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American Ballet Theatre: La Bayadère 2008
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American Ballet Theatre: La Bayadère 2008

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American Ballet Theatre

La Bayadère
Metropolitan Opera House

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters:
Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova, Georgina Parkinson
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 28, 2008

(Read More ABT Reviews)

La Bayadère (1980): Choreography by Natalia Makarova after Marius Petipa, Music by Ludwig Minkus, specially arranged by John Lanchbery, production conceived and directed by Natalia Makarova, Scenery by Pierluigi Samaritini, Costumes designed by Theoni V. Aldredge, Lighting by Toshiro Ogawa, Production Coordinator, Dina Makaroff.

Nikiya, a temple dancer, is betrayed by the High Brahmin, who desires her to despair, but is thwarted by Solor, a warrior, whose photograph is the object of desire for Gamzatti, the Radjah’s daughter. The High Brahmin tips off the Radjah, whose daughter is now affianced to Solor, that Nikiya is romantically involved with Solor, as the Brahmin reveals to the Radjah Nikiya’s silky scarf. The Radjah and Gamzatti arrange for Nikiya to be bitten by a snake in a flower basket, as Nikiya dances at Gamzatti and Solor’s pre-wedding festivities. Nikiya refuses the Brahmin’s bottled antidote and falls lifeless, when she sees Solor and Gamzatti leave, holding hands. Solor, consumed in grief, smokes opium and envisions 27 Shades, all in ghost-like resemblance to Nikiya. A Bronze Idol dances in rapid exultation to herald the wedding. Solor, however, remembers Nikiya’s vision as he prepares to marry Gamzatti, and this vision re-appears at the ceremony, prior to a candle dance. But, soon the gods are angry, and the temple and guests are buried in the temple’s implosion. Finally, Nikiya and Solor re-unite in the after life. (Based on Program Notes).

Cast on June 25, 2008:

Conductor: David LaMarche
Performed by Paloma Herrera as Nikiya, a temple dancer, Angel Corella as Solor, a warrior, Alexandre Hammoudi as The Radjah Dugumanta, Marisa Lopez (Guest Artist) as Gamzatti, the Radjah’s daughter, Victor Barbee as The High Brahmin, Karin Ellis-Wentz as Aya, Gamzatti’s servant, Jeffrey Golladay as Magdaveya, Head Fakir, Anne Milewski and Misty Copeland as lead D’Jampe Dancers, Renata Pavam, Melanie Hamrick, and Leann Underwood as lead Shades, Carlos Lopez as The Bronze Idol, and the Company as The Fakirs, The Temple Dancers, Solor’s Friend, The Warriors, D’Jampe Dancers, Waltz, Pas d’Action, The Shades, The Candle Dance, Flower Girls, Warrior Attendants, Palace Slaves, and Priests.

Cast on June 28, 2008:

Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins
Performed by Gillian Murphy as Nikiya, a temple dancer, David Hallberg as Solor, a warrior, Vitali Krauchenka as The Radjah Dugumanta, Yuriko Kajiya as Gamzatti, the Radjah’s daughter, Roman Zhurbin as The High Brahmin, Karin Ellis-Wentz as Aya, Gamzatti’s servant, Jared Matthews as Magdaveya, Head Fakir, Melanie Hamrick and Isabella Boylston as lead D’Jampe Dancers, Sarah Lane, Isabella Boylston, and Maria Riccetto as lead Shades, Arron Scott as The Bronze Idol, and the Company as The Fakirs, The Temple Dancers, Solor’s Friend, The Warriors, D’Jampe Dancers, Waltz, Pas d’Action, The Shades, The Candle Dance, Flower Girls, Warrior Attendants, Palace Slaves, and Priests.

Natalia Makarova’s restaged La Bayadère, after Petipa, is still splendidly exotic, scintillating, ethereal, and magical. At the June 25 matinee, Paloma Herrera and Angel Corella were Nikiya and Solor, two Principals matched for their speed, strength, and charisma. Ms. Herrera was no vulnerable temple dancer, as her willfulness shone through, even as she was bitten by the snake in the palace garden, a dance to honor her beloved Solor and her rival, Gamzatti, his bride to be. Ms. Herrera danced with vigor and force, a bit overdone, as she may have been trying to match the intensity of the dynamo, Mr. Corella, as well as that of Marisa Lopez, Guest Artist from the Dutch National Ballet, today’s Gamzatti. La Bayadère derives its strength from the powerful Minkus score, which introduces each character uniquely, flashing foreboding phrases just as the High Brahmin or Gamzatti appear onstage. Ms. Lopez became a star in a second, with a pointed finger at her own rival, Nikiya, who tried to stab the Radjah’s daughter in their emotional duel for Solor. Ms. Lopez moved slowly, with determined speed and presence, and her affect was astounding. Her alluring pas de deux with Mr. Corella brought the audience to generous accolades, and Mr. Corella seemed to respond with extra exuberance.

