Exotic and mysterious India serves as the backdrop to this story of doomed love between the warrior Solor and the bayadère, Nikiya, who is killed by her jealous rival, Gamzatti. Breathtaking sets and costumes are designed ... more »by Ezio Frigerio and Franca Squarciapino in this exceptional production, recorded at the Palais Garnier in Paris. Direction and choreography in this fully restored version of Petipa's original ballet are by Rudolf Nureyev. Stars Isabelle Guérin, Laurent Hilaire, and Élisabeth Platel.« less
Rudolf Nureyev's Last Offering to the World - the exotic "La
MrLopez2681 | USA | 10/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""La Bayadere" was first presented at the St. Petersburg Bolshoi Theatre by the Czar's Imperial Ballet (today the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet) on January 23, 1877. It was the creation of Marius Petipa, the unrivled Maitre de Ballet of the St. Petersburg Imperial Ballet. "La Bayadere" became a classic among the great ballets of the 19th century and a useful vehicle for all the great ballerinas of the day. Petipa revised the ballet in 1884 for the ballerina Anna Johansson, and for the last time in 1900 for the Imperial Prima Ballerina Mathilde Kschessinskaya and for the benefit of the Premiere Danseur Noble Pavel Gerdt. For this 1900 revival Petipa completely refurbished with a new staging and fresh choreography. The ballet lived on for over 25 more years before it fell out of active the repertoire after the revolution. In 1941, the Ballet Master Vladimir Ponomarev and the great Danseur Vakhtang Chabukiani presented a new version of "La Bayadere" based on Petipa's last revival of 1900. It is this version that has lived on to the present day at the Mariinksy Theatre, and that Rudolf Nureyev, the greatest dancer of his generation, learned when he danced there. Interestingly enough "La Bayadere" was the last ballet Nureyev danced with the Kirov/Mariinksy Ballet before he defected from the Soviet Union in 1961 while on tour with the company in France. In 1963 Nureyev staged Petipa's masterful 'Grand Pas Classique' from "La Bayadere" known as "The Kingdom of the Shades". This was the first of many stagings from the Petipa repertoire that Nureyev would go on to stage in the west, but it was not untill 3 months before his death in 1993 that his version of the full-length "La Bayadere" premiered, danced by the Paris Opera Ballet where he had been Artistic Director since 1983.
Nureyev's production of "La Bayadere" is absolutly magnificent. He called upon his close friend Ninel Kurgapkina, former Ballerina and now teacher/coach of the Kirov/Mariinksy Ballet to assist him with the production. Their staging of "La Bayadere" follows the 1941 Soviet revival of Ponomareyev and Chabukiani almost exactly, with changes being very few (among these changes was the revision of dances for the female corps de ballet, along with making the male corps de ballet more prominent).
This production of "La Bayadere" is a lavish dream of the ancient southern Orient seen through 19th century European Eyes. The spectacular decor, designed by Ezio Frigerio, strays far away from the typical painted-backcloth-type sets of most ballet productions and instead, gives the Paris Opera Ballet sets to dance among - the design of the stage decor will take your breath away, as it looks very much like a priceless brazen antique - the wings and the top sides of the stage are decorated with paintings of palm trees and the like, the palace of the Maharajah in Act I/Scene 2 and in Act II pays obvious homage to the Taj Mahal, and it is glorious to see "The Kingdom of the Shades" scene danced in the jungle. The costumes, designed by Franca Squarciapino match the decor absolutly, and in the same regard take inspiration from the Indian Orient. The one thing that spoils the effect of the wonderful decor is the stage floor, which is covered with light gray marley and sealed off with rows of white tape stretching from the footlights on upstage, obviously put there to keep the dancers in perfect rows (as it does - one will never see the Kirov/Mariinky or the Bolshoi in need of such stage markers).
