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Mark Morris Sylvia


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#16 Alexandra

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Posted 03 May 2004 - 11:32 AM

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.



#17 lillianna

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Posted 03 May 2004 - 07:06 PM

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.

#18 Alexandra

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Posted 05 May 2004 - 06:50 AM

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.



#19 Helene

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Posted 05 May 2004 - 12:45 PM

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.

#20 catbrown

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Posted 06 May 2004 - 12:29 PM

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.

#21 Alexandra

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Posted 06 May 2004 - 12:47 PM

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.

#22 catbrown

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Posted 07 May 2004 - 04:25 PM

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!

#23 Alexandra

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Posted 07 May 2004 - 04:48 PM

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!

#24 Clara 76

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Posted 07 May 2004 - 05:08 PM

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 :)

#25 catbrown

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Posted 08 May 2004 - 09:07 AM

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.

#26 MJ

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Posted 09 May 2004 - 05:34 PM

I saw the Thursday night performance, I really liked it. I was in SFO for training on my new job :party: and went to the opera house at the spur of the moment. Got a seat in the second row of the Balcony. 10 bucks! The Cab ride home was more expensive. It was not Radio City, but it was a very big house.

Did anyone else hear a saxofone in the third act? or did my ears deceive me?

The Company was flawless, Ok Choreography. I'll try to post a review in a day or two.

Mike

#27 lillianna

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Posted 10 May 2004 - 06:04 PM

I attended Friday night's performance. My second time to see Sylvia. It was a different cast and I appreciated Megan Low as Sylvia. I really did not enjoy the choreography. Wouldn't pay to see it again. Just no substance to it. Disappointing.

#28 firedog

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 12:01 AM

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.

Thank you for the reference to the Wall Street Journal review which I would have missed !! The local reviews here in San Francisco were not very good - Stephanie Von Buchau in the 'Bay Area Reporter' casually describes Sylvia as "a forgotten 19th-century score by a minor, academic composer," and goes on to frankly state that she'd never liked 'Coppelia,' Delibes' earlier ballet for which he is most famous. About the same time Michael Simpson in the San Francisco Chronicle on May 3rd says acidly: "the score by Léo Delibes is as memorable as a paperback romance." I was quite shocked as I've always considered Sylvia one of the most beautiful tone poems ever written, if nothing else.

When we went to see the new Sylvia Friday May 7, I suspected these big lukewarm reviews had had a strong negative effect, as the house for this much anticipated & long-awaited production had far too many empty seats, and was only about 3/4 full.

There were some bumps in this production not warned about by these grumbling reviews. The live orchestra did not play that well - the Prelude was very stiff and two of the violin solos hit so many bad notes it was embarrassing. Worst though, was the set in the First Act, which was so "loud" it was amazing we could hear the orchestra at all. It had the general look of a nightmarishly over-the-top Second Empire parlor room. The backdrop was of weird gigantic flowers as big as trees against a blurry view of forested cliffs plunging off in the distance. The immense garish flowers had the effect of making the dancers, who were supposed to be human-scale gods & heroes, look like absurd little fairy folk. The huge flowers were also of a strange variety apart from their size, appeared to be bright red daffodils (which I have never seen) and vast conical lavender spears of snapdragons. To the left was a ghastly life-size statue on a pedestal that appeared to be spray-painted gold with EROS captioned in huge French Victorian letters on the base, which also had a normal-sized flower vine growing on it. In the foreground was a swampy bog with an asphalt ramp curling up behind it, and between the foreground and background, a colossal sheer olive green curtain came all the way down from the proscenium arch & was drawn up sharply to the left with a sash like a net curtain in a vast parlor window drawn back for a better view of the strange giant flowers. Otherwise the dancing, costumes, and choreography were marvelous & must have been taken from stage directions original to the ballet. Beautiful as the dancing was, it was difficult to tear my eyes away from the terrble sight in back of it, and it seemed like a heartbreaking missed opportunity as the score of the First Act evokes a sylvan landscpe better than anything I have heard in music. Instead we were witnessing this scary horticultural nightmare and wondered whether the ballet should have been called Flora instead . . .

The Second Act, Orion's Cave, had a far better set, a delightful French looking cave with stone benches and bunches of garlic or cheese hanging from the ceiling - however the choreography suddenly changed to Modern Dance with a few ballet steps for just Sylvia herself, and the plot suddenly got a bit murky. Fending off Orion's remarkably polite advances, Sylvia instructs his clumsy slaves to squeeze the fresh grapes they are bringing into the cave into juice which somehow instantly turns into wine in 2 seconds without even an appearance by Bacchus, and makes them all including Orion dead drunk. Then to escape the well-sealed cave she invokes the god Eros who does appear and happily melts it away, end of Act.

By the Third Act, all is forgiven, the set is glorious - looks like the spectacular French scenic wallpaper of the early 19th century. The foreground is the forecourt of the Temple of Diana set on a river running behind this foreground & behind that the temple-clad skyline of a perfect classic city on a hill. The choreography, the costumes, dancing, and special effects (lightning & thunder) are utterly superb, especially Muriel Maffre who electrifies the stage as Diana. Maffre remains perfectly in character throughout, is wonderfully expressive, and outdances everyone on the stage. It is hard to descibe how amazing this performance was, but if Joan Crawford had been able to dance on point and delivered the best performance of her life, it would have looked like that !! James Sofkrano was also a great Eros, so that both the "gods" in this production had been perfectly cast.

Even though this Sylvia production wasn't absolutely perfect, the overall genius and brilliance of Mark Morris shined right through the minor flubs. There were so many saving ingeneous turns throughout this production that one could easily imagine, with a few changes, what a perfect production would be like, and one realizes that that this wonderful piece did not deserve it's long obscurity at all. It's terrible to think that several whole generations of ballet fans have lived and died without ever seeing a full production of this amazing classic piece !!

:D

#29 Clara 76

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 08:21 AM

Now that's a review!!!!!!!!!! :thumbsup:

Clara :)

#30 Alexandra

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 10:00 AM

Welcome, firedog! And thank you for that beautiful review. I wonder if the decor was deliberately over the top? The score isn't logical -- isn't all comic, nor all grand ballet. (I write that not having seen it, of course.)

fyi, I just put up two reviews of Sylvia on DanceViewTimes -- www.danceviewtimes, if you don't know it. One by Rita Felciano and one by Paul Parish. Ann Murphy wrote last week, and will write a "second look" piece this week. All loved it.

DanceView Times


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