La Bayadére premiered at the NNTT in November 2000, and was the first of the ballets to be produced with revised choreography by Artistic Director Maki Asami. Its production had all the formal beauty of classic ballet, with spectacular, rapid stage transformations and lush stage art with deep oriental shades. These qualities gave the production an originality not seen in the original version, and made it a great success. David Bintley, who has seen ballets all over the globe, praised La Bayadére as having the highest degree of perfection of any in the world. This ballet was produced again in 2008, and the decision has been made to bring it back for a third run.
So much about this production is special. One highlight is the dance of the Shades in the dream scene, when the Shades slowly dance their way down a three-tier, 99mo slope. Then at the end of the story, the temple collapses in a thunderous roar, and Nikiya and Solor emerge from the ruins and ascend to the heavens in a scene of breathtaking beauty. The score for this closing scene was specially arranged for the NNTT by the late John Lanchbery, one of the great conductors and arrangers of the ballet world.
The characters of La Bayadére weave a fascinating drama not seen in more traditional ballets like Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty. The temple dancer Nikiya is neat of appearance and possessed of an inner strength; her lover is the warrior Solor, who serves the Rajah; the Rajah's daughter Gamzatti adores Solor, and is at odds with Nikiya; then there is the High Brahmin, also in love with Nikiya. Many in the audience come to this ballet in anticipation of the complex human drama that plays out among this cast of characters.
The National Ballet will long be indebted to my predecessor, Asami Maki, for the treasure house of classic ballet productions which is her legacy to us. Foremost among these, in my opinion, is her majestic version of 'La Bayadére'. I am delighted that Miss Maki will be returning to the Company to oversee this important revival of what is, I feel sure, the finest version of this old Russian classic in the world.
- David Bintley
A bayadère (temple dancer) to an Indian temple, Nikiya is an innocent and beautiful girl. She is in love with Solor, a young captain serving the Rajah (king). The High Brahmin (high priest), who is also in love with Nikiya, is seeking a chance to make her his own possession.
Meanwhile, the Rajah's daughter Gamzatti, who has loved Solor ever since she saw him for the first time, wishes to marry Solor to whom her father has decided to marry her.
Introduced to Gamzatti at the Rajah's palace, Solor is fascinated by her beauty as well and consents to marrying her because, given his position as the Rajah's soldier, he cannot disobey the order.
When Nikiya learns that Solor is to marry Gamzatti, Nikiya is bitten by a poisonous snake sent by Gamzatti and the Rajah and chooses to die and pushes away the High Brahmin, who offers a cure for the poison. Solor, who reproaches himself in repentance and despair, meets Nikiya again in a hallucination, but awakened from the dream, he goes to the temple in search of Nikiya, only to find that Gamzatti, the Rajah and the High Brahmin are waiting for him as the wedding ceremony starts···