Tamara Rojo, who this year left the Royal Ballet to become artistic director of English National Ballet, has begun her tenure by commissioning a terrific hit, and making ENB the first British company to perform Le Corsaire. 

Very loosely based on Lord Byron’s orientalist poem, this is one of the most sumptuous and spectacular ballets ever presented; it’s a feast of dancing that is a joy to watch. There are some complicated sub-plots — power struggles in the harem and among the pirates — but what matters is the central story.

The corsair captain, Conrad, loves the beautiful Medora, but she is sold as a slave to the debauched old Pasha. Will Conrad get her back? (‘course he will!)

This is a flamboyant romp, with macho pirates, scantily-clad harem girls, an evil slave-merchant, a comic potentate, and lots and lots of lovely dancing. It may date from the era of Swan Lake, but there’s no pretence at emotional depth here; simply a wish to delight the eye and the senses.

The fabulous sets and costumes by Bob Ringwood, who has designed for films such as Batman and Troy, are a riot of colour, and at the same time rather mysterious and beautiful.

Tamara Rojo may be the company’s new boss, but she is still a very great dancer. She is a sexy Medora who glides with ease through the demanding Petipa choreography, partnered by Canadian newcomer Matthew Golding.

But this work has many great roles: Junor Souza was terrific in his solos as Lankendem the treacherous slave-dealer, and Joan Sebastian, standing in for the company’s star Vadim Muntagirov as the slave, danced the flying turns of the pas de trois with exuberant abandon.

On Wednesday the lighting failed at the very end, after Conrad’s ship has sunk in a storm. If you were there, let me reassure you that the lovers clung to the wreckage until they were washed ashore on a friendly island.