Alexandra

The Last Act

38 posts in this topic

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.;)

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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....

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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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That excerpt from the libretto is helpful--it sounds as if Nikiya doesn't assign blame at all, perhaps thinking the snake just crawled into the flowers by accident.

By the way, I have a few other questions about the plot of La Bayadere, such as:

What actually happens during Solor's visit to the Kingdom of the Shades? Is it just dancing, with no plot at all? This seems a little unlikely, given that other Petipa dream sequences at least have some connection to the action besides "Solor smokes opium and has a vision."

Why exactly does the Rajah want Solor to marry Gamzatti so badly? Can he just not find anyone else in the right caste? Or perhaps because Solor and Nikiya are from different castes, they can't publicly declare their love?

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According to the 1877 libretto, Nikiya and Solor and a conversation during what is now the first pas de deux of the Shades scene. She showed him a castle in the sky that would be theirs if he didn't betray her. Probably by 1900, and possibly, earlier, this scene was replaced by the first pas de deux. I can't confirm this from the dance notations, however, because this first pas de deux is not notated. But that doesn't mean it wasn't danced.

Hope this bit helps.

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Apparently, during the Kingdom of shades scene, Nikiya tells Solor that if he doesn't betray her, her shade will be next to him to help him and to protect him and that his spirit will find peace in this kingdom when he dies. I suppose that this is related to the last act because he betrays Nikiya by marrying Gamzatti, and therefore they are all punished and at the end of the last act, once the temple is destroyed, the shade of Nikiya goes back up to the kingdom of shades looking down at Solor, so this probably means that he will not go there because he betrayed her.

Still according to the original Petipa notes, the Rajah wants Solor to marry Gamzatti because he was designed as her fiance when they were children, so he has the obligation to marry her.

About Solor and Nikiya, Nikiya is destined to the temple since she is a child and her duty is to it, she can't leave it or marry so Solor promises her to come and fetch her in a few days and escape, but then he has to marry Gamzatti, and he tries to escape from it by saying he needs a bit of time, but the Rajah answers he can't refuse and has to accept the marriage now.

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Thank you both--that helps make more sense out of Kingdom of the Shades. A mime scene would make more sense there, but the pas de deux is also quite beautiful. Some believe that the pas de deux belongs in Act I for some reason, but the music it's danced to has exactly the same tune as the waltz preceding it, so I think it's in the right place.

By the way, I thought the final tableau was of Nikiya leading Solor up to heaven, and that the temple was destroyed just before the marriage took place...perhaps Makarova just changed that around a bit in her production. However, that's interesting--that Solor and Nikiya are not together in the end after all.

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I believe they were intended to be together in the end. The 1877 libretto states: "APOTHEOSIS: Through the rain the peaks of the Himalayas are visible. Nikia's shade glides through the air; she is triumphant, and tenderly looks at her beloved Solor, who is at her feet. THE END"

The creators dont'; seem to have been concerned with as much analysis and logic as we seem to be today.

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You're certainly right Doug, it's exactly what I read (except I don't have "she is triumphant"), except I interpreted it as 'he is at her feet, so he is not with her and isn't coming up' instead of 'he is at her feet following her'. But then how would he have been able to join her in the Kingdom of shades if he betrayed her (he was going to marry Gamzatti), unless the marriage isn't considered as a betrayal because he truly loves Nikiya and only was going to marry Gamzatti because he was forced to (but then why kill him and destroy everything?). I'm a bit confused now.

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Do temple dancers take vows of chastisty, sort of like vestal virgins? If such were the case, could Nikyia be "sinful" for loving Solor and thus possibly prone to vengeance?

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I don't know the answer to that question, John-Michael, but it certainly is a very intriguing idea.

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It is a good question -- I don't know if they did in India, but if memory serves (and it may not; this is going back to 9th grade) Roman ones were.

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beaumont has some pp. on 'le dieu et la bayadere' perhaps something there would help establish the vows of chasity (or not) for bayaderes.

as follows:

Le dieu et la bayadère.

Beaumont, Cyril William, 1891- Complete book of ballets. London [1956] p 88-94

Bayadère (Choreographic work : Deshayes)

Authority Note :Chor: André-Jean-Jacques Deshayes; mus: Daniel-François-Esprit Auber. First perf: London, King's Theatre, May 26, 1831, Marie Taglioni.

*MGTB (English) Guest, Ivor. The romantic ballet in England, 1954, p 57, 157. La bayadère is a "compressed version" of Le dieu et la bayadère and was danced in London in 1831 by Marie Taglioni.

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