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Bayadères, Les (Étienne de Jouy)




From the CD-Book Les Bayadères de Catel (Palazzetto Bru Zane, collection Opéra français, 2014). Translation: Mary Pardoe.


The scene is set in India, in the holy city of Benares, on the Ganges.

Act I

Inside the harem.

The rajah of Benares, Démaly, is in a cruel situation: he is required by law to choose his first wife from among the women of his harem, but he is in love with Laméa, the leader of the Bayadères, temple dancers dedicated to the worship of Brahma who (like Roman vestals) are forbidden to marry. During the celebrations given in his honour, Benares is attacked, thus saving him from having to make his decision. Olkar, the Mahratta general, captures the city, throws Démaly into prison, and takes possession of the palace and the harem.

Act II

The stage represents the sacred wood surrounding the great pagoda of Benares; on the right, a triumphal arch, and beyond it the public square.

Olkar, victorious, now has his sights set on a fabulous treasure: the diadem of Vishnu, which he knows to be in the rajah’s possession; only Démaly knows where it is and he refuses to give that information. Olkar has the idea of using Laméa to make Démaly reveal its whereabouts. But unknown to him, she has a plan to free Benares and its ruler. She agrees to Olkar’s request and goes to Démaly in his prison cell, where she informs him of her intentions: she has gathered together supporters who, from Ellabad, are secretly marching towards Benares; she and the other Bayadères are  setting a trap for the Mahrattas; he must take heart. Returning to Olkar, she tells him that she knows where the diadem is, but will not give it to him straight away: in the course of a splendid celebration that is to be organised for both the victors and the vanquished, she will fetch it and lay it at his feet. The festivities take place in the public square. Indian leaders, on Laméa’s instructions, are present, disguised as musicians. The Bayadères use all their charms, with music, singing, dancing, perfumes, incense, intoxicating drinks, to weaken Olkar and the other Mahrattas and to disarm them. Laméa sends the Indian leaders to light beacons on top of the pagodas as a signal for the attack, led by Démaly, whom Laméa has freed.


Inside the rajah’s palace in Benares.

Laméa has restored Démaly to the throne, but although she loves him she will not agree to be his wife: that would mean violating her vows. The rajah resolves to overcome her reticence. Shortly, the intendant of the harem, Rustan, makes an announcement: Démaly, having received a poisoned arrow in the fighting, is dying. The Brahmin Hyderam declares that the rajah must take a wife immediately; otherwise he will be denied salvation. Following the custom, his wife will have to die with him on the funeral pyre, thereafter to be united with him forever. Only Laméa has sufficient love and courage to accept such a cruel fate. She gives up her jewellery and is crowned with flowers; the Brahmins present her with the diamond dagger and the insignia of royalty. When everything is ready, Démaly appears on the throne, alive. He invites her to join him as his wife, but again she evokes her religious vows. In the end the Brahmin Hyderam, recalling that the god Vishnu himself married a temple dancer, grants his consent to their marriage and the opera ends with celebrations for the wedding of Laméa and Démaly.

    Person - 1
  • JOUY, Étienne de (1764-1846)
  • Work - 1
  • Bayadères, Les (Jouy / Catel)