Ballet in three acts

 

Music
  Ludwig Minkus
orchestrated by John Lanchbery

Libretto

  Marius Petipa
Sergei Chudekoff
Choreography
Staging
  Natalia Makarova
after Marius Petipa
Set
  Pier Luigi Samaritani
Costumes
  Yolanda Sonnabend
Assistant
to Natalia Makarova
  Olga Evreinoff

2 intermissions - 3 hours

 

World Premiere
Bolshoi Theatre, St. Pertersburg, February 4, 1877

Premiere in Hamburg
The Hamburg Ballet, December 8, 2002

 

Original Hamburg Cast    
Nikiya, the bayadère,
a temple dancer
  Heather Jurgensen
Solor, a warrior
  Jirí Bubenícek
Gamzatti,
the Rajah's daughter
  Anna Polikarpova
The High Brahmin
  Ivan Urban
The Rajah Dagmania
  Sébastien Thill
Magdaveya, Head Fakir
  Carsten Jung
Aya, Gamzatti's servant
  Ingrid Glindemann
Solor's Friend   Peter Dingle
Two D'Jampe Dancers   Catherine Dumont
Natalia Horecna
Three Shades   Silvia Azzoni
Catherine Dumont
Joëlle Boulogne
The Bronze Idol   Arsen Megrabian

 

The choreography is considered to be the first expression of grand-scale symphonism in dance, predating by seventeen years Ivanovs masterly designs for the definitive Swan Lake. But our first reaction is not to how old it looks but to how modern. Actually, the only word for this old-new choreography is immemorial "La Bayadère" (1877) looks like the first ballet ever made: like man's - or, rather, woman's - first imprint in space and time.
The subject of "The Kingdom of the Shade" is not really death, although everybody in it except the hero is dead. It's Elysian bliss, and its setting is eternity. The long, slow repeated-arabesque sequence creates the impression of a grand crescendo that seems to annihilate all time. No reason it could not go on forever. And in the adagio drill that follows, the steps are so few and their content is so exposed that we think well remember them always - just like dancers, who have remembered them for a hundred years and for who knows how long before Petipa commemorated them in this ballet. Ballets, passed down the generations like legends, acquire a patina of ritualism, but "La Bayadère" is a ritual, a poem about dancing and memory and time. Each dance seems to add something new to the previous one, like a language being learned. The ballet grows heavy with this knowledge, which at the beginning had been only a primordial utterance, and in the coda it fairly bursts with articulate splendor.

From "Makarova's Miracle" by Arlene Croce, The New Yorker Magazine

 

Synopsis

The ballet is set in legendary India. Nikiya, a bayadère or temple dancer, is in love with Solor, a noble warrior. But the Rajah decides to marry his daughter Gamzatti to Solor, who, overwhelmed by her beauty, forgets his vows of love to Nikiya. When the Rajah learns of Nikiya and Solor's love from the High Brahmin (who is also in love with Nikiya), he decides to have the bayadère killed. Gamzatti tries to persuade Nikiya to give up Solor but she refuses and attacks the princess who then also decides to have the bayadère killed.
Nikiya dances at the betrothal celebrations of Gamzatti and Solor. She is fatally bitten by a poisonous snake hidden in a basket of flowers sent by the Rajah and Gamzatti.
Solor has a vision of Nikiya in the Kingdom of the Shades. Later, at the wedding ceremony, he is again haunted by the vision of Nikiya which he alone can see. The gods, infuriated by the killing of Nikiya, destroy the temple, killing everyone in it. The spirits of Nikiya and Solor are reunited in eternal love.
 

