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|(The following review was written on May 31, 2004 when I studied in New York.)
I went to the ballet La Bayadere (The Indian Temple Dancer) on May 19, which was excellent. The music was fantastic and the story was interesting. The temple dancer, Nikiya, unlike Aida or Raymonda, was a true heroine with strong mind. She refused the hand of the high priest because she fell in love with the valiant warrior Solor. When the princess, who also loved Solor and was just betrothed to him, learned about the affair between Nikiya and Solor, she summoned Nikiya and tried to bribe her to leave Solor. Nikiya accepted none of this and attempted to stagger Princess Gamzatti. This was extraordinary courage unlike the intimidated Aida, who did nothing but to beg for the mercy of the relentless princess, although Aida had been a princess herself.
In the celebration for the betrothal of Solor and Gamzatti, Nikiya was summoned to dance for the party. The first dance was so melancholy and unsuitable for such a hilarious occasion, but Nikiya was true to her feelings. The sad adagio became a more vigorous andante when Nikiya received a bundle of flowers which she believed to be a gift from her lover, Solor. Unfortunately, Nikiya was bitten by a poisonous snake hidden in the flowers, a trick arranged by the Radjah and Princess. When she saw that Solor left with Gamzatti showing no concern for her, she was courageous or heart-broken enough to refuse the antidote offered by the High Priest Brahmin who still loved her. This plot reminds me of the death of Adriana, the heroine in the great opera “Adriana Lecouvreur” by Cilea. Both heroines faced death after they received the flowers prepared by their rivals, believing that they were gifts from their lover. The only insignificant difference is that in La Bayadere, Nikiya’s death was caused by a poisonous snake while the death of Adriana was caused by poison in the flowers.
In the second Act, Solor in his dream met Nikiya again in the Kingdom of the Shades. In the last Act, when Solor was about to wed Gamzatti, he saw the illusion of Nikiya and showed remorse. Then the vengeance of the furious gods/spirits was unleashed and the temple and all the celebrants were destroyed while Solor and Nikiya was united in eternal love. This ending sounds like Swan Lake, right? It is interesting to note that Swan Lake has been so influential on romantic ballet since I also saw a striking resemblance between Swan Lake and Raymonda, a ballet that I went to see on May 22. Or alternatively, we may say that the pattern in Swan Lake was kind of perfect stereotype for romantic ballet and therefore we see its pattern almost everywhere.
It is interesting that the pamphlet of ABT (American Ballet Theater) said that this is a story of eternal love, fate, vengeance and justice. At first sight, this seems to be a good and concise description of this story. However, after a second look, both the allegations of eternal love and justice become dubious. The love between Nikiya and Solor does not appear very firm. Nikiya did love Solor very much but apparently her love was not adequately rewarded by Solor.
When Solor accepted the hand of Princess Gamzatti, he was not only mentally coerced by the power of the Radjah, but he was also attracted by the beauty of Gamzatti. As for the justice in the last scene, it is also problematic. Even if the Radjah, Princess and High Brahmin were guilty either in the separation of the two lovers or in their murder of Nikiya, what were the reasons for the death of the other celebrants? Moreover, could the murder of Nikiya, disgusting as it was, not be said to be the just vengeance of the murder attempt of Nikiya toward the princess in Act One? Therefore, as a ballet, this is a compelling production. However, as a matter of moral lesson, there is much left to be explored.
I also went to The Phantom of the Opera on May 24 (last Monday) with an old friend from Chicago. It was a nice performance. However, I guess I was more satisfied with the performance I attended in Singapore more than 9 years ago. I am also not happy with the negative portrayal of traditional opera in this musical or this particular production. All the players/singers of the traditional operas in this musical were not competent singers and their voice was so coarse and unpolished. The singers, particularly the leading roles are so fat. If this (the negative portrayal of traditional opera) was the intention of the production/musical, then this must be regarded as a successful performance. However, as an opera fan, I am not so happy with this arrangement. Moreover, the falling chandelier was not as beautiful as the one in the Singaporean production, if my memory did not fail me.
Posted at 11:54 pm, May 19, 2016, Taipei time ( of my Asus Computer).
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