I, too, attended the premiere on Sunday night and I got back home yesterday, so I think it only right that I share with all of you what was presented in this latest reconstruction of Petipa. However, I apologise in advance if I forget anything, but hopefully I won't.
I had been wanting to see Ratmansky reconstruct La Bayadere for a long time and there were some details about this reconstruction that took me by surprise because there was historical information Ratmansky had discovered that I hadn't known about before. It's also important to note that there are a number of passages missing from the Sergeyev Collection, including all of Nikiya's dances, so Ratmansky turned to other sources to fill in the blank spaces, including the memoirs of Fyodor Lopukhov. One very interesting feature about this reconstruction was that there was more pantomime than people might expect, even more than I was expecting, and there were even moments when the characters were miming to the audience, or en face. As already explained, there's no Golden Idol, no pas de deux for Nikiya and a slave and the Grand Pas d'action is back in Act 4.
So here's an outline of what we were presented with on Sunday night in Berlin:
Introduction - Minkus's original introduction
Act 1, scene 1
Entrance of Solor - as in traditional productions, the curtain opens to reveal the temple and Magdaveya the fakir; he then mimes to the audience that the warriors are approaching and hides. The warriors enter followed by Solor and they all walk in; there are no jumps or jetes. The leading warrior mimes to Solor that they must hunt the great tiger and then Solor mimes to the audience that he is not here to hunt, but to see his beloved Nikiya. Unlike in modern productions, the warriors are still on stage when this music number ends.
Solor and Magdaveya - it's after this number begins that Solor tells the warriors to leave him alone so he can pray by the sacred fire and they leave him. After making sure they're gone, Solor calls for Magdaveya and tells him to send a message to Nikiya. Now the mime here is a bit different from what we see today in most productions because Magdaveya actually mimes to Solor that there's a ritual about to begin and that he will send Solor's message to Nikiya at the moment when she will bring him water. Solor and Magdaveya then leave the stage in time for the next number.
Entrance of the Grand Brahmin - not many differences in this number, it's almost exactly the same as what's done today, but with one or two minor differences. For example, just after entering the Grand Brahmin mimes to the audience that he is in love with Nikiya and he also mimes for the bayaderes to be summoned.
Dance of the Bayaderes - this number is completely different from the traditional version because the dancers are in heeled shoes, not pointe shoes and the dance consists entirely of tombes, along with a couple of times when they stand around the fire and make the arm gesture where they raise both arms and then bring them down as if they're praying. It's also shorter than the traditional version. After the dance, the Grand Brahmin mimes for Nikiya to be brought out. A nice new detail seen here is that the bayaderes are escorted out of the temple by two women, who I assume are their chaperones and their teachers. After their dance, we have the dance of the fakirs.
Entrance of Nikiya - Nikiya enters, but unlike in the traditional version, she doesn't stop to stand and pose on the loud notes. Instead, she stops by the fire, kneels and does the same gesture as the other bayaderes during their dance. Afterwards, she goes to stand facing the audience and the Brahmin lifts her veil. Unfortunately, Nikiya's Act 1 variation is not notated, so Ratmansky retained the traditional choreography and had her perform the chaines on demi-pointe.
The Grand Brahmin and Nikiya - this mime scene between the Brahmin and Nikiya is very similar to what we saw in Vikharev's production, if not the same; some of the arm gestures were done a bit differently. Then afterwards, the bayaderes bring water to the fakirs and Magdaveya delivers Solor's message to Nikiya.
Nikiya plays her veena - this number has been restored to its original form; there's no dance with a water jug. When everyone goes back into the temple, Magdaveya calls for Solor and tells him Nikiya will see him. He then points to the window and Nikiya is sitting there with her veena. Magdaveya then leaves and Solor sits and listens to Nikiya playing her veena.
Solor and Nikiya - now here's something that really took me by surprise; I had not expected this because I had had no idea about it; there's no pas de deux for Solor and Nikiya in the first act when they meet outside the temple. This number is actually a purely mimed scene, in which Solor and Nikiya swear their undying love for one another. Now while this took me by surprise, I understood almost right away that this is a mime scene because I had read Roland John Wiley's translation of the 1877 libretto and there's very romantic dialogue between Solor and Nikiya in their meeting, which cannot be told through a pas de deux. This number is not in the Sergeyev Collection and Ratmansky explained to me and my friend that he came very close to using the famous pas de deux, which, as it turns out, was actually choreographed by Chabukiani, not Petipa. However, more notation scores were discovered in Moscow, including notations for La Bayadere that had been made by Alexander Gorsky and they included this number, stating that it's actually a mime scene, not a dance number.
