|| Boston Herald
|| November 6, 2010
|| Keith Powers
With a splash of costumed finery and a bravura display of ensemble dancing, the Boston Ballet opened its subscription season Thursday evening with a thoroughly engaging new production of the classic “La Bayadere” at the Opera House.
Marius Petipa’s exotic tale of love and despair, robustly reimagined by choreographer Florence Clerc, was an eveninglong demonstration of the artistic depth and quality of artistic director Mikko Nissinen’s troupe. From the first act’s dramatic Ritual of Fire dance through the fabled Kingdom of Shades entrance in Act 3, the costumes, set and troupe held the audience in raptattention.
The melodramatic plot of “La Bayadere” runs from Shakespeare to Bollywood with barely a glance over the shoulder. In short, a bayadere (temple dancer) falls in love with the court favorite, who in turn becomes engaged to the rajah’s daughter. Love, jealously and murder ensue. Our loving couple doesn’t unite until after death.
Sound like three hours of entertainment? It was that, and left you wanting more. There may be a skewed pantomime-to-dance ratio in Act I, but the sumptuous wedding scene of the second act - a flimsy excuse to display dances in multiple styles and configurations - and the otherworldly ensemble pieces in the final act, brilliantly staged by Clerc, proved that high-minded dance can also be populist.
Costumes rarely draw notice onstage unless they veer toward the outlandish; Sergiy Spevyakin’s set and costume design stood out for its elegance and tasteful portrayal of the imaginary Indian locale. Each stage setting and its dancers was alluring, exotic and never caricatured. The lighting, designed by Rui de Matos Machado, lent itself as well to the pervasive aura of stylish decorum.
In a production that shined the spotlight on the corps, the soloists danced up a monsoon as well. Lia Cirio (the ill-fated Nikiya), Lasha Khozashvili (as her inamorata Solor) and Kathleen Breen Combes (Nikiya’s rival Gamzatti), performed with distinction. Altan Dugaraa as the lead fakir and Joseph Gatti as the visually unforgettable Golden Idol also dominated when they wereonstage.
The music for “La Bayadere” is largely forgettable, but the ensemble phrased expertly throughout, and several soloists stood out - especially concertmaster Michael Rosenbloom, whose mournful violin solo, repeated at several key intervals, served as a poignant motive for the tragic lovers.