From the New York Times:
For escapist entertainment and some of the best male dancing in ballet, there is nothing like American Ballet Theater's spectacular staging of ''Le Corsaire,'' a 19th-century adventure yarn about life on the bounding main.
Haglund quite agrees with Anna Kisselgoff's assessment. However, after seeing Alastair Macaulay figiding, frowning, and catty-talking to his friend at the opening performance last night, no doubt thinking, "But it's not like the po-o-e-em" and "Why can't we have the version by Ratmansky who I discovered?" and "I'm so tired of hiding my ethnicity-based resistance to Stella Abrera and disdain for all beautiful women everywhere," it's doubtful that we'll read anything of value when he gets around to penning out his spit.
There may never be another performance of Le Corsaire to match the one on Noche Latina years ago when Bocca, Carreno, Corella, Cornejo, Herrera, and Reyes took the pirates and slave girls to such enormous theatrical proportions with such seriousness of ridiculous purpose that for three hours the Met Opera House became the Met Soap Opera House. But these days, you still get a high dose of chaos, comedy, and spectacular dancing when Marcelo Gomes, Ethan Stiefel, Sascha Radetsky, Craig Salstein, Gillian Murphy, and Stella Abrera take over the stage in the production conceived by Anna-Marie Holmes.
Gotta say that Stiefel has come back to town in fine shape - with a more muscular upper body than we've ever seen on him. Ever. And his Ali was working it last night, channeling his inner-Arnold, while reeling off beautiful classically formed split jumps and turns that we remember from years ago. During his final turns en a la seconde in the famous PdT, the feather headband started to slip down over his eyes, giving rise to a new American saying that He spun his turns until he slipped his feather. Finally the feather got thrown into the wings.
When his big moment in Act II was over, Stiefel stood at the foot of the stage and graciously accepted the enormous ovation that he so deserved. In the house, there was a sense of relief but also a sense of elation that Damn, he not only did it, but he did it all really well. When you see someone like that come back with such commitment and focus and effort, it makes you go home thinking Damn I gotta try harder myself in whatever it is I'm doing. Hopefully, someone filmed this act for Stiefel's charges in New Zealand to see, because it would have a profound inspirational effect.
Gomes was a terrific Conrad. The guy should let his hair come apart more often - it's a nice look. His grand allegro solos were huge with impressive manèges of jetes and gigantic split jumps. Pirouettes were all in very good form. But, really, who gets inside a character better than Gomes? He can snarl and make you shake or he can snarl and make you laugh. He can emote and bring you to tears or he can emote and make you hurt with his hilarity. He had to play off of a lot characters last night which kept him pretty busy thinking and creating. None kept him more busy than Craig Salstein's Birbanto.
Salstein's performance last night was both technically and theatrically superb. The guy dances with guns and shoots bullets with his feet. You always have the feeling that he's thinking about doing things that he knows he shouldn't do. Very good all around pirating last night. His pirate lady, Kristi Boone, was spirited as well.
Radetsky as Lankendem had the best technical performance that Haglund has seen from him in quite a while. He seemed inspired with confidence and joyous over the opportunity to dance so much with his wife who he partnered expertly. There was a special softness with which he lowered Stella down from lifts.
Abrera's Gulnare was beyond beautiful last night – pristine perfect in her classical execution while imbuing it with lovely musicality and sparkling personality. She can pull off melodrama almost as well as Gomes. Stella had an especially fine evening of gutsy turning.
Gillian Murphy's performance as Medora was full of candy. Lovely arms overhead in fifth position during fouettes. Chaines at a blistering pace. The chemistry with Gomes was perfect. They were oh so serious without really being so. The adagio in Act II was way, way too fast - almost too fast for Murphy and Gomes to keep up with in places. Thank goodness ABT didn't make Gillian wear that awful robin egg blue tutu in Act II. She seemed to be wearing a tutu that looked like Nina Ananiashvili's dark purple one. Still, the prettiest, most complimentary tutus for Act II are the light gray or light any color that doesn't clash with Ali's pants.
Adrienne Shulte was a beautiful brisé Odalisque who didn't always get her desired tempo. Sarah Lane substituted for Maria Riccetto as the first Odalisque and was perfect. Isabella Boylston as the third Odalisque was technically efficient although the upper body was less than classical. Victor Barbee, always an excellent pasha, bounced his belly with every step. His assistant was comically played by Julio Bragado-Young almost like a Turkish Pat Brady. The corps pirates and corps ladies in the Jardin Animé section were all excellent.
Everyone in the audience had such fun last night. You know how once a year at the Yankees games, it's Bat Day when the first 2000 people all get free bats? Well, why not make Saturday night Le Corsaire Sword Night and give everyone a free sword so that everyone can be a pirate.
The Pump Bump Award with unobscuring feather is bestowed upon Ethan Stiefel for his spectacular dancing and whose leadership could not have been more evident or more appreciated last night.