La Bayadère, Ludwig Minkus
At the time of its premiere, La Bayadère was an instant success with audiences and critics alike. The intensive score by Ludwig Minkus and, most of all, the supreme choreography by ballet master Marius Petipa fused together in an irresistible stage performance. On 4 February 1877, the ballet took the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre in St Petersburg by storm, and countless productions followed ever since. Even though Petipa’s original choreography has since been amended and partially lost, La Bayadère has attracted the attention and sparked the creativity of many ballet masters over the years. Thus the work remains fresh and moves with the times, as audiences at Teatro dell’Opera di Roma in Rome will experience, too.
La Bayadère’s plot is the brainchild of playwright Sergei Khudekov, who worked closely with Marius Petipa at the time of writing. The ballet’s title, ‘Bayaderka’ in Russian, translates to ‘The Temple Dancer’ in English and describes the protagonist Nikiya, a beautiful dancer who is in love with the military man Solor. Their romance is doomed to fail due to the conflicting plans of two powerful men. The High Brahmin wants Nikiya for himself, and the Rajah Dugmanta of Golconda has selected Solor to be the future husband of his daughter Gamzatti. Adding insult to injury, the Rajah organises an engagement ceremony and orders Nikiya to dance there. Unbeknownst to her, the young woman agrees to perform at the betrothal of her lover to another. When Nikiya finds out whose engagement she must grace with her performance, she confronts Gamzatti, with perilous consequences.
The secret to La Bayadère’s lasting success is the ballet’s rich plot and fantastical elements, which Marius Petipa and every choreographer after him captured and skillfully put into dance. As Nikiya and Solor navigate their forsaken romance and each transition into the land of shadows, so do their movements evolve and transport audiences to other worlds. The magic of Bayaderka, carried by Minkus’s dramatic score and based on Petipa’s original choreography, unfolds at Teatro Costanzi this season.