p.m. For tickets, log on to www.ticketworld.com.ph or call 891-9999.