On the DVD liner notes, and in the credits, the music is credited as being re-orchestrated by John Lanchbery (conductor and musical director for the Royal Opera House for many years). In his past productions, Nureyev had called upon Lanchbery to revise/re-orchestrate the scores of Minkus, but unlike Lanchbery's severe revisions of the Minkus scores for Nureyev's revivals of such ballets as "Don Quixote", the "Paquita" Grand pas Classique, as well as Natalia Makarova's stagings of "La Bayadere", he has thankfully only altered a few brief passages - these changes are so minute that one wonders why it was even necessary to have Lanchbery do anything to the score in the first place, as only a person 100% familiar with the original Minkus score inside and out can make out the differences. Thankfully the score of "La Bayadere" is presented here as it Minkus originally orchestrated it (with the exception of the few changes Lanchbery did), a rare treat in the west (most everyone in the ballet world finds the Lanchbery revisions of Minkus's music to be horrific anyway). The scintillating and beautifully melodious music of Minkus sparkles in the hands of the conductor Michel Queval, making the look and feel of the ballet succeed even more. One should never judge Minkus's music for symphonic substance, but instead for its theatrical effectiveness, and even more so for the fact that the music completely accents the movements of classical ballet, and accompanies the dramatic scenes perfectly. (Note - See CD Decca 436 917-2 for the score of "La Bayadere" as re-orchestrated/revised by John Lanchbery for Natalia Makarova's staging for American Ballet Theatre in 1980. This recording is performed by the English Chamber Orchestra and conducted by Richard Bonynge)
For this performance, the leading roles are danced by Isabelle Guerin as Nikiya, Elisabeth Platel as Gamzatti, and Laurent Hilare as Solor. As with most of the ballerinas that have been coming out of the Paris Opera Ballet lately (with the exception of Aurelie Dupont and Emanna Floria of course), the leading danseuses in this film are good, but they are far from being great, and give performances that are very neutral and plain. Isabelle Guerin gives a worthy portrayl of Nikiya in this performance, though her acting is rather cardboard and docile - in the dramatic scenes the woman almost seems indifferent. On the plus side her dancing in the Act I/Scene 1 'Variation of Nikiya', and especially in "The Kingdom of the Shades" is excellent technically (the greatest interpretation on film is without a doubt Altynai Assylmoratova of the Kirov/Mariinksy Ballet as danced in the Royal Ballet film of "La Bayadere"). Elisabeth Platel gives a good portrayl of Gamzatti as a character, but her dancing is very poor - I must say that her variation in the 'Grand Pas Classique' of Act II is absolutly shameful (some reviewers below give her much praise - they either know little about good ballet dancing or they need their eyes checked!). Laurent Hilaire gives a wonderful portrayl of Solor, with strong partnering of both ballerinas and elegant dancing in his variations, not to mention his great entrance in the Grand Procession at the start of Act II atop a pointy-eared elephant on wheels. Wilfred Romoli gives a graceful and elequant performance as the Golden Idol, though he lacks the "pazzaz" one should have when dancing the 'Bazhok' as it is known in Russia, while Sandrine Marache is charming and lovely in the 'Danse Manu' (doing a great job of keeping the water jug balanced on her head). The 3 Shades variations in "The Kingdom of the Shades" scene are perhaps the biggest dissapointment of all in this entire performance. Agnes Letestu, Clotilde Vayer, and Nathalie Rique do the honors here, complete with really stupid smiles on their faces that have absolutly no business among the magnificent courtly opulace of "The Kingdom of the Shades". For some reason what is supposed to be the last variation gets performed first, danced by Agnes Letestu (complete with her ridiculous smile). She does the best job out of the 3, suprising considering her terrible performance in the Paris Opera Ballet's "Paquita" film. Clotilde Vayer dances the next variation (which is really supposed to be the first one) and does an awful, boring job, again with a ridiculous grin on her face. For some reason towards the end of Vayer's variation the camera cuts off her performance and instead gives us a shot of the corps de ballet dancers feet, perhaps because Vayer's arabasque releve-elance's, which are supposed to be traveling on the diagnale but aren't, dont look so good. The last variation (which is supposed to be the second one) is danced by Nathalie Rique. She demonstrates how a ballerina can dance well but have absolutly no spark, and again we have a ridiculously out-of-place smile that warrants a good wack across the face. The Corps de Ballet does well, but its obvious that the rows of tape on the stage floor are responsible for their perfect, straight lines (watch the Kirov/Mariinksy Ballet dance this scene in their film of "La Bayadere", and on another film called "The Kirov Ballet in London" to see true Corps de Ballet perfection un-aided by a taped up stage floor).
