by Ludwig Minkus – ballet in two acts
Set in the Royal India of the past, La Bayadère is a story of eternal love, mystery, fate, vengeance and divine justice. The ballet relates the drama of a temple dancer (bayadère), Nikiya, who is loved by Solor, a noble warrior. She is also loved by the High Brahmin whom, jealous and reckless, arouses a series of events that lead to her death.
Before warrior Solor goes hunting in the sacred forest, the High Brahmin sends for Nikiya, the most beautiful dancer, to perform a ritual dance. Charmed by her beauty, the High Brahmin confesses his love, but she rejects him. After the ceremony Solor and Nikiya have a secret encounter where they swear eternal love to each other, without knowing that they are discovered and spied by the Brahmin.
Back in the palace, the Rajah wants to reward Solor and offer his daughter’s hand, Gamzatti, in marriage. The warrior tries to refuse this honor, but the Rajah ignores him and arranges the ceremony to take place within three days time. Gamzatti overhears how the jealous Brahmin reveals to the Rajah the secret love between Solor and the dancer. Gamzatti, whom meanwhile felt in love with her promised one, summons Nikiya to the palace and offers her gifts in exchange for Solor’s love. The dancer rejects the jewels offered to her as bribe and the confrontation between the two women gets tough. Called in by a slave, the Rajah enters exactly when Nikiyia threats Gamzatti with a dagger, just in time to save his daughter. The fate of the temple dancer is sealed.
On Gamzatti and Solor’s wedding a big procession takes place in front of the temple, and Nikiya is invited to perform. Her dance speaks about her love for Solor, so, when in the end she is offered a basket of flowers, Nikiya believes it’s from her loved man. But the basket hides a poisonous snake between the flowers and she gets bitten. The Brahmin quickly offers Nikiya an antidote, but when she sees Solor leaving with Gamzatti, she prefers to die.
In his room inside the palace Solor is smoking opium, unable to find his peace of mind. Through the smoke appear, descending from the walls, the shadows of Nikiya and the other temple dancers. After the dream vapors dissipate, Solor tries to catch them again by grabbing Nikiya’s scarf. In a second, the palace crumbles, burying him and taking him to the kingdom of shadows. Finally the two lovers are reunited.