Vienna State Opera Ballet

Article excerpt


At thirty-one, Vladimir Malakhov, a Ukrainian with an Austrian passport, has joined the major league of Russian ballet producers in the West. At the Vienna State Opera, which already has Rudolf Nureyev's Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote, and Raymonda plus Yuri Grigorovich's Nutcracker in its repertory, Malakhov presented his first production ever--La Bayadere. Its German title, Die Bajadere refers to Goethe's poem "Der Gott und die Bajadere" as its original source of inspiration. With the exception of one notorious hater of classical ballet, the production was a roaring success with local critics and audiences.

Assisted by Valentina Savina, guest ballet mistress from Stuttgart Ballet, Malakhov produced the Petipa classic along lines established by Nureyev and Natalia Makarova, but with some differences. This production is danced exclusively to music by Ludwig Minkus with no supplements or alterations by other composers. (Minkus was Austrian by birth, dying in Vienna in 1917. It cannot be said that the orchestra, under Michael Halasz, did its compatriot proud.)

It is in four acts (like Munich's recent Patrice Bart version). Its final act starts with a sumptuous overture and Solor's incantation to the Golden God who emerges from his mandala to dance a technically dazzling variation. As performed by Cuban dancer Ariel Rodriguez-Fuentes, it raised temperatures in the house to sizzling point. Then the wedding ceremonies of Solor and Gamsatti (here called Hamsatti, as in the original 1877 version) begin. Solor, in a pas de deux with his bride, is convinced of her guilt when her white veil suddenly turns blood red. The Golden God causes an earthquake, shattering the walls of the temple and burying all those present. When the air clears, we see Solor and his true love, Nikia, happily reunited in their Nirvana apotheosis.

There are also some small changes in the sequence of dances, as in the second scene of Act Two which is introduced by a march, followed by a waltz; and a solo for Solor at the start of Act III. …