Two snakes for the price of one
Having seen two performances of La Bayadere in Berlin in September, although enjoying them, I was left wondering whether this Ratmansky reconstruction was as revelatory as his versions of Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake which I have also seen.
The extensive mime passages particularly in the first scene, while interesting, added very little more to the narrative that we already know.
As in the previous reconstructions there is more demi pointe work for the female corps de ballet.
And the Final scene of the destruction of the Temple was little different from the Markarova version for the RB, albeit better staged and with high tech projections. Also interpolated in this scene was music from Don Quixote which was used for the variations of Gamzatti.
The only reinstated scene I found in any way revealing was at the beginning of act 2 after the death of Nikya and before the shades scene.
Solor returns home deeply distressed and his servant sensing this, makes 2 attempts to distract him. Firstly he summons 2 women to dance for Solor. This is interrupted by a vision of Nikya seen only by Solor who attempts to reunite with her as she quickly disappears. He then angrily dismisses the dancers. The servant then brings in a snake charmer (yes, really) who proceeds to play his pipe and charm the snake out of the basket in an endearing piece of old fashioned stagecraft. Nikya appears again and Solor rushes towards her as she disappears again. In anger he dismisses the snake charmer. How could his poor servant know? Dancing women and a snake were probably the last things Solor needed to see at that point.
But the thing about that scene is that it sets up Solor's increasing distress before he goes for the opium which induces the dream/shades scene instead of rushing to the pipe as soon as he arrives. This also improves the pacing of the narrative at that point.
The sets and costumes by Jerome Kaplan were adequate and offered nothing new but there were some unfortunate colour combinations of bilious green and faded orange in some women's costumes. I assume that the framing of the set with borders was to create the effect of looking at an Indian miniature.
I had hoped to see 2 different casts but it was the same for both perfs. Salenko who was extremely good and invested in the drama, and Daniil Simkin also very good but weaker on the acting side of things. There was quite a bit of wobbling in the shades scene on the Friday night but the company generally performed very well and with great commitment. The story was clearly communicated throughout.
So I am left with the feeling that over the years and various different productions, La Bayadere has not suffered too badly from the various revisions and changes and that while interesting to see the reconstruction for me it has a certain antique charm but is not the revelation I had hoped for.