In all honesty, this is a beautiful number; a beautiful, romantic moment between the two lovers of the story. It just proves that in ballet, you don't always need a pas de deux for the story's most romantic moments. Also, it was on the note that the famous big lift is traditionally performed that the Grand Brahmin saw Solor and Nikiya together; in fact, Ratmansky had Solor and Nikiya kiss at this point, which certainly made the scene all the more effective for two reasons - 1. it added to the romance and 2. can you imagine how jealous it would make the Brahmin seeing Solor and Nikiya kissing?
Scene and finale - in the following number, we have the scene in which Solor and Nikiya make their vow of eternal love to each other and, again, this is a purely mimed scene; no dancing. And again, this matches the dialogue from the 1877 libretto; Solor begs Nikiya to run away with him and at first, she is reluctant because of her place in the temple and his position in society, but she overcomes her hesitation and we actually see them mime and act this out. Then at Nikiya's suggestion, they make their vows and they bow swear their vows over the sacred fire, not just Solor; Nikiya does it too. It has always bothered me that only Solor swears over the fire in modern productions. Afterwards, they walk together in a way that they later do in the Kingdom of the Shades and then embrace before Madaveya runs in to tell them that the bayaderes and the warriors are coming back. So we have here the extended scene that we saw in Vikharev's production where the bayaderes come out to get more water, except here, Nikiya sneaks past them back into the temple rather than joining them. The warriors then return and present the tiger they have killed and Solor rejoins them, but before he leaves, Nikiya reappears at the window and they say their goodbyes, with Nikiya reminding Solor to remember his vow. Then out comes the angry Brahmin and the scene ends with him begging the gods to help him destroy Solor.
Act 1, scene 2
The Rajah and the warriors - as in modern productions, the curtain opens to reveal Solor and the other warriors playing chess in the Rajah's palace. The Rajah enters and he mimes en face that Solor will marry his daughter. He then joins Solor and the others for a game of chess and calls in the dancers for the Danse d'jampe.
Danse d'jampe - nothing really to be said about this number; it's very similar, if not the same, as the traditional version danced today. I liked how it ended with the dancers tombeing off-stage as the music got quieter.
Entrance of Gamzatti - the Rajah orders Solor and the others out of the room and then Gamzatti enters. He tells her that since she was a child, she has been engaged to Solor and now is the time for her to marry him and then shows her a portrait of her, which pleases her. The Rajah then summons Solor back into the room, along with his friend, and tells him that he is to marry Gamzatti, since they have been engaged since childhood. Solor, of course, is not happy and mimes en face that he is in love with Nikiya and has sworn eternal love and fidelity to her. The Rajah lifts Gamzatti's lift and while Solor acknowledges that she is beautiful (again, he mimes this en face), he still remembers his vows to Nikiya, turns to his friend for support and then says to the Rajah that he cannot marry Gamzatti, but the Rajah is adamant and Solor reluctantly agrees.
I really liked how in this version, Solor remains reluctant about marrying Gamzatti from the beginning and doesn't forget Nikiya; I never bought how in Makarova's version, he immediately forgets his vows to Nikiya when he sees Gamzatti. That never made any sense; swearing eternal love to someone is not something you easily forget, let alone forget overnight...
The Grand Brahmin and the Rajah - not much to say here really, the mime scene in which the Grand Brahmin tells the Rajah about Solor and Nikiya's relationship is not that different from modern productions.
Nikiya and Gamzatti - again, this is more similar to what we saw in Vikharev's staging; for example, when Nikiya enters, neither she or Gamzatti sit down, they are both standing and Gamzatti sees right away how beautiful Nikiya is, which does not suit well with her. However, Gamzatti does not try and give Nikiya her bracelet; instead, Nikiya asks Gamzatti why she has summoned her and Gamzatti tells her about her upcoming wedding and that Nikiya should dance at the celebrations, which Nikiya agrees to do. She then shows Nikiya the portrait of Solor and the two women argue. I have to say that Ratmansky's staging of this scene was more dramatic than in most productions; I liked how when Gamzatti stops Nikiya from leaving and tries to give her the jewelled necklace she's wearing, she actually forces it into Nikiya's hand and then Nikiya throws it away. And then of course, Nikiya attacks Gamzatti with a dagger, but is stopped, flees in horror and the curtain closes on Gamzatti swearing to destroy her rival.
