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Mark Morris Sylvia

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Anyone heard anything about this? It will be performed when I'm in town at the end of April.

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"New interpretation"? Does anybody but me see the possibility of Sylvia's companions being danced by men in bunny slippers, housecoats and chenille snoods?

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The buzz is, he loves the music and he's doing it "straight" --

It's been finished for a while, and though the press has not been allowed to see any of it, it's been shown to groups of family and friends. Reports are that it's going to be beautiful.

It's also said to be selling fast, and some shows are nearly sold out already. If you think you might be in town and want to see it, maybe it would be a good idea to start thinking about getting tickets.....

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I hope that we'll get reports on this--

I think it will be very interesting--(I am a Morris fan)

However, if one is thinking of curious woodland costumes, one cannot but recall the charming ensemble (a la Rocky of R & Bullwinkle fame) which was worn by Actaeon in the Lubovich Artemis for ABT last year.....the cunning little hood from which sprang forth perky little antlers......and the toilet-paper bedecked trousers of the stalwart huntsmen.....

I love Delibes and his orchestrations are so wonderful that one can always listen to the music if the costumes go awry......

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I got my (single) ticket a while back, so I'm set, and I will give a report. Another ?- I could see the Smuin ballet on Fri nite. Sounds like it is a retrospective of "the best of...". Worth the price of admission?

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I'm going, too, and am excited. I'll report.

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I wish I were going too.

An interesting sidelight -- a couple of years ago the Dance Critics Association screened the film of the Paris Opera Ballet reconstruction of Sylvia, and Morris was in the audience. He had already agreed to choreograph the work at that time, and I believe was interested in seeing the earlier version.

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There is more info on the SFB website about Morris' Sylvia: Program Notes and Sylvia Comes to America.

Some quotes from the former:

Enthusing about the magnificence of Léo Delibes’ music, Morris explains that the stage directions from the original production have been written right into the manuscript score, and that he is choosing to follow them—“more or less.”
While he is preserving its essences, Morris says he has simplified some of the storyline, and for his SF Ballet staging has eliminated what he considers extraneous. “I want it to be clear and beautiful—not simple, but clear."

Also from the notes four dancers have been cast as Sylvia: Yuan Yuan Tan, Vanessa Zahorian, Megan Low, and Elizabeth Miner. Casting isn't up yet for this program, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Low.

A quote from the latter:

Choreographer Mark Morris has elected to follow the original scenario which was handed to Delibes while he was composing the score. “This music was written to order, as yardage,” Morris explains, “you know, ‘give me 16 bars to get the girls off,’ that’s there in the score.”

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If anyone is going Sat night, I will be there, and I would be interested in meeting during intermission for animated discussions! I am there for a meeting, and taking full advantage of it (Fri nite- Smuin).

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If anyone is going Sat night, I will be there, and I would be interested in meeting during intermission for animated discussions! I am there for a meeting, and taking full advantage of it (Fri nite- Smuin).

The first week of casting is posted to the SFB website.

This Saturday night the principal roles are:

Sylvia

Conductor: Andrew Mogrelia

Sylvia: Vanessa Zahorian*

Aminta: Joan Boada*

Orion : Peter Brandenhoff*

Diana: Lorena Feijoo*

Eros/Sorcerer: TBD

*=first time in role

I hope you have a wonderful time and post about it!

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There's a really great article from the San Francisco Chronicle in the links section for today (Monday, April 26 - its the first story in the list), interviewing Morris and giving some background on "Sylvia." Read it if you get the chance - that photo of Morris included with the story is so very Morris, and the writer captured his exuberance perfectly (based on having seen him give one or two post-performance talks).

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My review, now that I'm back in Philly. Well- a disappointment, frankly. The dancers were excellent- particularly enjoyed Pablo Piantino as Eros, Vanessa Zahorian gave it youthful dignity, Juan Boada was fine. However, it was just not that exciting. The second act slaves were quite funny, but the whole ballet did not have a sparkle for me. I'm curious to see what the SF Chronicle (or whatever the daily paper is) has to say, so link appreciated.

