Monday, December 30, 2013

La Bayadère ending

Après la danse...
Natalia: Where did the last act go?
Svetlana: Yes. I expected the curtain to come down on the gods destroying the temple, trashing the wedding ceremony and all the guests fleeing, screaming.
Natalia: Instead of which, this distinctly Disney ending with the 32 dancers visiting Solor in his dream, and everyone is beaming and beatific as the bouquets are brought.
Svetlana: When in the original version, the gods' wrath completes the narrative. Final retribution. Tragic ending.
Natalia: You’re not happy?
Svetlana: Brilliant performance. But just for fun, why don’t we ask for a partial discount?
Natalia: Because it ends happily, before the tears? You'd pay more to be sad?
The narrative arc of the original La Bayadère is traditional. Simply put, Nikiya, the temple dancer, and warrior Solor are lovers. Nikiya almost kills Gamzatti, a princess who is betrothed to Solor. At the ceremony Nikiya dances with a basket of flowers into which a snake has been put by Gamzatti. The snake bites Nikiya, she is offered an antidote, but refuses it since she cannot marry Solor. Nikiya dies. Solor becomes depressed, smokes opium, has a vision of Nikiya while spirits of other dancers appear in the fantastic Kingdom of the Shades dance. (CUT!) Solor awakes, his wedding to Gamzatti is underway, the gods unleash their wrath over the murder of Nikiya, destroying the temple and everyone in it.

Perhaps most performances of La Bayadère finish with the Kingdom of the Shades dance. At (CUT!). It is a spectacular dance. And the wrath of gods to come is not pretty to behold. And some audiences like a happy ending. But nevertheless, ending at the Shades dance, something feels unresolved. The narrative feels incomplete, ending in a dream.

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