BWW Review: LA BAYADÈRE, Royal Opera House

BWW Review: LA BAYADÈRE, Royal Opera HouseBWW Review: LA BAYADÈRE, Royal Opera HouseBallet narratives have always used their artistic license rather liberally, and stories don't come much sillier than that of La Bayadère - or Swan Lake with ghosts as I prefer to think of it. Neither do casts come more starry than the powerhouse line-up of Marianela Nunez (Nikiya), Vadim Muntagirov (Solor) and Natalia Osipova (Gamzatti).

You can assess their interpretation of these varied roles however you please, but Natalia Makarova's 1989 version of this ballet is best enjoyed for the visual spectacle it is. It includes what is perhaps the most demanding and complex corps de ballet scenes in the classical repertoire, and the aesthetically dazzling celebration and wedding segments are what ballet dreams are made of.

It's Nunez who comes out on top of this ballerina face-off, as one might expect with Osipova debuting in her role as Gamzatti (intriguingly, the two will swap roles later in the run).

Nunez easily commands the stage with the subtlest of movements. Her simple entrance of slow deliberate steps with her face obscured by a white veil is demure, preemptive of the heartache that awaits her. On meeting and falling quickly for Solor the pair share a sweet chemistry rather than burning passion, but it's a happy connection, enhanced by Nunez's sumptuous use of her upper body and Muntagirov's surprising charisma.

Osipova, meanwhile, stalks about the stage as if filled with glee at the carnage she's about to unleash. Yolanda Sonnabend's costumes drip with spangles and jewels that clatter together with each entitled step. Largely her dancing is bright and crisp, paying Muntagirov's Solor just enough attention.

As the betrothed couple celebrate and Osipova schemes with a wicked smile, there is time for the corps to shine - with Beatriz Stix-Brunell the pick of the D'Jampee dancers, her pointe work strong and precise. Nunez's Nikiya later discovers her betrayal and dances a rich solo.

Act II arrives and, with Solor high on opium, wildly hallucinating, the audience is treated to one of the most iconic scenes in classical ballet. The individual entrance of each of the 24 shades is a precious sight. Ballet mistress Samantha Raine has drilled these dancers to perfection as they fill the stage one arabesque at a time; the angles they strike and the tilts of the body are matched to perfection.

Nikiya reappears as a vision and Nunez kicks up a gear, her jumps a little more wily, her pirouettes danced with intent, while Muntagirov remains ever the dependable partner between unleashing beautifully elevated grand jetés and an endless stream of pirouettes without breaking a sweat.

La Bayadère is a rare vehicle for two absorbing Principal ballerina roles. The story is farcical and perhaps a little dated, but it matters little with such beautifully staged, full cast scenes - as well as showcasing the fine corps de ballet of which the whole company can be proud.

La Bayadère runs at the Royal Opera House until 17 November

Image credit: Tristram Kenton

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From This Author Vikki Jane Vile

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