I think it's also worth pointing out that Gamzatti tricking Nikiya into agreeing to dance at her wedding and then revealing to her that she's marrying Solor really does shed a light on how nasty she is.
Grand Procession - we open, of course, with the famous procession of the Grand Divertissements and we have Solor entering on an elephant. And of course, no pointe shoes and no tutu for Gamzatti; when she and Solor enter respectively, they sit with the Rajah to watch the dancing.
1. Danse infernales or Danes des ecslaves - this a number that is often omitted and was restored in Vikharev's production. Well here it is again; it's a dance for four men, twelve women, except here, we had eight, all of whom wore character shoes, and a group of male students.
There's not much really to say about some of the divertissements because there weren't too many differences in some. However, there were some differences worth mentioning.
2. Waltz of the fans
3. Waltz of the parrots
4. Dance of the four bayaderes - now this number is worth talking about a bit because I did see some distinctive differences in the choreography, especially the footwork. The footwork was more complex and more petit allegro than we see today. In fact, it was very much like Balanchine; for example, there was one step where the dancers went into second position en pointe, which I have never seen before in the classics.
5. Danse manu
6. Indian Dance - now someone please correct me if I am wrong, my short-term memory could be deceiving me, but I think the Indian Dance was somewhat different too because the kicks were done not just with kicking of the legs, but also with the back and the head arched back, the legs were always bent at the knees and the palms of the hands were flat. It was very rhythmic and yes, Magdaveya performed in this number; he was the one with the drum, but at no point did he throw the drum in the air.
7. Coda Generale - this number has been restored to what it should be - a coda for the coryphees and soloists of the Grand Divertissements. Gamzatti does not dance in this coda and there are no fouettes en tournant. The coda is performed by the coryphees of the Waltz of the Fans and the Waltz of the Parrots, the male dancers and students and the four bayaderes.
Dance of Nikiya with the veena - again, Nikiya's respective dances with the veena and the flower basket are not notated, so Ratmansky retained the traditional choreography, with the main difference being that the veena is back. I can only guess that part of the reason the veena was removed was because this number was entirely re-choreographed because I have always felt that the traditional choreography after the first section is too difficult to perform with a veena. It's possible that maybe the first section is Petipa's choreography, but everything else is by Ponomarev or Chabukiani or maybe even Vaganova, but that's just a guess.
Dance of Nikiya with the flower basket - here, Ratmansky retained half of the traditional choreography because there were differences here. For example, Nikiya's hopping arabesque backwards with the basket lasts until the music in which she performs her diagonal of petit jetes begins. After that diagonal, she performs some small steps and then for the closing section, she performs a menage of turns, all done en demi-pointe. I'm guessing Ratmansky made these changes himself, or he found some other sources. I'm not sure, he didn't say. Nonetheless, I thought these were good changes and the audience certainly liked them.
Death of Nikiya - as we know, Nikiya is bitten by the poisonous snake and dies. I felt that this was a more realistic staging of this number; I was certainly happy that, unlike in the Mariinsky production, everyone does not just stand like statues oblivious to what's happening; no, everyone reacts to what's going on. Nikiya doesn't run around the stage twice, just once. After she realises Gamzatti sent the basket and not Solor and she tries to confront her, but is blocked by the Rajah, she actually mimes that she's dying just before she collapses. The Grand Brahmin offers her the antidote, but she doesn't take it and Solor does not turn away either. The Rajah and Gamzatti stand in front him, as if acting as a wall that's keeping Solor and Nikiya apart. Nikiya drops the bottle and mimes to Solor to remember his vow, at which point, Solor pushes past the Rajah and Gamzatti and runs to Nikiya, but only in time for her to collapse and die. The Rajah and Gamzatti leave and the curtain closes on Solor embracing the dead Nikiya, with everyone looking on.