On June 28, Gillian Murphy was Nikiya, and David Hallberg was her lover, Solor. Their partnering was exceptional and sensual, with palpable chemistry in their long, white scarf pas de deux, during Solor’s dream. However, Mr. Hallberg was at a disadvantage with a substitution for Gamzatti, as Yuriko Kajiya is as far from the wily, vindictive Gamzatti as she could possibly be, not to mention the enormous difference in their physiques. Ms. Kajiya is petite and ingénue, perfect for The Sleeping Beauty’s Princess Florine, but she is no Gamzatti, at least not on June 28. Mr. Hallberg made a valiant effort in his pas de deux with Ms. Kajiya, but she looked immature in this pairing. Mr. Hallberg’s solos were magnetic, as tiny, en air steps and bravura spins were repeated with authority. On June 25, Victor Barbee played the High Brahmin, a non dance role that requires astute theatricality and psychic nuance, as the Brahmin is infatuated with Nikiya who rejects him, as well as his potion that could combat the snake’s poison, that quickly saps her life. Mr. Barbee was dramatically driven and exuded lust and grief. On June 28, Roman Zhurbin played the role less internalized, with obvious gesture and outward expressions.

The star of La Bayadère is the Corps, and The Kingdom of the Shades scene brings out corps dancers, one at a time, while Solor sleeps under the influence of opium from a long tube, as he lies on his restful couch. Magdaveya, the Head Fakir, stays with him, urging him to relax, after Nikiya’s demise. On both June 25 and June 28, the audience was as hypnotized as was Solor, as the vision of the lone Nikiya is repeated by 27 Shades, in echoing visual phrases that correspond to echoing musical phrases. Three lead Shades mark the momentum. The moon is full, and the costumes are filmy white. Each corps dancer has to support herself on one leg much of the time, and the effect remains in the mind for days. Carlos Lopez was The Bronze Idol on June 25, with Arron Scott in the role on June 28. Next to the dance for multiple Shades, the Bronze Idol dance, brief but iconic, can introduce an upcoming male virtuoso (I remember Julio Bocca, now retired, in this role decades ago). Both Mr. Lopez and Mr. Scott captured the requisite speed and sharp attitude of the Idol. Gamzatti’s father, the Radjah, was played by Alexandre Hammoudi on the 25th and Vitali Krauchenka on the 28th, and both corps dancers used effective melodramatic gesture.

As Magdaveya, Jeffrey Golladay seemed smoothly driven, with a sense of danger, while Jared Matthews had a more darting, rough approach, but both dancers, as head fakir, drew the audience in, hovering over the smoldering cauldron center stage. Aya, Gamzatti’s servant, was Karin Ellis-Wentz in both performances, and her crouching demeanor caught my eye. Later she taunted Gamzatti, with the same flower basket that had hidden the poison snake, in Nikiya’s dance to death, making Gamzatti reel and coil. The lead D’Jampe dancers, in the midst of blues, gold, and oranges, captured the imagery with aplomb, and Anne Milewski and Misty Copeland seemed especially radiant on June 25. The female corps re-appears in the wedding candle dance, holding tiny lit candles before the dark temple, where a giant Buddha sits. This candle dance adds even more magic to a very magical production. Theoni Aldredge’s costumes, both brightly colored exotic outfits and filmy white Shades tutus, were again impressive. Pierluigi Samaritani’s royal Indian scenery, as well as his giant temple that crashes into falling rocks, were again mesmerizing. David LaMarche and Ormsby Wilkins conducted the two performances with attention to the vast shifts in mood and the musical introductions of the cast.

Kudos to Natalia Makarova for rapturous choreography, and kudos to John Lanchbery who arranged the evocative and dramatic Minkus score.

Paloma Herrera and Angel Corella in La Bayadère
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at