La Bayadere – Drigo – Gamzatti’s Variation


Gamzatti’s variation from La Bayadere

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La Bayadere is a classical ballet set in a rich and exotic Indian setting that portrays a narrative of love, betrayal, and forgiveness. Marius Petipa choreographed the ballet, which debuted in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1877. The narrative centres around Nikiya, a temple dancer (bayadère), and Solor, a great warrior’s love. Their love is endangered by the envious and devious High Brahmin, who wants Nikiya for himself, and Gamzatti, the Rajah’s daughter, who is engaged to Solor. As the plot progresses, duplicity and betrayal have deadly repercussions. The ballet’s stage designs and costumes transport the audience to a rich and mysterious India, replete with the iconic ‘Kingdom of the Shades’  in which a mesmerising corps de ballet of ghostly white-clad bayadères dance a series of arabesques.


The traditional variation that is danced by Gamzatti is not the original variation composed by Minkus, but a variation composed by Riccardo Drigo for Queen Nisia in the Pas de Vénus from Le Roi Candaule. However, this is not the variation that is included in the repetiteur score in the Sergeyev Collection as Gamzatti’s variation; what is included is what is today known as the famous Variation of Dulcinea in the Dream scene of Don Quixote. It has been commonly believed that this famous Dulcinea variation was composed by Drigo for Alexander Gorsky’s 1902 revival of Don Quixote, but that is not the case. This variation was actually composed by Drigo in 1888 for Elena Cornalba’s performance in The Vestal. It was later interpolated into La Bayadère as the Variation of Gamzatti in the Grand Pas d’action, possibly by Julia Sedova, who was dancing the role of Gamzatti by 1902 and whose name is on the repetiteur score. However, it is unknown if this is the same variation that was danced by Olga Preobrazhenskaya in 1900. It is also unclear how the famous traditional variation for Gamzatti ended up in La Bayadère, but there are two possibilities – it could have been interpolated into the ballet by Preobrazhenskaya for the 1900 revival and was then replaced by the variation performed by Sedova, or it is a Soviet addition. The famous traditional choreography for this variation that is commonly danced today is by Gusev.

Further information can be found here.


Drigo (1846-1930) was an Italian composer and conductor best known for his contributions to ballet music in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Drigo, who was born in Padua, began his career as a violinist before becoming a conductor at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. It was in this job that he rose to prominence for his ballet compositions. His collaborations with renowned choreographers like as Marius Petipa resulted in some of the era’s most enduring and popular ballets, including “Le Corsaire,” “La Bayadère,” and “Harlequinade.” Drigo’s music is distinguished by its melodic beauty and expressive characteristics, and his works were instrumental in shaping the Russian classical ballet repertory.

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