ACT I
Scene 1
The Sacred Forest, outside the temple
Warriors returning from the great tiger hunt are joined by Solor, the noblest warrior in the land. He asks to be left alone to pray before the Sacred Fire, but once the warriors have departed, he calls for the head Fakir, Magdaveya, and asks him to arrange a rendezvous for him with the bayadère, Nikiya. They are interrupted by the arrival of the priests and the High Brahmin who orders Magdaveya to gather the other Fakirs to prepare the Sacred Fire for the coming celebration. The bayadères appear, and among them is Nikiya, who has been chosen to be consecrated their leader. The High Brahmin is overwhelmed by her beauty and tells Nikiya of his love for her. Nikiya, however, rejects his attentions for he is a man of God. The High Brahmin is deeply hurt by her reaction to his declaration of love. As the celebration begins, the temple dancers bring water to the Fakirs, and Magdaveya informs Nikiya of Solor's message. Nikiya agrees to meet him, but not before the High Brahmin has seen her with Magdaveya and become suspicious. The ceremony ends and the celebrants return to the temple. Magdaveya calls for Solor and tells him to hide in the forest until Nikiya returns to meet him. She soon appears, and when Solor joins her they swear eternal love over the Sacred Fire. Unbeknown to Solor and Nikiya, the High Brahmin has been watching them from within the temple, and after an uneasy Magdaveya separates the lovers, the High Brahmin emerges in a fury and invokes the gods to help him kill Solor.

Scene 2
A room in the palace
Warriors have been invited to the palace to honour Solor. The Rajah 'announces that Solor's reward for his valour will be marriage to Gamzatti. He presents his daughter to Solor, and when he lifts her veil, Solor is overcome by her beauty. Even though he has sworn eternal love to Nikiya, he cannot resist Gamzatti's attractions nor refuse the Rajah's wishes. Entertainment is provided for the betrothed couple, which ends with the arrival of the High Brahmin. He asks to speak privately with the Rajah, and informs him of Nikiya's and Solor's love. He had hoped that the Rajah would kill Solor, but the Rajah instead decides that Nikiya must die, to the dismay of the High Brahmin. Gamzatti overhears their conversation and summons Nikiya to her rooms. She tries to bribe her to leave Solor by offering her jewels and gifts, but Nikiya refuses. In desperation, she tries to stab Gamzatti, but is stopped by her attendant, Aya. As Nikiya runs out of the room, Gamzatti, like her father, determines to kill her.

Scene 3
The garden of the palace
Festivities are presented in honour of the betrothal of Gamzatti and Solor. The High Brahmin brings Nikiya to dance for the ceremony. She cannot accept the engagement and expresses her sadness in her dance. Aya gives her a basket of flowers which she says are from Solor, and Nikiya's spirits brighten. However, a poisonous snake is hidden among the flowers, which were actually sent by the Rajah and Gamzatti. The snake bites Nikiya as she lifts the basket to smell the flowers. The High Brahmin offers her an antidote to the poison, but the moment before she drinks it, Nikiya sees Solor being led away by the Rajah and Gamzatti, and she decides to die.
 

ACT II
Scene 1
Solor's tent
Despondent and depressed by Nikiya's death, Solor smokes opium, given to him by Magdaveya to deaden his grief.

Scene 2
The Kingdom of the Shades
Solor hallucinates and conjures a vision of the dead Nikiya. She appears in the Kingdom of the Shades, and her vision is multiplied by the corps de ballet Solor reminisces about her dance of love by the Sacred Fire.

Scene 3
Solor's Tent
As the warriors enter his tent to prepare him for the wedding to Gamzatti, the vision of Nikiya continues to haunt and confuse him.
 

ACT III
The Temple
In the shadow of the Great Buddha, a bronze idol dances as the High Brahmin and the priests prepare for the wedding of Gamzatti and Solor. The betrothed couple enter, and the bayadères perform a ritual candle dance around them, reminiscent of the Sacred Fire burning outside the temple. The Rajah, Gamzatti and Solor dance, but Solor is haunted by the vision of Nikiya, which is visible only to him. During the dance, a basket of flowers identical to the one given to Nikiya mysteriously appears, and Gamzatti, terrified and consumed with guilt, urges her father to complete the wedding ceremony. The High Brahmin performs the ceremony on the steps of the altar, when he joins the hands of Solor and Gamzatti the infuriated gods take vengeance for Nikiya's death by destroying the temple and burying everyone under its ruins. The spirits of Nikiya and Solor are reunited in eternal love.

