Ludwig Minkus: La Bayadère (Orchestration by John Lanchberry, Choreography by Natalia Makarova after Marius Petipa)
Svetlana Zakharova (Nikiya), Roberto Bolle (Solor), Isabelle Brusson (Gamzatti), Bryan Hewison (The High Brahmin), Mick Zeni (Magdaveya), Francisco Sedeno (The Raja Dugmanta), Antonino Sutera (The Bronze Idol), Matthew Endicott (Solor’s Friend), Piera Pedretti (Aya), Orchestra and Corps de Ballet of Teatro alla Scala, David Coleman (Conductor), Tina Protasoni (TV and Video Director), Olga Evreinoff (Stage Director), Pierluigi Samaritani (Set Designer), Yolanda Sonnabend (Costume Designer), John B. Read (Lighting Designer)
A production of Rai Tre and Rai Trade recorded live at the Teatro alla Scala (May 2006) – 126’
Arthaus Musik Ref #: NTSC 107 301 – Booklet in English, French and German. Subtitles in Italian
By 1877 Marius Petipa was at the pinnacle of his career, possessing the honorable title of Premier maître de ballet for the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres. Collaborating closely with Ludwig Minkus, they created a powerful tour-de-force in the field of fine arts, and their La Bayadère is no exception.
Natalia Makarova respectfully follows Petipa’s classical paradigms and closely focuses on the spiritual content of La Bayadère. In 1974 Prima ballerina Makarova was the first to choreograph and present to the American stage the apportioned Kingdom of the Shades. This Makarova revival of her 1992 full production is brilliantly captured by Tina Protasoni.
Setting and plot of La Bayadère (based on Goethe’s 1797 ballad Der Gott und die Bajadere) open possibilities for abstract content in comparison to other ballets of the time. Movements à la Grecque preponderate Acts I and III, and the more classical Vaganova approach dominates Act II featuring the mesmerizing “Appearance of the Shades” in aesthetic fashion. Furthermore, no detail is left unchecked within the opulence of costuming by Yolanda Sonnabend that is bracketed into Pierluigi Samaritani’s lavish sets. Visual qualities hark back to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s cinematic vibrancies.
Svetlana Zakharova’s Nikiya is nothing short of spectacular….she’s in top form physically and emotionally. Her diaphanous arches have amazing fluidity and her supple blossoming into an arabesque penchée is simply divine; Ms. Zakharova captives us with blistering fascination. Heightened sequences abound especially in Act II’s pas de deux alongside the physical prowess and graceful mightiness of Roberto Bolle in the role of Solor. Completing the story’s love triangle is Isabelle Brusson as Gamzatti who is a well nuanced Gamzatti with beautiful execution despite her roughened detail. The three perform a salient “Apotheosis” in the final scene. “Amazing” is the only word that can describe Antonino Sutera as he sweeps through his “Dance of the Bronze Idol” with statuesque majesty.
Supporting the principal dancers is a delicate display by the Corps de Ballet. Using a number of props for group numbers (i.e. veils, fans and candles) provide a framework to accentuate the geometric patterns set forth by Natalia Makarova. Olga Evreinoff’s La Bayadère is enhanced by La Scala’s colorful and dramatic orchestral interpretation.
The forward by Horst Koegler argues interesting parallels with prevailing exotica motifs of the late 19th century between opera and ballet. Text (in Italian only) is presented prior to the opening of each tableau but in an annoying illegible font. Those having no prior knowledge of the ballet nor Italian would be prudent to some research ahead of time. The trivial asides do not take anything away from the sheer splendor of this La Bayadère.