The two ballets brought by the Kharkiv National Opera and Ballet Theatre occupy a decisive position in the history of ballet, even regarded as two of the first three ballets in many people’s hearts.
Tchaikovsky’s four-act ballet Swan Lake
is recognized as the most famed ballet, which premiered in 1877. As Tchaikovsky’s best-known masterpiece, Swan Lake
is the first ballet to be performed with two people dancing together. Today, Swan Lake
remains a model for dancers and a paragon of realist ballets.
La Bayadère is a classic work created when classical ballet was at its heyday, a period earlier than the composition of Swan Lake and it was based on this work that many classics were produced. The music in La Bayadère sets a precedent for ballets based on its symphonic structure, which is also considered the hardest-to-perform ballet in the circle, that reflects a ballet ensemble’s comprehensive strength. Well-designed are both the solo and group dances, of which the “Specter Kingdom” is a rare pas.
Prince Siegfried is celebrating his birthday with his tutor, friends and peasants. The revelries are interrupted by Siegfried's mother, the Queen, who is concerned about her son's carefree lifestyle. She tells him that he must choose a bride at the royal ball the following evening. Siegfried is upset that he cannot marry for love. His friend Benno and the tutor try to lift his troubled mood. As evening falls, Benno sees a flock of swans flying overhead and suggests they go on a hunt. Siegfried and his friends take their crossbows and set off in pursuit of the swans.
Siegfried arrives at the lakeside clearing, just as a flock of swans land. He aims his crossbow, but freezes when one of them transforms into a beautiful maiden, Odette. At first, she is terrified of Siegfried. When he promises not to harm her, she explains she and her companions are victims of a spell cast by the evil owl-like sorcerer Rothbart. By day they are turned into swans and only at night, by the side of the enchanted lake – created from the tears of Odette's mother – do they return to human form. The spell can only be broken if one who has never loved before swears to love Odette forever. Rothbart suddenly appears. Siegfried threatens to kill him but Odette intercedes – if Rothbart dies before the spell is broken, it can never be undone.
As Rothbart disappears, the swan maidens fill the clearing. Siegfried breaks his crossbow, and sets about winning Odette's trust as the two fall in love. But as dawn arrives, the evil spell draws Odette and her companions back to the lake and they are turned into swans again.
Guests arrive at the palace for a costume ball. Six princesses are presented to the prince, as candidates for marriage. Rothbart arrives in disguise with his daughter, Odile, who is transformed to look like Odette. Though the princesses try to attract the prince with their dances, Siegfried has eyes only for Odile. Odette appears and vainly tries to warn Siegfried, but Siegfried does not see her and proclaims to the court that he will marry Odile. Rothbart shows Siegfried a magical vision of Odette and he realises his mistake. Grief-stricken, Siegfried hurries back to the lake.
Odette is distraught. The swan-maidens try to comfort her. Siegfried returns to the lake and makes a passionate apology. Siegfried fights Rothbart and tears off his wing, killing him. Odette is restored to human form and she and Siegfried are happily united.
La Bayadère tells the story of the bayadère Nikiya and the warrior Solor, who have sworn eternal fidelity to one another. The High Brahmin, however, is also in love with Nikiya and learns of her relationship with Solor. Moreover, the Rajah Dugmanta of Golconda has selected Solor to wed his daughter Gamzatti, and Nikiya, unaware of this arrangement, agrees to dance at the couple's betrothal celebrations.
In his effort to have Solor killed and have Nikiya for himself, the jealous High Brahmin informs the Rajah that the warrior has already vowed eternal love to Nikiya over a sacred fire. But the High Brahmin’s plan backfires when, rather than becoming angry with Solor, the Rajah decides that it is Nikiya who must die. Gamzatti, who has eavesdropped on this exchange, summons Nikiya to the palace in an attempt to bribe the bayadère into giving up her beloved. As their rivalry intensifies, Nikiya picks up a dagger in a fit of rage and attempts to kill Gamzatti, only to be stopped in the nick of time by Gamzatti’s aya. Nikiya flees in horror at what she has almost done. As did her father, Gamzatti vows that the bayadère must die.
At the betrothal celebrations, Nikiya performs a somber dance while playing her veena. She is then given a basket of flowers which she believes are from Solor, and begins a frenzied and joyous dance. Little does she know that the basket is from Gamzatti, who has concealed beneath the flowers a venomous snake. The bayadère then holds the basket too close and the serpent bites her on the neck. The High Brahmin offers Nikiya an antidote to the poison, but she chooses death rather than life without her beloved Solor. The depressed Solor smokes. In his dream-like euphoria he has a vision of Nikiya’s shade (or spirit) in a nirvana among the star-lit mountain peaks of the Himalayas called "The Kingdom of the Shades".