 

Performance History

The first performance of La Bayadère was at the Bolshoy Theatre, St Petersburg, on 23 January 1877 (O.S.) with Ekaterina Vazem, Maria Gorshenkova and Lev Ivanov. In later revivals in St Petersburg the role of Nikiya was danced by Anna Johanson, Mathilde Kshesinskaya and Anna Pavlova among others.
Although the fulllength La Bayadère has remained in the repertory in the Soviet Union, the work was experienced in the West for the first time when the Kirov Ballet from Leningrad performed The Kingdom of the Shades' scene during its tour in 1961. The same scene was mounted for The Royal Ballet by Rudolf Nureyev, who performed the role of Solor at the first performance at the Royal Opera House, on 27 November 1963. Margot Fonteyn danced the role of Nikiya.
Natalia Makarova staged 'The Kingdom of the Shades' for American Ballet Theatre in New York in 1974 with Cynthia Gregory and Ivan Nagy. On 21 May 1980 the same company performed Makarova’s production of the whole ballet the first performance of the work in the West. The cast included Makarova as Nikiya, Cynthia Harvey as Gamzatti and Anthony Dowell as Solor. Makarova's production of the complete ballet was also given by the Ballet of the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm in April 1989.
The first performance by The Royal Ballet of Natalia Makarova's production of the whole ballet, with designs by Pier Luigi Samaritani and Yolanda Sonnabend, was on 18 May 1989 at the Royal Opera House.

John McMurray

 

Natalia Makarova

Natalia Makarova began her career in her native Leningrad, entering the Vaganova School at the age of 13 where she was placed in a special experimental class condensing the nineyear programme into six. After graduating in 1959, she joined the Kirov Ballet, rapidly rising to the rank of ballerina. In 1961 she danced Giselle (a role long since identified as her most famous) with the Kirov Ballet in London. She won the Gold Medal in Varna in 1965.
On 4 September 1970 in London, again with the Kirov, Makarova took the step which changed her life forever by requesting asylum in Britain a defection which stunned the ballet world. She began her new career by joining American Ballet Theatre, making her debut in Giselle. She danced American Ballet Theatre's vast repertory working extensively with Antony Tudor ("Dark Elegies", "The Lilac Garden", "Pillar of Fire", "Romeo and Juliet"), George Balanchine ("Theme and Variations", "Apollo"), Jerome Robbins and Glen Tetley.
Her association with The Royal Ballet began in 1972; her repertory with the Company includes Swan Lake, Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, "Les Sylphides", "Manon", "Song of the Earth", "A Month in the Country", "Concerto", "Cinderella", "Voluntaries", "Dances at a Gathering", "Serenade", "Elite Syncopations", "Checkmate", "Les Biches" and Kenneth MacMillan's "Romeo and Juliet".
She has appeared as guest artist with major ballet companies throughout the world, including Paris Opera Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, Royal Danish Ballet, London Festival Ballet, La Scala Ballet, Béjart's Ballet of the 20th Century and Roland Petit's Ballet de Marseille. Her repertory includes "Onegin" (for which she won the Evening Standard Award in 1985), "La Bayadère", "The Firebird", "Don Quixote", "Coppélia", "La Fille mal gardée", "Notre Dame de Paris", "Carmen", "Proust", "Le jeune Homme et la mort, John Cranko's "Romeo and Juliet", "Raymonda" and "La Sylphide".
Among the ballets and pas de deux created especially for Makarova are Robbin's "Other Dances", Ashton's "Rossignol" (with Anthony Dowell), Tetley's "Contradance", a MacMillan pas de deux (with Donald MacLeary), John Neumeier's "Epilogues" (with Erik Bruhn), Petit's "Blue Angel", Béjart's "Mephisto" and Ulf Gaad's "Miraculous Mandarin".
Natalia Makarova staged "The Kingdom of the Shades" from "La Bayadère" for American Ballet Theatre in 1974. In 1980 she staged the fulllength production, making American Ballet Theatre the first Western company to acquire this work. Her production included for the first time since 1919 a reconstruction of the last act, with Makarova's choreography after Marius Petipa, restoring the original dramatic structure and impact of this early masterpiece. She has since staged the 'Shades' act for the National Ballet of Canada, London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet) and San Francisco Ballet, and her fulllength version for The Royal Ballet, Royal Swedish Ballet, La Scala Ballet, Australian Ballet, Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires, Ballet de Santiago, Finnish National Ballet, and Teatro Municipal, Rio de Janeiro. She also staged a new production of "Swan Lake" for London Festival Ballet and "Paquita" for American Ballet Theatre, National Ballet of Canada and Korean Ballet.
Her television work includes her Ballerina Series, "Assoluta" and "The Leningrad Legend" (BBC); "In a Class of her Own" (Channel 4); and "Natasha" (Thames Television). She has also been filmed in "Swan Lake", "Giselle", "Romeo and Juliet" and "La Bayadère". She made her musical comedy debut on Broadway in "On Your Toes", winning the Tony Award as Best Actress in a Musical as well as numerous other awards. In 1984 she starred in the West End production of "On Your Toes", for which she won the Laurence Olivier Award.
Makarova's "A Dance Autobiography" was published by Knopf in 1979. In 1991 she recorded Narrations of "The Snow Queen", "Prince Ivan and The Frog Princess" and "The Firebird" for Delos Records, all of which received the American Library Association Award.
Her reunion with the Kirov Ballet took place in London on 6 August 1988, when she danced an excerpt from "Swan Lake" with the Company (televised live by BBC). On ! February 1989, after 19 years' absence, she was the first artistic exile to be invited back to perform in Russia. A documentary of her visit, "Makarova Returns", was shown on BBC television.
In 1991 she made her debut as a dramatic actress in the Chichester Festival production "Tovarich", which transferred to the West End She returned to Russia in 1992 in the play for the "Two for the Seesaw", giving performances in Moscow and St Petersburg. For the 1995 Fellini Festival in Rome a ballet was especially created for Makarova (as Giulietta Massina) and Jean Babilée (as Fellini).
Makarova wrote and presented the BBC documentary "St Petersburg to Tashkent" for the Great Railway journeys series (1994). 1997, she appeared in a BBC documentary Tchaikovsky and starred in the Chichester Festival production of George Bernard Shaw play "Misalliance". She appeared in the 1999 Charleston Festival in a special presentation the letters of Lydia Lopokova and John Maynard Keynes in a play called "Wooing in Absence". In January 2000 she was invited to perform the play at the Tate Gallery in London and in 2001 at the Lincoln Center in New York.
Makarova's most recent appearance in England was in Noel Coward's play "Blithe Spirit" where she played the role of Elvira. She staged and directed a new production of "Giselle" for Royal Swedish Ballet, which received its premiere in November 2000, and a new "Swan Lake" for Teatro Municipal, Rio de Janeiro, in 2001.

