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Sarah Beth Briggs
Leo DELIBES (1836-1891)
Sylvia - ballet in three acts with choreography by
Frederick Ashton (1876)
Sylvia … Darcey
Aminta … Roberto Bolle
Orion … Thiago Soares
Eros … Martin Harvey
Diana … Mara Galeazzi
The Royal Ballet
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House/Graham Bond
rec. The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, 1, 5 December
first produced at the Palais Garnier, Paris on 14 June 1876,
four years after Delibes other big success, Coppélia.
Of Delibes’s Sylvia music, Tchaikovsky, who saw the
ballet in Vienna in 1877, enthused, “It is the first ballet
in which the music constitutes not just the main but the only
interest. What charm and elegance, what riches in the melody,
the rhythm, the harmony. I was ashamed. If I had known this
music before, I would not have written Swan Lake.”.
Praise indeed, but Tchaikovsky is being very hard on the other
elements of this charming ballet based on classical mythology.
choreographed the production, featured on this DVD, first performed
at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden on 3 September 1952.
Ashton was not completely satisfied with it, however, and it
was put aside. The production languished for forty years or
so; and by now Ashton had died. The realization and staging
of this 2005 production is the work of Christopher Newton who
had danced under the direction of Ashton and was aware of the
sort of refinements the great choreographer had in mind. Newton
is interviewed about all this in the interviews before Act
III of the ballet.
The sets and lighting
are sumptuous and atmospheric, the costumes gorgeous and colourful.
Delibes’ music is full of melody, one memorable tune succeeding
another right through the ballet. Darcey Bussell enchants as
the warrior nymph, Sylvia; arrogant in her taunting of the
statue of the god Eros who repays her by shooting her with
an arrow of love so that she falls for the enamored, shepherd,
Aminta (Roberto Bolle). She is gracefully athletic especially
in her dances with her two male leads: Bolle and Thiago Soares
as the evil Orion who lusts after Sylvia and kidnaps the nymph,
carrying her off to his island lair. Here, in Act II Darcey
has to dance seductively to divert the attentions of Orion,
to make him drunk so that she might escape - an escape made
possible by a disguised Eros. Arguably Bussell does not have
the figure for seductive dancing, she is also too graceful
and stately, so the dance is sinuous rather than seductive.
The two male leads are strong and acrobatic, displaying tremendous
leaps. The corps de ballet impress throughout with beautiful
ensemble dancing and the speciality dancers – the orientals
in Act II and the goats in Act III - are quite charming.
The DVD includes
interviews with Christopher Newton and Peter Farmer who added
his special design talents to the original sets of Robin and
Christopher Ironside. Before each act Darcy Bussell comments
on the ballet and we see her and others in rehearsal and behind
the scenes and between acts during the performance. Illustrated
synopses of the action in each of the ballet’s three acts are
David Nice’s erudite
note details Delibes music as applied to the dances and shows
how the composer was influenced by Berlioz and Wagner. Elgar,
as a young man, Nice reminds us, played the violin in a Birmingham
performance of the Sylvia Suite and later conducted
it himself. Moreover, Nice claims, Delibes’s broad ‘Bacchus’ theme,
influenced Elgar’s First Pomp and Circumstance March.
A beautiful production
of this charming ballet with a wonderfully melodic score by
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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