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The Last Act


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 18 September 2002 - 09:11 AM

Doug, do you know the history of the last act? Not only structurally -- it's been cut, and trimmed, and put in other places, etc -- but the influence of these changes on the character of Nikiya. I may be wrong, but I read it as a sentimentalization of the story. Without the vengeance in the last act, Nikiya's just another nice peasant girl who likes to ghostwalk with her lover at night. With that last act, well, she's a different creature altogether.

I've also read different versons of the libretti. Do the gods wreak vengeance, or Nikiya personally? That's a big difference.

#2 NO7

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Posted 06 November 2002 - 11:28 PM

Apologise for my late response, Alexandra. I couldn't write anything that I hadn't seen it. :)

The synopsis for act IV goes like this:

"During the ceremony, the Ghost of Nikiya followsSolor, ceaselessly reminding him of his vow. A basket of flowers is offered to gamzetti, who, horrified, remembers the murder of her rival, whose Ghost now appears before her. Frightened, Gamzetti takes refuge in the arms of her father, who orders the ceremony to be carried out faster. But a terrible storm and an earthquake swallow up the guests beneath the temple, thus making the Bayadere's curse come true. The Ghost of Nikiya then appears above the ruins of the temple, reaffirming her ethernal love for Solor"

I was particularly intrigued by the word 'the Bayadere's curse'.
This sounds like the curse was made by Nikiya(?). If this hypothesis is correct, Nikiya is not definitely just a haplessly sweet girl.

Throughout Act III and IV, Nikiya behaved herself as if a psychopathic ex-lover. I didn't feel any sympathy for her.

#3 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 06 November 2002 - 11:54 PM

It's hard not to look at Nikiya with contemporary eyes where she seems like a sort of Anti-Giselle.

I'm curious, how did the 19th century look at the morality of these two characters, Giselle and Nikiya?

#4 Mel Johnson

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Posted 07 November 2002 - 04:12 AM

Gautier and his circle probably would have approved of her. Some of his leading women are anti-heroines, even, but in this case, justice is meted out. It's another version of the "well-made play" where all is sorted out at the end.

#5 Manhattnik

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Posted 07 November 2002 - 06:44 AM

Throughout Act III and IV, Nikiya behaved herself as if a psychopathic ex-lover.

Well, she is dead after all. Probably suffering from posthumous-traumatic stress disorder. I'd cut her some slack.

#6 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 07 November 2002 - 07:19 AM

indeed, manhattnik! :) i thought of her as driven by that-which-must-be-done, like a wili who regardless of what her feelings would have been when alive, has to dance men to death.

#7 doug

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Posted 09 November 2002 - 12:02 PM

Roland John Wiley has translated the 1877 libretto. The subtitle for Act IV, Scene 7, is "The gods' wrath." That the curse is Nikia's own is not mentioned in the original published libretto. During the apotheosis, Nikia's shade "tenderly looks at her beloved Solor." I've always thought of the ending as moralistic, the sort of ending that would have been thought inevitable at the time the libretto was written. Vengeance was brought about by the gods on Nikia's behalf.

To my mind, the difference between GISELLE and BAYADERE lies in the difference between Bathilde and Gamzatti. The former was an innocent, while the latter brought about the heroine's death.

#8 NO7

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Posted 10 November 2002 - 06:26 PM

Giselle chooses to kill herself, while Nikiya chooses to kill her rival.
Of course, the Ghost of a nice submissive girl and the Ghost of (sort of) an aggressive girl act differently.;)

#9 Mel Johnson

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Posted 10 November 2002 - 06:30 PM

Of course, there are ways of playing the Gamzatti/Nikiya relationship so that Nikiya is a Good Girl who is goaded by the overbearing Gamzatti into near-violence....

#10 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 10 November 2002 - 07:47 PM

Does anyone know what the writing contemporary to the early productions of the work said? How did they view Nikiya? Revenge is not that attractive a characteristic; was Nikiya considered vengeful, or as in the libretto, just unfolding a plan ordained by those higher up? As in Giselle, I'm curious how class entered into this as well. Like Doug said, same situation as Giselle, but Bathilde is totally innocent of the issue.

As we now see and play them, Giselle is the embodiment of forgiveness and Nikiya is becoming revenge personified. Were they always like this, and I wonder if their duality was ever noted.

