Scene I - In the forest, in front of the doors of the temple
Prince Solor and his retinue return from a hunting party. Their warriors come loading the tiger chased by the courageous Prince. Once the warriors have departed. Solor sends for Nikiya, the bayadère of the temple. It is the time when young dancers leave the temple and dance around the sacred fire under the severe gaze of the Great Brahmin. He is captivated by Nikiya’s grace and beauty and confesses his love for her. She rejects him, reminding him that he is a priest. The fakirs responsible for keeping the sacred fire alive dance on the fireplace. Nikiya again goes out of the temple to meet Solor, who swears eternal fidelity over the sacred fire. The Great Brahmin has been spying and, spiteful, swears revenge invoking the wrath of the gods.
Scene II - In the Rajah’s palace
The rich Rajah Dugumanta announces that in reward for the value of Solor, he will give him in marriage his beautiful daughter Gamzatti. Solor is shocked by this decision, as he is united to Nikiya by their sacred oaths. Yet, he must submissively comply with it. As a prince, he knows that he will not be able to refuse the Rajah’s orders and as a man, it is difficult to be indifferent to Gamzatti’s charms. The party begins with the arrival of the Great Brahmin who, jealous and spiteful, reveals the Rajah the ties between Solor and the bayadère. Gamzatti has eavesdropped on the entire conversation. When she meets with Nikiya, she is struck by her beauty and tries to persuade her - in exchange for jewelry and rich presents - to break her love oath and abandon Solor. The bayadère, in her despair, tries to hurt Gamzatti with a dagger and then flees, regretting what she has almost done. Gamzatti vows revenge.
Scene III - In the gardens of the Rajah’s palace
Great parties are announced to celebrate Gamzatti’s and Solor’s betrothal. Nikiya, due to her obligation as sacred dancer, must reluctantly dance in the celebration. When dancing, she is given a basket full of flowers and fruits, allegedly by Solor, with which she begins a joyous dance.
A deadly snake is hidden beneath the flowers, which Gamzatti and her father have perfidiously ordered to be placed there. When Nikiya is about to smell the perfume of the flowers, the deadly snake bites her on the neck. The Great Brahmin, also in love with Nikiya, offers her an antidote to be saved, but when she sees that Gamzatti and Solor are together, she rejects it and chooses death, not without first remembering that Solor had sworn eternal love over the sacred flame.
Scene I - In Solor’s room
Prince Solor is devastated by pain. Desperate for Nikiya’s death, he gives in to fakir Magdaveya’ offer to smoke opium to calm his deep sorrow and anguish. He enters into a sort of daydream.
Scene II - The Kingdom of the Shades
In his dream-like euphoria, Solor has a vision of Nikiya’s spirit coming down once and again from the Himalayas in a winding procession, endlessly repeated, which creates a poetic, phantasmagorical, ethereal image of eternity. He finds Kikiya in the Kingdom of the Shades, pleads forgiveness, and tells her that he will never forget her. The lovers reconcile, and little by little, shadows fade.
Scene III - In Solor’s room
Solor awakens from his daydream. It is the day of his wedding. His friend and the warriors come to accompany him. The servants enter with the ceremonial clothes. Gamzatti enters with her father and Solor, still overwhelmed, moves backs when in the presence of both.
Final Scene - In front of the temple
The priests prepare Gamzatti’s and Solor’s wedding. The Bronze Idol and the candle women dance the ritual dances. Solor is overwhelmed by the vision of Nikiya that haunts him and he is the only one who sees her. When in the ceremony, a basket of flowers is offered to Gamzatti, she rejects it violently, and Solor realizes that it was her who sent the basket with the snake that killed his beloved Nikiya. At the time of making the vows, the rage of the gods for betraying his oath destroy the temple, causing its complete collapse, and they are all buried under the ruins. Finally, Solor’s and Nikiya’s spirits are once again free and reunite forever in eternity.