Relatively early in the composition of Les Troyens Berlioz declared his intention to include a "pas d'alméées with the music and dancing exactly like the Bayadèères' ballet which I saw here sixteen or seventeen years ago." Despite Berlioz's claim that he had "gone into it" and "there is no anachronism," historical evidence would suggest that the presence of Indian dancing girls in Dido's Carthage is actually highly inauthentic and anachronistic. Indeed, Berlioz's immediate inspiration for the ballet in question was not ancient history but, rather, a group of Indian dancers and musicians who had visited Paris in 1838. An investigation of the context of the bayadèères' performances and the reception of the dancers and their music reveals that issues of authenticity and anachronism were a constant preoccupation for their French audiences, most of whom had previously encountered bayadèères only through the exoticizing lens of Western representations. Berlioz's own references to the bayadèères are examined in relation to contemporary reviews and the text of a highly self-reflexive play that was performed as a prologue and that shaped audiences' responses to the bayadèères' performances at the Thééââtre des Variéétéés in Paris. Although Berlioz is generally thought to have abandoned his intention to embody the 1838 bayadèères in Les Troyens, I argue that he actually retained aspects of his original Indian inspiration in the act IV ballet; moreover, an awareness of the impact of the bayadèères' performances on Berlioz and his contemporaries greatly informs our appreciation of the contribution of the act IV ballet to the wider imperial subtext of Les Troyens. If, rather than simply dismissing anachronism, we are willing to embrace it as a concept fundamental to Berlioz's opera, the act IV ballet——often cut in recent productions——can be newly appreciated as occupying a significant role in the historical dialectic of Les Troyens as a whole.
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