Act 3, scene 1
Introduction and scene - we're now in Solor's room and he runs in, heartbroken and distraught, and then falls down on his bed. No dancing in this scene.
The Snake Charmer - Magdaveya enters while Solor is resting and summons a snake charmer; Magdaveya dances to the melody, but when Solor awakes, he angrily dismisses them.
Gamzatti visits Solor - just like we saw in Vikharev's production, Gamzatti visits Solor, accompanied by three handmaidens. She tries to win Solor's affections, but he doesn't want to see her and keeps pushing her away. The more he resists her, however, the harder she tries to entice him; she even does a little bit of dancing (she's wearing character shoes here) and then, the shade of Nikiya appears. As written in the 1877 libretto, she's crying when she first appears, her hands are over her face, but only Solor sees her, so Gamzatti thinks he's going mad. She keeps trying to get his attention, but he dismisses her and she leaves, but not before reminding him that they will be married the next day, to which he reluctantly agrees. After Gamzatti leaves, the shade of Nikiya returns and continues to haunt Solor. I think the choreography danced by Nikiya here is different from what we saw in Vikharev's production; it's a bit more petit allegro and we even have a moment when Nikiya runs in and holds an arabesque for at a few seconds. After she disappears, Solor lies on his bed, smokes the hookah of opium and falls asleep as the curtain drops.
Act 3, scene 2, The Kingdom of the Shades
Entrance of the Shades - I did wonder if the Entrance of the Shades was going to be different from the traditional version and yes it is. For a start, when the shades are coming down the slopes, there is no plie in their arabesques and when they step back to perform the fifth position of the arms, they do a little sort of coupe before walking forward in two steps for the next arabesque. When they come down and stand in their lines, like in Nureyev's version, they perform an develop a la seconde, which they hold for a while. I think they then go into the kneeling position, which they actually do twice in this version. Also, they never move back one time at a time; they always stay together and when the number ends, they remain in their lines in the centre of the stage. 32 shades are used in this production, though it should be 48.
Waltz of the Shades - after the music began, the corps de ballet moves to the sides of the stage - two lines are at either side and one is at the back, so no line of dancers leave the stage for the remainder of the scene. The three shades enter and the waltz begins; the choreography here is much more difficult than in the traditional version because, for one thing, there are a lot of cabrioles. Apart from that, the group patterns are not so different and they all leave stage at the end of the music.
Entrance of Solor - Solor rushes in (he runs in, no jumps), taking in these new surroundings and then Nikiya appears at the top of the slope, but disappears as he approaches her. After this, Solor performs the traditional jetes and jumps; as far as I know, this number is not notated.
Entrance of Nikiya - unfortunately, this number is not notated, so Ratmansky retained the traditional choreography. The only difference is that Solor remains on stage rather than following Nikiya off stage.
Grand Adage - what's presented here is what we saw in Doug Fullington's Works and Process lecture.
Variations of the Three Shades - again, what's presented here is what we saw in Fullington's lecture, but with some differences. For example, the running footwork en pointe for the first shade is slight different here, there are no sharp flexed wrists - Ratmansky said the wrists are meant to be soft - and the third variation was done at the traditional speed and not the fast one Fullington presented. In my honest opinion, retaining the traditional speed for the notated choreography for the third shade variation does not work; it would be better if the faster tempo was used.
Variation of Nikiya with the scarf - no scarf duet, this number is a variation for Nikiya with the scarf. Again, however, this variation is not notated, so Ratmansky retained the traditional choreography. I am happy to say that he restored the flying scarf effect in which the scarf flies away after Nikiya lets it go; it's a lovely effect.
Grand coda - again, what we saw in Fullington's lecture, we see here. More difficult choreography for the corps de ballet, the elusive Nikiya evading Solor's grasp, Solor dancing his bit, no Dudinskaya diagonal of fast pique turns and then the scene coming to a perfect close with Solor and Nikiya holding a final pose surrounded by the shades, but not in huge circle.
Act 3, scene 3
The music for the apotheosis is the music here. The curtain rises on Solor asleep in his room, with the warriors and Magdaveya there too. Magdaveya approaches and awakes him ad the warriors tell Solor that he is to marry Gamzatti that same day. The act ends with Solor reluctantly following them.
At long last, the fourth act is back! So, what happened?
