Le Corsaire got a spectacular season send-off tonight as Nina Ananiashvili performed the role of Medora for the last time. Orchestrating the send-off and making sure that Nina would give an unforgettable performance was Marcelo Gomes as Conrad. Nina's first Ali eleven years ago was also her final Ali tonight – Jose Manuel Carreno. These three along with Maria Riccetto (Gulnare), Carlos Lopez (Birbante), Daniil Simkin (Lankendem) and Roman Zhurbin as the hilarious Pasha gave some of the most full-hearted performances Haglund has ever seen from them.
Marcelo seduced Nina into spectacular flying catches, including one during bows, and spun her through so many revolutions during pirouettes that it made the audience start spotting their heads. To entice Nina into good old fashion Bolshoi horizontal leaps into his arms, he prompted her with the Bolshoi-Irek-Spartacus stomping stance and motioned with his outstretched arms, "Come on, give it to me baby." Well, that's how Haglund interpreted it. And that's how Nina interpreted it, because she took the dare and came flying at Marcelo time and time again. Thrilling. And thank you both.
The final scene on the rock following the ship sinking found Marcelo lifting Nina high over his head in an arabesque with her arms gloriously raised. As mentioned, that was followed by Marcelo racing to center stage during bows, turning to the wings and motioning to Nina who then came flying out and landed horizontally in Marcelo's arms. That sent the audience and especially the Flower Guy into ecstasy. His bouquets and his aim during curtain calls have been impressive this week.
Nina was superb this evening and gave a beautiful and rock solid performance as Medora - one we will not forget. Ditto for Marcelo. Every one of his performances is now better than the last one. How does he do it?!
J.M.'s Ali was gorgeous as usual and he was most attentive to Nina. It must have been a little bittersweet for him this evening. Their final Giselle together will be a tearjerker.
Maria as Gulnare was exquisite. She has grown so much in the past year, particularly in the area of confidence. She just may be the right partner for Daniil Simkin. With her very straight and beautifully held back and new refinement, she fits well with his Russian style. He was lifting her easily in their PdD, and it was impressive to see how slowly he could lower Maria from those lifts.
Daniil's own performance was just so packed with incredible stuff that the audience went crazy for him. The pirouette preparations are Xerox copies every time. Each one is exactly the same, and the end result is always a half dozen or more blistering revolutions. Maybe going forward, ABT can always apply makeup that makes him look older. The facial hair did the trick during his Le Corsaire performances making his youthful appearance much less of a handicap. Of course, Daniil without paint would make a startling Prodigal Son - someday?
Carlos Lopez was once again fantastic as the nasty, grizzly Birbanto. No step, no trick, no jesture was without story packed into it. What a week Carlos has had!
Roman Zhurban gave a brilliant performance as the Pasha. His antics and improv with the choreography commanded so much attention from the audience that he nearly, but not quite, eclipsed Nina. He took so much of the character even farther than Victor Barbee does and was as impressive as could be.
It's hard to believe that Le Corsaire is over for the season. Given what we continue to see from these ABT men, it would be a crime not to give them the opportunity to dance and act in this production again next year. There just is no other full length ballet that highlights them the way this one does. In spite of snide remarks from certain newspaper critics, this production still packs people into the house.
In honor of Nina's final Le Corsaire, Haglund awards this Weitzman diamond stiletto Pump Bump:
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