On the other hand- I went to the Smuin Ballet's 10th yr retrospective Friday (opening) night. I enjoyed it tremendously. Yes, there were some things over the top etc, but the youthful exuberance, athleticism, energy and creativity made for a very enjoyable evening.

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I was at opening night of Sylvia and thought it was great. Maybe it was because I was expecting more typical Mark Morris (the sense of humor and wry wit) and got a straightforward, almost classical ballet instead. What I liked the most was the general absence of mime - Morris let the dancers dance. Yuan Yuan Tan was Sylvia on Friday and she danced with more animation than I've seen before. She's always so stoic on stage (Chi Lin is perfect for her), but she actually smiled and looked like she was having fun. Gonzalo Garcia was all youthful exuberance as the shepard Amnita. His dancing flowed and although quite bravura in places (3rd act especially) seemed natural and easy. Jamie Garcia (Eros), Yuri Possokhov (Orion) and Muriel Maffre (Diana) all performed expertly. I was especially surprised at Garcia, givne that he's a corps members in a critical role and had no difficulty at all holding his own. Not corps for long, I'd guess.

The sets and costumes were also great. I don't think it is possible to have three more different sets on stage in one evening: Pastoral to Subterranian to Olympic, but it worked.

The music was well-played but got raggedy here and there. A few funny entrances in the pit led to a few funny steps on the stage, but all in all the orchestra performed well. I liked that SF ballet sprung for the full orchestaration (extra Trombone, sax, etc.). It was well worth it.

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I just put up Ann Murphy's review on this week's DanceView Times:

A Brilliant Revisionist Sylvia

Morris makes us hopeful for the future of classical dance. It is hope based on depth, not the glibness he has relied on at times in the past, and is evident in the lovely mirroring of scenes and movement (I especially loved how he let Aminta/Eros be echoed by Sylvia/Orion—he made us see that Orion’s more bestial desire is linked to loftier love). He used an array of quotes from the ballet and modern dance canon without becoming coy or self-conscious, providing a humble nod to his own sources and giving ballet lovers a deep echo of the masters, from Coralli and Perrot, to Jooss, Nijinska and Balanchine.

There are also links to seveal San Francisco Reviews in today's Links:

The San Francisco Ballet gave the premiere of Mark Morris's Sylvia on Friday. Reviews:

Mark Morris' new-old full-length work for the San Francisco Ballet, "Sylvia," is no fairy tale. Despite gorgeous sets and costumes and a story as nymph-laden as any 19th century ballet, Morris has gone to the core of the musical score from 1876 to discover something simpler, as pure and affecting as a kiss.

"Sylvia" is about young love. That the score by Leo Delibes is as memorable as a paperback romance doesn't negate Morris' contribution. Showing almost more genius as a director than a choreographer here, Morris refocuses the technically powerful San Francisco company to look like a troupe of actors. He cuts away the artifice of a complicated story and the tradition of star- studded, show-off dancing, and concentrates on the emotional reality of the characters. And best of all, he has fun doing it. "Sylvia" is no dance tour de force; it's a rarer thing, a theater work that employs all the trappings to an end that is romantic in the most idealistic, non-cynical way. It's old- fashioned in all the best ways.

Throughout, Morris takes advantage of the company's versatility and experience with a wide range of repertoire, slipping in bits that call to mind famous ballets, from classical warhorses to Balanchine. He constructs the entrance of the nymphs of Diana as an aggressively athletic version of the ghosts coming down the ramp in "La Bayadere." And the troupe of slaves in Orion's cave shambles about, attempting to extend their non-existent beer-bellies like the goons from "The Prodigal Son."

The last act, which takes place in a sparkling white city by the sea, is the ballet's most radiant and has its finest dancing. After groups of Greek city dwellers perform celebratory duets to welcome Sylvia, she dances for Aminta in disguise behind a pale-pink veil. It's an exquisite, teasing seduction, and the two are united with Eros' full blessing.

Though its story line is slight, ``Sylvia'' is charming. With a light touch, it evokes a golden age of strong women and benevolent gods that seems far more graceful than our own.

