For the Boston Bayadère (which runs through Sunday at the Opera House), artistic director Mikko Nissinen commissioned Florence Clerc, a balletmistress at the Paris Opera Ballet, whose production refers back to a version that the Soviets used to do. In fact, its nearest predecessor, in both concept and design, is the one mounted in 2000 for Boston Ballet by Anna-Marie Holmes. Following Holmes, Clerc has arranged the scenario into three long acts, leaving no mime untapped. She deletes the original earthquake scene and redeems the elaborate dramaturgy with a climax of pure classical dancing, the Kingdom of the Shades.
The 24 women of the corps de ballet, their three leaders (Misa Kuranaga, Rie Ichikawa, and Dalay Parrondo), and the two principals, Cornejo and Diaz, established this iconic vision beautifully. So beautifully, in fact, that I almost forgot the pages of perfunctory Ludwig Minkus music that had come before, and the hours of dancing ensembles that all seemed alike despite the props they were carrying or the flames that sprouted from their headdresses.
Other than general admiration for the décor and costumes and the important scale of the ballet, most people remember La Bayadère for the Kingdom of the Shades scene. There could be a message in this about the contemporary audience's relation to classical ballet. It's not surprising that the Kingdom of the Shades is often performed as a separate work.
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