#11 doug

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Posted 11 November 2002 - 09:11 AM

I'm not able to lay my hands on many contemporary writings about the characters in Bayadere. Most of the reviews that I have access to mention the spectacle and dances. Parts of Ekaterina Vazem's (the first Nikia) memoirs have been translated. She doesn't mention character motivation, etc. There is a contemporary (late 1870s) drawing of the destruction of the temple, entitled "The Revenge of the Gods," so it appears that the destruction and murder of those in the temple was at the hands of the gods and not willed by Nikia in some Carrie-esque fashion. Perhaps our post 20th century viewpoints encourage us to credit to Nikia with more aggression that was intended by the creators? I think, as Leigh suggested in one of his options, that Nikia was part of a plan ordained by the powers that be. Her statements to Solor, as given in the 1877 libretto, support this take.

#12 atm711

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Posted 11 November 2002 - 10:46 AM

My sympathies are with Nikiya. The poor girl had to contend with a weak-willed lover and a lascivious priest. I would only hope it was her curse that brought them down.

#13 Alexandra

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Posted 11 November 2002 - 11:06 AM

I agree with ATM's Grahamesque interpretation :) but I think the original intent was "The gods did it; I am but his instrument." There are a lot of parallels in the libretto of Bayadere to Iphigenia (Euripides ?), and I think Petipa was trying to produce a ballet version of a Greek tragedy (married to 19th century local color, of course). So, by those standards, Solor was not weak-willed, but also an instrument. The priest and the brahmin, though -- hey, gloves off. For people like them, you need vengeful gods.

#14 Hans

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Posted 07 March 2003 - 01:04 PM

I know this is late, but I've been reading the reviews of Bayadere in the Mariinsky forum and watching my tape of the Royal Ballet, and I noticed that in the RB (Makarova) version, Nikiya is handed a basket of flowers, which what's-her-name, Gamzatti's servant, tells her is from Solor. The way Nikiya's dance is played, she seems to think Solor really is in love with Gamzatti, then this changes with the arrival of the flowers. So wouldn't Nikiya then think that if the snake was in the basket of flowers sent from Solor that he was the one who murdered her? She mimes to him after she is bitten that he swore eternal love to her, &c, then dies. Or does she see through the plot immediately and realize that it was Gamzatti & the Rajah's doing? Or perhaps it's explained to her during Kingdom of the Shades (though there's no mime indicating it that I've seen). What happens with this?

#15 su-lian

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Posted 07 March 2003 - 02:22 PM

I've seen the Makarova version by the Royal ballet, but it was a few years ago, and I don't remember it very well. However, in the Nureyev version, when Nikiya is bitten by the snake, she accuses Gamzatti of having put the snake in the basket (or at least have it placed there). I saw a documentary not long ago about the Nureyev version of La Bayadere at the Paris Opera and I will do my best to try remembering it correctly. According to Isabelle Guerin (who created the role of Nikiya in this version), when she hesitates to take the antidote which the Great Brahmin gives her, she looks at Solor, and he looks at her, but knowing that they will not be able to love each other prefers to die, but according to Laurent Hilaire (who created the role of Solor), she looks at him, he has his backed turned to her and is with Gamzatti and so she decides to die because she thinks he doesn't love her. As for the accusation, they say that Gamzatti turns round after being accused and Solor understands that Nikiya is right. However, in the video/DVD which dates from 1994 and in which Guerin, Hilaire and Platel dance the roles they created, Elisabeth Platel seems to nod her head after being accused (which I find quite weird). The documentary dates only from about two years ago and has the same three (Guerin, Platel and Hilaire) talking about it, so which one is correct is difficult question to answer, especially since the video/DVD was recorded closer from the date of the creation than the documentary was and therefore one might think they remembered better what the creation was like and what Nureyev wanted (if he told them what he wanted!). But then one can also argue that after a longer period they can assimilate the ballet better and therefore give a better interpretation of it. Apparently, Nureyev didn't change the choreography much from the original (except that he didn't restage the last act), probably because of his illness. So I suppose in this version, Nikiya immediately realises it was a plot organised by the Rajah and Gamzatti. I have just looked in the program, and the original notes from Petipa don't mention anything about Nikiya accusing anyone oand there is nothing about Solor's and Gamzatti's reactions:"Gamzatti asks that some flowers be given to Nikiya. Nikiya receives the basket with pleasure and dedicates her dance to Solor who is thoughtful. Suddenly a snake comes out from the basket and bites Nikiya on the chest. The wound is deadly. Feeling she is losing strength, she calls Solorto her rescue. 'Don't forget your promise. I die! Farewell...' The Great Brahmin rushes to her and offersher an antidote, but Nikiya refuses:'God will judge us!' She falls in Solor's arms. 'Farewell Solor. I love you, I die innocent!...' These are her last words. The rajah and his daughter triumph"
This is all I can say. I might not answer your question, I haven't read the reviews on the Mariinsky forum.


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