August 2, 2003 (matinee)
-- Covent Garden, London
”La Bayadère” performed by The
Kirov Ballet is a reconstruction of Marius Petipa and Sergei Khudekov’s
1900 original libretto and Ludwig Minkus’ original score. The reconstruction
team consisted of Sergei Vikharev (choreography), Mikhail Shishliannikov
(sets and lighting design), Tatiana Noginova (costumes), and Ludmilla
Sveshnikova (music preparation). The reconstruction process benefited
from several archival sources. Minkus’ original handwritten score is stored
in the Mariinsky Theatre Music Library. Régisseur Nikolai Sergeyev’s Stepanov
notation and manuscript répétiteurs provided details regarding dance combinations,
entrances, exits and the pantomime synchronised with musical text. Sets
and costume designs were archived on canvases, sketches, photographs,
and blueprints. Pyotr Lambin’s model for Solor’s dream and The Kingdom
of the Shades was stored at St. Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and
Music. St. Petersburg State Theatre Library was the source for Evgeny
Ponomarev sketches of costumes.
The story in a nutshell:
Set in India, La Bayadère is a story of unrequited love. An Indian temple
dancer, a bayadère, Nikiya is in love with Solor, a noble warrior. The
Ragaj decides that Solor is to marry his daughter Gamzatti. Gamzatti confronts
Nikiya and seeks to convince her to give up Solor. Their argument leads
Nikiya to draw a knife on Gamzatti in defence of her love for Solor. Solor
though only once seeing Gamzatti betrays his promise of love to Nikiya.
A secret suitor of Nikiya, the High Brahmin, tells the Ragaj about Nikiya’s
love for Solor. The Ragaj and Gamzatti plot to kill Nikiya. Ordered by
the Ragaj, Nikiya dances with a basket of flowers that contains an asp
that bites and kills her.
Solor anguished by the death of
Nikiya is haunted by her vision, a shade that visits him in his chamber
before and during his sleep. In a dream Solor chases Nikiya through the
Kingdom of the Shades but never catches her. At the wedding ceremony of
Solor and Gamzatti the gods so infuriated by the killing of Nikiya destroy
the temple killing everyone. Nikiya, it seems, wins her love in death.
The ballet lasting some 3 plus hours is an awesome spectacle. The pantomime
consisting of arm gestures, use of the back and muscle tone, essentially
the telling of the story through bodily narrative, extends from Petipa’s
generation to the present. The audience’s snickering at pantomime reminiscent
of silent movies at this performance was polite and did not deter from
the grace revealed in this particular aesthetic. Daria Pavlenko as Nikiya,
Andrian Fadeyev as Solor, and Valdimir Ponomarev as the High Brahmin participated
in the pantomime with accomplished ardour. Ponomarev’s articulate arm
gestures and differences in carriage could have benefited with a bit more
weight but nonetheless revealed the workings of this character’s mind.
Each step was an indication of his role in this love story.
Pavlenko was gorgeous. Her rebukes
of the High Brahmin were indicated through dramatic gesture, complete
with bodily tone, twist in her back and intention in the hands, arms,
and head. Even in the scenes before her death her dancing was everything
one could imagine a prima ballerina to be; long legs and arms that bespoke
of Nikiya’s joys and sorrows, her love for Solor, and her rage toward
Gamzatti, performed by Elvira Tarasova, that ushers in the events that
lead to her death. Fadeyev is impressive as Solor, his carriage and gesture
implying his role in the drama. As his character’s name suggest, he is
the centre of the universe and in this ballet he is as important as the
ballerinas. In this ballet the romantic hero embodies classical lines
and exceptional virtuosity along with a depth of character that assists
in fortifying the story line.
Act 2 scene 1 is propelled with music and gesture dramatising the rivalry
of Nikiya and Gamzatti with act 2 scene 2 containing divertissement that
precedes Nikiya’s solo that leads to her death. In the divertissement,
Manu performed by Elena Vasyukovich and the Infernal Dance led by Galina
Rakhmanova, Islom Baimuradov, and Vassily Scherbakov were special. Act
4 and the Apotheosis presents the Dance of the Lotus Blossoms with students
from Central School, Elmhurst School, Susan Robinson School and Junior
Associates of the Royal Ballet School. The pas d’action had its mix of
solo variations interjected in the drama: Nikiya’s shade moving among
Solor and Gamzatti’s wedding duets and solos, Solor showing off his dazzling
technique with soaring grand jetés and tours en l’airs while Gamzatti
dazzles us with 28 fouetté turns.
”La Bayadère,” trading on Western curiosities of the mysterious East,
conjures a jungle paradise where disparate destinies clash. A temple woman’s
aspirations seem no match for the wishes of royalty, but Fate brings retribution,
and love proves stronger than death. A guilty conscience is the weapon
that haunts Solor; his apparitions of Nikiya segueing into The Kingdom
of Shades. To witness such an awesome display of ensemble dancing was
extraordinary. Any dance that illustrates the triumph of a group of 32
dancers moving in complete unison is just breathtaking. I marvelled at
the gradual plié in arabesque that sequenced into that slight bend in
the back that was reiterated over and over down 2 raisers upstage to the
deck of the stage. That precarious développé in 2nd in a landscape of
pointe shoes, arms and legs of same proportions, soft skirts and subdued
light would make any wobble a distraction and surprisingly there were
practically none. All power to the corps de ballet!! Their unity was their
grace. The soloists were exquisite but the corps made me tear so astonishing
was their unified tenacity.
Audience chatter at the intervals gave mixed reviews regarding the amount
of pantomime in acts 1 and 2. Those who reconstruct have a choice to disregard
the prescriptions of the originators and consider the sensibilities of
current audiences. In this case the choice of artistic director, Makhar
Vaziev, and the reconstruction team to follow the original 1900 production
team’s prescriptions is a commendable one. Of course one can say the original
team made revisions and then each performer in that generation and currently
in this 21st century bring different physiques, innovative techniques
and fresh interpretations to prescribed variations. But to say “too much
mime” disrespects the context of birth and the vision the work extends
from, its particular aesthetic for telling the story in its unique way.
Besides, it was performed exceptionally well!!
Edited by Jeff.
Please join the discussion
in our forum.