Based on: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's "Le Dieu et la Bayadère,"
La Bayadère Plot & Roles
*Classical ballets have evolved over time, lending themselves to different interpretations as choreographers and directors create works that reflect their visions of the story. The following is intended to provide general information; for details on different versions, click on each of the La Bayadère performances below.
PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS IN LA BAYADÈRE (in alphabetical order)
Gamzatti: Daughter to the Rajah, betrothed to Solor
The High Brahmin: The highest priest in the temple, in love with Nikiya
Nikiya: A temple dancer (la bayadère) in love with Solor
The Rajah: Father to Gamzatti
Solor: A warrior betrothed to Gamzatti, in love with Nikiya
LA BAYADÈRE SYNOPSIS
⊙ ACT I, SCENE 1: A SACRED FOREST OUTSIDE THE TEMPLE
During the celebration of the Indian Ritual of Fire, the beautiful Nikiya is chosen to be the lead temple dancer. It is here that the High Brahmin declares his love for her, but he is rejected; Nikiya is in love with Solor. The jealous priest witnesses – unbeknownst to anyone else – the couple declaring their love for each other over the Sacred Fire and he vows to kill the young warrior.
⊙ ACT I, SCENE 2: THE PALACE
The Rajah has decided that Solor shall marry his daughter, the Princess Gamzatti. Although the young woman is hesitant at first, she ultimately falls in love with a portrait of the warrior. Upon her unveiling in front of Solor when the two are first to meet, Solor is absolutely stricken by her beauty and in a momently lapse of judgement, he agrees to marry her.
In the hopes of destroying the warrior, the High Brahmin enters and reveals the secret love between Solor and Nikiya. But his plan backfires and it is Nikiya whom the Rajah decides to eliminate.
Having overheard this interaction, Gamzatti endeavors to bribe Nikiya into leaving Solor, but the bayadère’s love does not permit her to do so. The conversation ends up in a heated brawl. In a moment of uncontrolled passion, Nikiya grabs a dagger and tries to kill Gamzatti. Now father and daughter both want Nikiya dead and conspire on how best to achieve this.
⊙ ACT I, SCENE 3: THE PALACE GARDEN
Ironically, Nikiya is commanded to dance at the betrothal festivities of Solor and Gamzatti; she does so with sorrow. Upon finishing, she is presented with a basket of flowers which she believes has been given to her by her love. Little does she know that she has been deceived until a snake pounces from basket and bites her in the neck. Preferring to die rather than live without Solor, she refuses the poison’s antidote and succumbs to her fate.
⊙ ACT II: SOLOR'S TENT
The warrior bereaves his lost Nikiya as an overwhelming sensation of guilt shrouds him. He is haunted by visions of the bayadère as he drowns his sorrows by smoking opium. It is here in the Kingdom of the Shades that he is reunited with his love and can dance with her again.
He awakens to the unwelcome reality that his wedding to Gamzatti is still to take place.
⊙ ACT III: THE TEMPLE
It is Solor and Gamzatti’s wedding day. As they take their vows, the entire temple and its occupants are ruined by the violent and smoky vengeance of the gods. Solor and Nikiya are reunited in the afterlife.
★ INTERESTING FACT ★ “The Kingdom of the Shades” from the second act of LA BAYADÈRE is probably one of the most recognized scenes of not only the ballet itself, but of all classical repertoire. It is so much so that this thirty-two member corps de ballet composition, despite being extremely academic in choreographic nature, is often presented independently from the full-length work.