Synopsis: La Bayadere

June 22, 2006

The ballet La Bayadere premiered in 1877 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Original choreography by Marius Petipa. Composed by Ludwig Minkus.
The Paris Opera’s production was restaged by Rudolf Nureyev

The ballet is set in India.

ACT I
Scene 1
A Temple near the Sacred Forest

The warriors along with Solor, the noblest among them, are returning from the hunt. Solor asks Magdaveya to arrange a rendezvous with the bayadère, Nikiya, a temple dancer.

The High Brahmin later arrives followed by the bayaderes and Nikiya. The High Brahmin, finding Nikiya to be beautiful, declares his love for her. Nikiya rejects him leaving him deeply hurt.

Solor awaits Nikiya. When she appears, they proclaim their love for each other. The High Brahmin, having watched them in secret, becomes enraged and swears revenge.

Scene 2
At the Palace

To honor Solor, the Rajah announces that the noble warrior will marry Gamzatti, the Rajah's daughter. Though Solor has sworn his love to Nikiya, he cannot resist Gamzatti's beauty or turn down so great a reward from the Rajah.

The High Brahmin privately informs the Rajah of the secret love between Nikiya and Solor. The Rajah decides Nikiya should die. Gamzatti overhears this conversation and summons Nikiya to her room.

Gamzatti tries to bribe and intimidate Nikiya into leaving Solor, but Nikiya refuses. In a moment of passion, Nikiya tries unsuccessfully to stab Gamzatti, then flees. Gamzatti vows to kill her.

Act II
The Palace Garden

Nikiya is summoned to dance at the celebration of Gamzatti and Solor’s engagement. She expresses her deep sorrow through her dancing.

Gamzatti’s servant gives Nikiya a basket of flowers, telling her it's a gift from Solor. However, hidden in the flowers, which were actually sent by the Rajah and Gamzatti, is a poisonous snake. The snake bites Nikiya.

The High Brahmin offers her an antidote for the poison. But right before she is to drink it, she sees Gamzatti with Solor and instead chooses death.

ACT III
Solor's Tent

Solor smokes opium to relieve the grief of Nikiya’s death. In a hallucination, he sees a vision of Nikiya in the Kingdom of the Shades.

ACT IV (This act is often removed from many La Bayadère productions)
The Temple

At his wedding to Gamzatti, Solor is still haunted by the vision of Nikiya, whom only he can see. A basket of flowers identical to the one given to Nikiya mysteriously appears. As the High Brahmin conducts the ceremony, the infuriated gods destroy the temple and everyone in it. The spirits of Nikiya and Solor are reunited.

See also:

La Bayadere at the Paris Opera


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