Introduction - another procession in which everyone enters - the Rajah, Gazmatti, her handmaidens, the Grand Brahmin, the priests, Solor and the warriors. Solor greets Gamzatti and her father and his friend, who is the additional cavalier, escorts Gamzatti off stage.
Dance of the Lotus Blossoms - another dance number that has been long absent from the ballet is back, a dance for female students with garlands. Now here's something interesting that I learned from Lopukhov's memoirs and Ratmansky restored this - it is in this dance that Nikiya makes her Act 4 entrance. She enters in the final section and Solor pursues her, but only he can see her, so everyone thinks he's going mad. Fun fact, Nikiya is actually supposed to enter by rising up through a trap door in the middle of the stage when they girls make a circle, but unfortunately, the Berlin stage doesn't seem to have a trap door.
Grand Pas d'action - finally, the Grand Pas d'action is back in its proper place. Again, we see here what we see in Fullington's reconstruction and Ratmansky uses the additional cavalier, who is performed by Solor's friend - he does the dancing in the entrée and coda. Unfortunately, the adagio is not notated, so Ratmansky made a new version based on the traditional version and details described by Lopukhov. For example, there's a moment when Gamzatti is given flowers and she gives one to Solor, but Nikiya takes it from him. The adagio also ends with the some pose as the entrée.
I should also say that I assume Lopukhov's memoirs is where Makarova got the ideas for her version of the last act, since some of these details described by Lopukhov are also used in her version.
Solor's variation - now, as already explained, different music is used for Solor's variation; we don't have the famous Chabukiani variation and the reason why is because the music Ratmansky uses is the music that's included in the Bayadere violin repetiteur score in the Sergeyev Collection as Solor's variation. I believe that this music is by Minkus and it is a variation that he composed for Petipa's revival of Marie Taglioni's ballet Le Papillon; it was later interpolated into La Bayadere by Nikolai Legat for the 1900 revival. The variation is not notated, so I assume that the choreography is by Ratmansky.
Gamzatti's variation - this is something else that took me by surpise. As already explained, Gamzatti dances Dulcinea's variation and the reason why had been completely unknown to me until Ratmansky explained. This music is also included in the Bayadere violin repetiteur score in the Sergeyev Collection as Gamzatti's variation and according to Ratmansky, it was not created by Riccardo Drigo for Don Quixote as we have all thought. The music is by Drigo, but he composed it for Petipa's grand ballet The Vestal. According to Ratmansky, Drigo composed this variation for Elena Cornalba's performance in The Vestal. It is, however, included in the Bayadere score for Julia Sedova, who was dancing Gamzatti by 1902. Whether or not it's the variation that Olga Preobrazhenskaya danced in 1900, we can't be sure. Again, this variation is not notated, so Ratmansky stuck to the traditional choreography danced in the west with the Italian fouettes instead of the sissones.
Coda - again, what we saw in Fullington's lecture, we see here too, except that Gamzatti never looks miserable when she's bourreing, partnered by Solor at the end.
Destruction of the temple/apotheosis - this number begins with Gamzatti being given a basket of flowers by her handmaid, which she immediately rejects because it's identical to the one given to Nikiya. Solor looks down at her, reminding her of her guilt, and she rushes to her father and begs him to complete the wedding. The Grand Brahmin comes forward to perform the wedding and when he joins Solor and Gamzatti's hands, the earthquake happens and the temple was destroyed.
I have to admit that the destruction of the temple was a real let down because they used digital footage, which I was not happy with. They darkened the stage and used flashing lights, but the digital footage just made the whole thing look cheap, so that was disappointing.
After the temple is destroyed, Nikiya appears and we get the same ending that we got in Vikharev's staging, which, again, was a let down. I really don't think this was a very strong apotheosis; I would've much preferred to have seen the stage blacken and light again to reveal Solor and Nikiya embracing, that would've been nice.
Overall, despite the parts I felt could've been better, I was thrilled with this reconstruction; I'm so happy that La Bayadere has been shown as it should be shown - a four-act exotic love story of drama, jealousy, betrayal, murder and revenge that's not missing an entire act, leaving the ballet unfinished. I hope this will be released on DVD/Blu-ray and those who haven't seen it, I hope you get to see it very soon. Ratmansky has done it again; what has survived of Petipa's La Bayadere is back.