A classical masterpiece, La Sylphide (pronounced Lah-seel-feed) is a romantic story about the insatiable human desire to find true love. When a forest fairy uses her magical gifts to attract a young Scotsman on the eve of his nuptials, the story unravels in a forest of uncertainty about whether love or longing is worthy of self-sacrifice.
Choreography by August Bournonville
Music by Herman Severin Løvenskiold
Musical Accompaniment by The Austin Symphony
La Sylphide is one of the world's oldest surviving romantic ballets. The original choreographer of the ballet was Philippe Taglioni, but most are more familiar with the version choreographed by August Bournonville. His version of the ballet, performed first in 1836 in Copenhagen, became the foundation of the Romantic ballet tradition.
Reviews and Previews
1) "Try summing up the themes of August Bournonville's romantic 1836 ballet, "La Sylphide." You might get a list something like this: Dreams, illusions, ideals versus reality and worse — irrational, implacable evil. No wonder the ballet survives..." - L.A. Times
2) "Go [to La Sylphide] if you love Romantic ballets like Giselle but wish the male dancer had a bigger role. You're slightly OCD and sympathize with James's determination to possess the ethereal Sylph." - The Ballet Bag
3) "James is dealing with temptation for the unknown, for the dangerous. And that's compelling." [Roy Kaiser] The setting of La Sylphide is from another century, but the theme is timeless. "We still relate to stories like this on an emotional level," said Kaiser." - Playbill Arts
4) "...it's also wonderfully full of life. I think the Reel in Act I is probably the most fun character dance in all of ballet. It's fun to watch and it's fun to do." [Gribler] - Playbill Arts
5) "...For a Danish dancer, doing James is like an actor doing Hamlet," Lund continues. "You know the minute you step into that part you are going in line with some of the greatest dancers who did the same part. There's something special about that feeling." ... His name may not be that familiar to American audiences nowadays, but Bournonville was the Lord Byron of romantic-era ballet, and a master of telling stories in dance. Since he was a dancer as well as a choreographer, he created great bouncy, juicy roles for himself in his works, for which male dancers have been grateful ever since." - The Washington Post
The Estonian National Opera performs La Sylphide:
La Sylphide Interactive
A romantic era masterpiece, La Sylphide is a story about the insatiable human desire to find true love. When a forest fairy uses her magical gifts to to attract a young Scotsman on the eve of his wedding, the story unravels in a forest of uncertainty about whether love or longing is worthy of self-sacrifice. Launch interactive micro-site.
Scenery Design by Peter Cazelet
Costumes after the original design by Peter Cazelet
Lighting Design by Tony Tucci
Scenery & Costumes courtesy of Boston Ballet, Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen
Act I: The Great Hall of James’ House
Act II: The Forest
On the eve of his wedding day, a young Scotsman named James falls in love with a vision of a beautiful sylph, a forest fairy. The next day an old witch appears before him, predicting that he will betray his fiancée, Effie, and that she will marry a huntsman, Gurn. Although enchanted by the sylph, James is furious at the accusation and throws the witch out of the house.
The wedding begins and just as James is placing the ring on his fiancée’s finger, the magical sylph appears and snatches it away from him. Leaving his own wedding and heartbroken fiancée behind, James rushes after the sylph into the woods. He once again sees the old witch who offers James a magical scarf to bind the sylph's wings. She explains this will allow him to catch the sylph for himself so she cannot fly away. James is so enamored by the sylph and wishes to keep her forever, he takes the scarf.
James wraps the magical scarf around the sylph's shoulders and arms and embraces the sylph passionately. James watches in surprise as the sylph’s wings fall off. She shudders and dies in his arms. Left hopeless and heartbroken in the forest, James observes as the old witch’s prediction comes true, and Gurn and Effie are united in marriage. James collapses as the evil witch gloats over her revenge.
James Frank Shott (Feb 11 & 13)
Paul Michael Bloodgood (Feb 12)
Effie, James’ Betrothed Anne Marie Melendez
Gurn, a Huntsman Christopher Swaim
Madge, a Witch Michelle Martin
Effie’s Mother Marlys Norman
Fiona, a young wedding guest Renee Slaughter (Feb 11 & 13)
Georgia Brinkman (Feb 12)
Guests Jordan Moser, Rebecca Johnson, Oren Porterfield, Chelsea Marie Renner, Brittany Strickland, Beth Terwilleger, Kirby Wallis, Sarah Adeleye, Emily Cloyd, Emily McLaughlin, Elise Pekarek, Whitley Saffron, Daniella Zlatarev, Ian J. Bethany, Orlando Julius Canova, Edward Carr, Matthew Cotter, James Fuller, Preston Andrew Patterson, Michael Burfield, Calvin L. Thomas, Jr.
Additional Guests Eleanor Bacon, Samantha Blackburn, Adam Bloodgood, Ryan Piper
Children (Feb 11 & 13) Audrey Balliette, Iris Bilich, Mary Iliukevitch, Will Loewen, Whit Smith, Prahlaad Das
(Feb 12) Aria Presley, Chelsea Matthews, Georgia Ferguson, Evan Hadd, Arthur Dale, Ben Skaggs
Other Witches Ian J. Bethany, Orlando Julius Canova, James Fuller, Jordan Moser
Sylphs Beth Terwilleger, Rebecca Johnson, Oren Porterfield, Chelsea Marie Renner, Brittany Strickland, Kirby Wallis, Sarah Adeleye, Emily Cloyd, Alyssa Daly, Kelsey Davis, Sarah Hicks, Emily McLaughlin, Elise Pekarek, Whitley Saffron, Mandy Wenk, Daniella Zlatarev
"The Bournonville style of choreography is classical, yet distinctly understated. Jumps must be rapid and strong, while the arms must be soft and held low. As a dancer, I have a deep appreciation for the Bournonville style, with its quick footwork," said Pennsylvania Ballet Artistic Director, Roy Kaiser. "There's a purity to the simplicity of the port-de-bras (placement of the arms) and epaulement (positioning of the head) that make it very appealing."
Dancers of the Royal Danish Ballet are taught Bournonville's ballets from childhood. For American dancers, mastering the style can be a challenge. "It's something dancers really need to focus on and be schooled in," said Kaiser. "There is a lot of jumping, not just for James but for the sylph, too. She's trying to depict this ethereal quality, and that adds another dimension to the jumping. But American dancers in general, today, are used to taking on different styles."
Ballet Master Jeffery Gribler agrees that La Sylphide is an endurance test for its female lead. "Bournonville is hardest for the women," he said. "It's such controlled dancing, yet it needs to be soft and buoyant. Not that the male roles in this ballet aren't demanding as well!"
While most duets from the classical repertoire involve demanding lifts, Bournonville's does not. "The pas de deux in Act II is unusual, because of the fact that there are no lifts," remarked Gribler. "As a matter of fact, there is not a lift in the ballet, even for the 'plaid' people."