Morris' choreography was at once supremely ordered, academically inventive and, above all, inspired to convey distinct characters and mirror the music. Morris built the tension judiciously. He waited until the third act to unleash virtuoso solos. It was not a ballet of pyrotechnics, which will disappoint some. The lovers finished their grand pas de deux with feet earthbound and lips pressed in a big, flat-faced smooch.

The beauty of Morris' dances, then, was in the musically inspired details — and in his characterizations. Aminta and Sylvia's dancing roles complemented one another. He was the fallible human with loose arms, rippling torso and legs raised but bent. She, the athletic huntress, danced with arrow-imitating straight leaps, steely arms and jabbing feet.

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I guess that I will brave enough to post. I saw Sylvia on Friday night. I didn't love it, hardly even liked it. I really did not appreciate Yuan Yuan Tan in the lead role. She is never very animated and despite what the Chronicle said , I didn't think that she was animated here either. The best part was the sets, especially act 1 and 3. My favorite part of the night was Muriel Maffree as Diana. She is such a gorgeous dancer. The part was not big, but she made it shine.

There didn't seem to be much dancing in the production. The first act repeated the same corps numbers a couple of times. There were some interesting costumes. I really don't know much of Morris's work, but this wouldn't make me want to see more. Some audience members seemed to be enjoying it but I heard more comments about sets than the dancing as I walked through the audience.

I will be seeing it one more time. I hope to see a different cast to see if I enjoy it more. I did think that Gonzalo Garcia (he is a principal dancer, by the way) did very well. Jaime Castilla was very funny in his very unique costume. I'm still trying to figure out the reason for the swing. That intriques me.

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Thanks for all of these! It's great to have a spread of opinions.

Robert Greskovic reviewed the production in today's Wall Street Journal (available only to online subscribers, unfortunately) but here's a quote:

>But Mr. Morris, a wizard with barefoot dancing, takes the San Francisco company's fine and distinct schooling to heart and meshes it rewardingly with a trenchant and imaginative view of 19th-century ballet theater. Before, for example, we see Sylvia and her sisterhood of bow-brandishing huntresses soar and romp through combinations of bolting jumps and arrow-sharp leaps, we see them call to one another with plainly blunt gestures that reveal a "Come on, girl!" familiarity. When we get to Sylvia's captivity in Orion's cave, Mr. Morris caps the scene's Bacchanalia -- which features eight bare-chested young men looking like so many bonehead frat guys -- with an athletic ballerina display made of daring leaps, throws and catches, all reminiscent of Soviet Bolshoi Ballet theatrics. The choreographer's inclusion of a gossamer veil, a prop that keeps the impassioned Aminta breathlessly away from his adored Sylvia in the ballet's concluding duet, is as sensual as it is playful.

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Casting is now up on the San Francisco Ballet website for the rest of the run.

5 May, Evening - 7:30 pm

Conductor: Andrew Mogrelia

Sylvia: Liz Miner

Aminta: Pascal Molat

Orion: Pierre-Francois Vilanoba

Diana: Lorena Feijoo

Eros/Sorcerer: Garrett Anderson

6 May, Evening - 8:00 pm

Conductor: Gary Sheldon

Sylvia: Yuan Yuan Tan

Aminta: Gonzalo Garcia

Orion: Yuri Possokhov

Diana: Muriel Maffre

Eros: Jaime Garcia Castilla

7 May, Evening - 8:00 pm

Conductor: Gary Sheldon

Sylvia: Megan Low

Aminta: Guennadi Nedviguine

Orion: Pierre-Francois Vilanoba

Diana: Muriel Maffre

Eros: James Sofranko

8 May, Matinee - 2:00 pm

Conductor: Gary Sheldon

Sylvia: Vanessa Zahorian

Aminta: Joan Boada

Orion: Peter Brandenhoff

Diana: Lorena Feijoo

Eros: Pablo Piantino

8 May, Evening - 8:00 pm

Conductor: Andrew Mogrelia

Sylvia: Liz Miner

Aminta: Pascal Molat

Orion: Pierre-Francois Vilanoba

Diana: Lorena Feijoo

Eros: Garrett Anderson

9 May, Matinee - 2:00 pm

Conductor: Andrew Mogrelia

Sylvia: Megan Low

Aminta : Guennadi Nedviguine

Orion: Pierre-Francois Vilanoba

Diana: Muriel Maffre

Eros: James Sofranko

Knowing that things change, I'm doing a low-key happy dance right now to see Miner and Feijoo on Saturday (eve) and Low and Maffree on Sunday. Nedviguine didn't dance any of the Balanchine program ballets that I saw, and I'm looking forward to seeing him for the first time. My only disappointment is missing Possokhov's Orion.