This staging of "La Bayadere" is perhaps the greatest version available on film regarding production (sets, costumes, etc.), even more so than Natalia Makarova's sandwiched versions for American Ballet Theatre (in 1980) and for the Royal Ballet (in 1990). In 2001, the Kirov/Mariinksy Ballet (the former Imperial Ballet) presented "La Bayadere" in a reconstruction of Petipa's last revival of 1900. Using the Stepanov choreographic notation and other sources included in the Sergeyev Collection housed at the Harvard University Library and from their own archives, the Kirov/Mariinksy Ballet completely restored the choreography, sets, costumes, and the mime sequences to their original form (one reviewer on this page says that the original choreography of "La Bayadere" is lost, which is not true, as it was notated by Petipa's regisseur Nikolai Sergeyev and his assistants around the time of the Ballet Master's 1900 revival). The original Minkus score was restored from the composer's orignal hand-written manuscript, and what a wonderful masterpeice of ballet music it is. Let us hope that this reconstruction of "La Bayadere" doesnt stay to long from DVD/video, just as the Kirov/Mariinksy Ballet's 1999 reconstruction of the 1890 premiere of "The Sleeping Beauty" has. It would be a great disservice to the world of ballet....but given the ridiculous politics of the current Kirov/Mariinksy Ballet, it is likely niether production will ever find its way to DVD/video. Such a waste.
The Paris Opera Ballet has been releasing quite alot of their repertoire onto DVD over the last few years. I would never go so far as to say that they are the greatest company in the world, but they are exceptional. Unfortunatly many people feel that ballet dancing cant get any better than what they see in these Paris Opera performances - dont ever let good productions and great costumes fool you! If you want to see great ballet dancing, watch American Ballet Theatre, the Royal Ballet, the Bolshoi, and especially the Kirov/Mariinksy Ballet, which is without a doubt the greatest company in the world.
Nureyev's production of "La Bayadere" is more than just a ballet -it was Nureyev's last offering to the world before he passed away in 1993. But aside from that, this production is a resplendant grand spectacle in the tradition of the old 19th century 'Grand Ballets', and it echos the love and passion that Nureyev felt for the art of classical ballet - it is Nureyev's greatest staging of a ballet from the Classical Repertoire, and I think the old Maestro Petipa would have been proud."
Excellent version of this classical ballet
Ivy Lin | NY NY | 09/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This lavish video, out from the Paris Opera Ballet, provides an interesting contrast to the Royal Ballet video (which I also reviewed). Both versions have their considerable merits, and I would not be without either one.
1. The reconstructions. La Bayaderes original choreography was by Petipa, but much of it (including the original Final Act) has been lost. Natalia Makarova of the Royal Ballet video has chosen to reconstruct the third act (inserting such things as the Golden Idol dance there), and tighten the action in the entire ballet. She cuts character dances like the Indian dance and Negro dance. Rudolf Nureyev has chosen a different route. He's preserved more of the extant Petipa choreography, with the character dances. He's ignored the Final Act altogether, so the Paris Bayadere ends with the Shades act. Both versions have their merits. Makarova's version gives the storyline some closure (Gamzatti and Solor's wedding temple is destroyed by the gods and Nikya and Solor are reunited in the otherworld). On the other hand, she streamlines the dances quite a bit. Nureyev's version is probably truer to Petipa's choreography. However, all the character dances in Act 1, Scene 3 make the ballet seem more old-fashioned.
2. Production values. In this, the Paris Ballet wins hands-down. The sets are lavish, the costumes have a more authentic Indian feel to them, and the camera work is more interesting, shooting dancers from different angles. However the Paris Ballet also saddles the women with unattractive wigs in the opening scenes, and the dark navy blue dresses do not look good in dim ballet lighting. The Royal Ballet uses the tried-and-true stage pan/close up method, but their costumes are in soft flattering colors that give the ballerinas a feminine, graceful look.
3. Corps dancing. While the Royal Ballet corps is not bad, the Paris corps is truly eery in its perfection. All the corps members seem to have similar in height, build and even appearance. You can also see the benefits of the famously demanding Paris Ballet schooling (even for ballet standards). Their corps is amazing. In the Shades scene, all the legs are raised to the same angle, the descent of the shades is in perfectly timed intervals, they lean backwards at the same angle. The corps in all their dances are always symetrically spaced across the stage to form perfect lines. The dancers all have impeccable form, and you can see this in the dance variations, when poor form from one ballerina can really stick out like a sore thumb. This does not happen ANYWHERE in the Paris Ballet video.
