BWW Reviews: American Ballet Theatre Performs La Bayadere
Set in the Royal India of the past, La Bayadere is a story of eternal love, mystery, fate, vengeance, and justice. On Tuesday, June 2nd, at the Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, I was transported to this far away place and time by a marvelous cast, with some of ABT's finest dancers, in a magnificent production, conceived, directed, and choreographed by Natalia Makarova, after Petipa. The rich and memorable music by Ludwig Minkus was specially arranged by John Lanchbery. The lavish scenery for both outdoor and indoor scenes by Pierluigi Samartani, the costumes, designed by Theoni V. Alldredge, and the effective lighting by Toshiro Ogawa, all contributing to the complete transportation to this other world.
The ballet opens outdoors, around a fire, where the High Brahmin, Fakirs, Priests, and the Bayaderes (Temple Dancers), celebrate the Indian Ritual of Fire. Magdaveya, head Fakir, was danced by Craig Salstein, whose dramatic portrayal was convincing. His over-the-top expressiveness worked very well in this role. Salstein has improved with maturity and now possesses an excellent, clean technique; I was taken in.
Nikiya, the most beautiful of the Bayaderes, played by guest artist Maria Kotchetkova of Moscow, is loved by Solar, brilliantly embodied by Herman Cornejo, as well as the High Brahmin, played by Roman Zhurbin, whose love she does not return. Nikiya loves Solar. This situation, further complicated by the Ragja's decision to reward Solar's valor by decreeing that this warrior shall marry his daughter Gamzatti, exquisitely portrayed by Misty Copeland, sets the suspenseful story in motion.
The first pas de deux of Kotchetkova and Cornejo was full of passion. Cornejo is majestic. His arms, spread like wings coming from his back and his heart--a rare achievement and well appreciated--touched everyone in this grand Opera House with his emotion and his impeccable technique. He led this story, keeping the audience riveted. Copeland, who beautifully danced the same role the last time it was presented in NYC by ABT, has improved her portrayal. Her erect posture and regal authority were even fiercer, yet lovely, while her arms and legs demonstrate more than mere technique. The pas de deux of Cornejo and Copeland was extraordinary. Had I been Solar, I might have chosen Gamzatti, but that's not how the story goes.
The second act takes place in Solar's tent. Under the influence of opium, he dreams of being reunited with Nikiya in the Kingdom of the Shades. Cornejo's solo in the previous scene, as well as this one, were powerful, sharing his technical feats and dramatic projection. The corps de ballet, dancing as Shades, was expressive. This is an exceptionally beautiful passage for a corps de ballet. Unison must be precise; and it was that and well danced.
Joseph Gorak, as the Bronze Idol, a bravura role, was clean and able. In the future, I would like to see him become a more broad-shouldered, larger-than-life idol. He shows promise. Then the joining of Gamzatti and Solar begins at the sacred temple. The spirit of Nikiya interrupts. Solar is distracted, but is joined with the Radja's daughter. The vengeance of the gods is then released and the temple and all the celebrants are destroyed. Nikiya and Solar are once again united in eternal love.
It was thrilling to be in the theater this night.
Photo credit: Gene Schiavone