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My first post on this forum, which I have just discovered. I'm very happy to be here!

I saw Sylvia last night with Liz Miner in the title role, Pascal Molat as Aminta, Lorena Feijoo as Diana and Garret Anderson as Eros.

The dancing was great ... what there was of it. My problem with the ballet is that there is so little real dancing. In the first act the cheoreography is incoherent, the second act has no dancing at all really.

The third act, however, finally gets going with a lovely pas de deux.

Elizabeth Miner, a corps member, was terrific in the title role. She absolutely sparkled and her technique was flawless. Pascal Molat danced well, but was perhaps to trifle too serious in his approach to a very playful ballet.

Overall, my take is that this production is a lightweight, easily forgettable piece of fluff, that, well, fails to grip.

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Hi, catbrown. Welcome to Ballet Alert! I hope you'll post about what you're seeing and join in our discussions.

Your objections may explain the difference between the "I loved it!" "I thought it a bore" divide on this ballet. I haven't seen it, so I don't know, but I'm guessing that it may be a matter of what people consider "real dancing." From what I've read, there's a lot of character dancing (which would suit the music, and be faithful to the spirit of the ballet as well as the score.) Some people will like this and consider the whole thing dancing and others will be impatient waiting for the classical dancing to start. As a fan of Bournonville ballets, I'm very used to this argument! It was when I started to look at it all as dancing - mime, processions (in Petipa ballets), character dances, the whole bit -- that I started to like it. It's hard to do, I think, because we're used to abstract ballets that are "all dancing." I think this is why the Soviets changed the Petipa ballets in some productions, putting the character dances on pointe and cutting out all the mime. Personally, I was glad to hear that Morris was using the full palette for ballet, old-style, but I can understand why others would be disappointed, if not downright miffed.

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Interesting comment, Alexandra, and worth thinking about in relation to the differing opinions.

Just to let you know, although I love "all dance" ballets (Balanchine, for example), I'm also more than partial to the white ballets and enjoy character dancing .. mazurkas, polonaise, whatever.

But there isn't any of what I'd call character dancing in Sylvia. There is a fair bit of pantomime, some of it not the standard classical bits (and refreshing because of it), but the rest is lightweight classical, "in character" for the part, ruffian, satyr or whatever, but certainly not in the tradition of character dancing.

Think of the nurse in Romeo and Juliet (virtually any production), except that she has a truly develped character ... the dancing expresses in movement, what Shakespeare expressed in dialogue. Whereas the characters in Sylvia are so unsubstantial and the story is so silly that any cheoreography to express the "nature" of these characters, although it can be charming at times, is mostly just fluff.

Just my opinion, of course, and I seem to be in the minority on this one.

Thanks for the welcome. I just wish I had discovered this site at the beginning of the season instead of the end!

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I wish you had too, but please stay with us through the summer. We still have lots to talk about.

Thanks for your comments. "Sylvia" was written during the Great Decline of the 19th century, so it should be just about perfect for our age :) So it makes sense that would have been lightweight even in the original. It's such a gorgeous score, though, it would be irresistible to choreography!

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I am curious about what anyone who has seen 'Sylvia' thinks of the conductor, Gary Sheldon??

He is our main conductor and I would be interested to hear how he is doing.

I think he is getting a reputation as a 'ballet' conductor... he certainly does so well for us, and he is a delightful fellow as well! B)

Clara :)

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Clara, sorry, but can't comment. The production I saw was conducted by Andrew Mogrelia, who is now the official conductor of the SFB orchestra.

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