4. Solo performances. This is the one area where the Royal Ballet clearly has the edge. It's not that Isabelle Guerin and Elisabeth Platel are bad (far from it!), just that Altynai Asylmuratova and Darcey Bussell are truly unforgettable in the Royal Ballet. I've been very lucky in my Nikyas -- I've seen both Alina Cojacaru (enchanting) and Svetlana Zakharova live, but Altynai Asylmuratova (of the Kirov) is the best. She brings this combination of exotic beauty and fragility to the role. Russian Vaganova training is a real benefit for Nikya -- their fluid, flexible use of their backs and arms is a strength in a role that relies so much on upper body work. The effect is simply enchanting. In contrast, Isabelle Guerin, with her crystal-clean technique and somewhat austere style fails to enchant in the same way. For instance, in the Gamzatti/Nikya scene Asylmuratova expresses so much with a single wave of the hand. I felt that Guerin failed to convey Nikya's desperation and pathos as convincingly. Shes a wonderful dancer, but Asylmuratova is unforgettable. In the Shades scene Guerin also doesn't have the otherworldly, haunted ghost, pathetic quality of Asylmuratova. Elisabeth Platel and Darcey Bussell are both excellent, athletic ballerinas. But Darcey Bussell's cool, regal, stiff-backed elegance contrasts so well with Asylmuratova's Nikya. Platel is icier; Bussell haughtier. It's a tossup. I prefer Laurent Hilaire's more youthful, athletic Solor in the Paris Bayadere. Irek Mukhamedov is very impressive in other videos (Mayerling, for example) but he's surprisingly bland as Solor.
Overall impressions: if you love Bayadere you have to get both dvd's. In some ways they complement each other -- one's weaknesses are the other's strengths."
michaelfraydon | 07/01/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This production by Nureyev is splendid! it is probably the best production of this ballet you will ever own! In it we are previlaged to witness two of the greatest stars of the world of ballet. Miss Elisabeth Platel in the role of Gamzatti and Miss Isabelle Guerin in the role of Nikia. Unfortunately they have both since retired from the Paris Opera, all the more reason to buy this dvd and cherish it! Miss Platel is the ultimate Gamzatti but than she is a superb ballerina of taste and refinment rarely seen. Her portrayel of Gamzatti is so elegant as befitting the daughter of a prince on the eve of her bethothal to Solor, danced by the very masculine Laurent Hilaire who was perfectly suited for the role of the warrier, that you almost forget her evil intentions towards Nykia and identify with her longing for this match to take place. She is after all inlove with Solor and will stop at nothing to secure her own happiness. Miss Platel is Dazzling! Her Port de bras is of rare quality and unmatched by anyone so far. Her upper body moves with such musicality that one is almost able to hear the music through it.
Miss Guerin is a ballerina of rare authenticity and technical prowess. She sparkles! Her entrance in the third act kingdom of the shades is marked by a pose on stage with one arm lifted and her eyes gazing towards her fingertips. This is a moment of greatness it summerises for me the essence of ballet. She is mesmerising by force of her presence without having to blink an eye! Miss Guerin need but whisper whilst other have to shout.
Mr. Hilaire is a captivating warrier. Masculine to the point of being sexy. This is well suited to the oriental theme of this ballet. His leaps are powerful and his presence forceful. His partnering both of miss Platel and of Miss Guerin is commendable.
The corps de ballet is "de grand rigueur" seldom Have I seen such perfect execution of the third act's kingdom of the shades.
The tutus in the paris opera are of perfect diameter and show off the lines of the ballerinas to the fullest. One could not expect any less from the french. Chapeau!"
Chi yun Lu | Argentina | 05/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Paris Opera Corps is the best,I just keep asking myself if they are human, they are like clones. After 5 Bayaredes, this is still the best choice, even if Isabelle Guerin is a little cold faced, (after all, french dancers are not passionate, aren't they?) or perhaps because perfection is cold. The coreography from Nureyev is beautiful,very dinamic, the sets and costumes are sumptuous, stunning Etoiles and soloist, Elizabeth Platel is the perfect balance technique and artistry. This is the glory of BALLET"
Ballet, ballet, ballet....
tulip | Fort Worth, Texas United States | 02/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I always liked ballet since childhood but this one really made me totally hooked. Isabelle Guerin is absolutely beautiful and dances with all the emotions that Nykiya would be feeling. I never liked male ballet dancers thinking they are half-women, until I saw Laurent Hilair in Solar's role and it totally changed my view. I felt like I was wasting my entire life disliking like them. Maybe it is because Hilair is so handsome that he was not wearing excess make-up like the kind I saw in Russian ballet performance but his jump is so high, turns so fast that I literally could not close my mouth after the first "Wow!. I think I am going to take this DVD into my casket when I die."