by Anna-Marie Holmes


A pirate ship, manned by Conrad, his slave, and his friend Birbanto sails toward Turkey.

Photo: Brescia e Amisano/Teatro alla Scala

Act I
The Bazaar

Dealers and buyers fill a noisy bazaar where slave girls are being traded. Conrad and his men arrive as Lankendem, the owner of the bazaar, is selling girls. Conrad sees Medora, a slave girl, and falls immediately in love. Seyd, a pasha, arrives on the scene amidst much fanfare. Lankendem presents three young women whom the pasha rejects. Lankendem presents Gulnare, a lovely slave girl, to the pasha and he buys her. Finally Lankendem presents Medora, and everyone is entranced by her beauty. The pasha buys her. Conrad instructs his slave to steal Medora back, and the pirates raid the village and kidnap Lankendem.

Act II
The Grotto

Conrad shows Medora his hideout. Birbanto calls for all the pirates to bring in their stolen bounty to the grotto, as well as the slave girls and Lankendem. Medora, Conrad, and his slave dance to entertain the crew. Afterward, Medora entreats Conrad, in the name of their love, to free all the slave girls. He agrees, but Birbanto rebels against the idea and instead persuades the pirates to riot against Conrad. By the force of Conrad's commanding personality and physical presence, he single-handedly instills terror into the hearts of the pirates and they abandon their mutinous plan. Not to be thwarted, Birbanto devises a new scheme. He sprays a rose with a sleeping potion and forces Lankendem to help him pass the flower to Medora, who unwittingly gives it to Conrad. He inhales its aroma and falls into a drugged sleep. The pirates return to the grotto and attempt to capture Medora. While struggling, she snatches a dagger and cuts Birbanto's arm. In the confusion, Lankendem steals Medora back and escapes. Birbanto is about to kill Conrad but is interrupted by the slave. Stunned and broken-hearted, Conrad discovers Medora missing. Birbanto feigns ignorance and swears his loyalty to Conrad.

Act III, Scene 1
The Pasha's Palace

The playful Gulnare is interrupted by Lankendem bringing in a veiled Medora. The pasha is delighted that Medora has been recaptured and declares that she will become his number one wife.

Photo: Brescia e Amisano/Teatro alla Scala

Act III, Scene 2
Le Jardin animé

Delighted by all his lovely women, the pasha dreams of them in a beautiful garden.

Act III, Scene 3
The Pasha's Palace

The pasha is awakened by the arrival of Conrad, Birbanto, and the pirates, disguised as pilgrims. He invites them to enter the palace. Medora recognizes Conrad disguised as one of the pilgrims. Suddenly, the pilgrims throw off their robes and reveal themselves as pirates. Chaos erupts within the palace. Conrad and his men chase away the pasha, his guard and wives. They dance in victory. Suddenly, Birbanto runs in chasing Gulnare. They collide with Conrad and Medora. Medora exposes Birbanto as a traitor, and Conrad shoots him. Conrad's slave helps Medora, Gulnare, and Conrad escape. They flee to the ship.

Act III, Scene 4
The Storm

The pirate ship sails upon a calm sea. Conrad, at the helm, cradles Medora in his arms. Suddenly a fierce storm blows across as lightning illuminates the darkening sky. Gusting winds shred the sails and a lightning bolt snaps the ship's mast in half. The ship sinks amidst the relentless, turbulent waters.


As the wind subsides and the sea calms itself, the moon rises in the sky. It sheds light upon Conrad and Medora, clinging to a rock and offering thanks for their miraculous survival, a testimony to the strength of their love.