 

Ludwig Minkus

Ludwig Minkus, the ballet composer and violinist, was born in Vienna in 1826. Minkus made his appearance as a composer in Paris in April, 1846, with Paquita, which was written jointly with Edward Deldevez and choreographed by Joseph Mazilier. La Fiammetta, with choreography by Saint-Leon (February 13, 1864) and Nemea (July 14, 1864) followed. He next collaborated with Delibes on La Source and composed music for two more ballets with Saint-Leon as the choreographer: Le Poisson d'Or and Le Lys -- in Paris.
In 1853 he went to Russia as the conductor of Prince N. B. Yussupov's serf orchestra in St. Petersburg and was a soloist in the Moscow Bolshoi Orchestra from 1861-1872. He also taught at the Moscow Conservatory (1866-1872).
From 1864-1871 Minkus was the official ballet composer at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. In 1871 he was transferred to St. Petersburg, where he worked until 1891 when his position was eliminated and he was retired.
Discontent with his small pension (the equivalent of about $285.00 a year), the composer left Russia for Austria, where he died, in 1917, at the age of 91.
The composer of over twenty ballets, among them Don Quixote, Roxanna, Camargo, Papillons, The Bandits, The Adventures of Peleas, La Bayadère, The Daughter of the Snows, The Magic Pills, Mlada, Kalkabrino, and Day and Night, Minkus was an excellent craftsman in the style of ballet music of his day. His music is melodic and distinguished by clear dance rhythms.

Polikarpova - Jurgensen
 

Photos I | Photos II

 
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