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Sylvia


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#1 Jane Simpson

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Posted 05 November 2004 - 07:58 AM

Sylvia opened last night and my first impression is that though it's not a lost masterpiece there's some lovely, lovely stuff in it, and that combined with the interest in just seeing what it's like make the revival worthwhile. I loved the first act, but the second isn't really strong enough to stand on its own - it may look better in ABT's version, perhaps - and the last act is patchy though the pas de deux is absolutely top-drawer Ashton and I loved the ending, with Eros reminding the haughty Diana that she too had once fallen in love. And of course the score is wonderful.

Thiago Soares was terrific as the villain, Orion, but I thought both Darcey Bussell and Jonathan Cope were struggling with the choreography. The audience seemed to have a good time - lots of cheers and curtain calls.

It's been Christopher Newton's dedication that has brought Sylvia back to the stage and I think he can feel very proud of himself.

#2 ami1436

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 03:53 AM

Hi Jane,

I was there for 4 November - Opening Night of Sylvia as well! I have been mulling over my thoughts since then. Delibes' score was one of the biggest draws for me - the music just screams out DANCE! And Ashton's choreography, *especially* the Act III Variations and pdd, show a beautiful interpretation of this music.

I must agree with you about the dancing though. Thiago Soares was brilliant - he is the all-around up-and-coming package I think: dancing, acting, character work. And I do think Martin Harvey deserves special mention as Eros... standing there, still, for so long (I kept trying to catch the moment when he shifts weight, but always missed it!), and then dancing beautifully when the time called for it. Plus, his little 'steps' under the hidden cloak in Act I were fabulously timed! I thought Cope's dancing was fine, but to me Bussell never seemed to be comfortable with the choreography, and the quickness and musicality of the steps in the Act III variation weren't accurate enough for my liking. I did have the chance to see Marianela Nunez is rehearsal for this, and thought she was quite good, and luckily will be able to see her in performance later this month. However, I am missing Yanowsky's interpretation - but how I wish Miyako Yoshida was given this role!

Any thoughts from others?

#3 Natalia

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 08:57 AM

Thiago Soares was brilliant - he is the all-around up-and-coming package I think: dancing, acting, character work. 

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I am thrilled to read that Soares is (a) making his mark with the Royal Ballet -- I had no idea that the RB is his 'home' -- and (b) dancing so splendidly as Orion. All of the in-print reviews seem to single him out positively, above all other soloists in the work. I have very, very fond memories of Soares when he used to be known as Thiago Soares-Pinto...as I saw him win the Gold Medal at the 2001 Moscow International Ballet Competition, with Roberta Marques winning silver. What a joy to see all of the 'young upshots' turn their competition-promise into real-life 'gold'!

Now I am TOTALLY looking forward to seeing Soares' Orion in the closing performance of this run (Dec. 3). I'm also seeing the Nunez/Pennyfether (sp?) cast on Dec. 1...and the initial Cinderella (Cojocaru/Kobborg) in between the two Sylvias. Not a bad three-day break to reacquaint myself with the Royal Ballet, I hope.

Thanks for the reviews thus far, everyone.

#4 paul

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Posted 24 February 2005 - 11:52 AM

After the dress rehearsal I thought I never ever want to see this ballet again with this sort of dancing. But than I watched Nunez peformances. And there were some wonderfull moments. Her entrance was terrific.
I showed a friend who never been to a ballet in all his live a bit of the 3rd act and than the same thing from the 60. From the 60:shadowing figures, black and white, faces you could not see. My friend said immediately: "but they are much better".
In the Foyer they showed bit from the 60s Silvia. And nowhere did we see nowadays such attack, speed and style.

#5 Ari

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Posted 24 February 2005 - 02:10 PM

Who were the dancers in the film from the '60s, Paul?

#6 paul

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Posted 08 March 2005 - 12:05 PM

Who were the dancers in the film from the '60s, Paul?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I gave the tape away but I shall look it up as soon as I get it back.

#7 Helene

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Posted 23 November 2005 - 07:20 AM

Sylvia is back in rep at the Royal Ballet. In an essay on the reconstruction in the ballet's program, Clifford Bishop writes

For [reconstructor Christopher] Newton, Sylvia was a great opportunity to restamp the Ashton style on the Company -- the emphasis on the plasticity of the upper body, the neatness of the footwork, the confidence in simple movements executed with elegance and conviction.  'The way modern dancers work', he says, 'there is a danger that the style will be lost

Act I was like a treatise in Ashton style. Watching it, I was reminded of how Balanchine put "teaching" ballets like Symphonia Concertante on stage, and how individual soloist parts were tailored to showcase a dancer's strengths and challenge his or her technique. While many of the women had neat footwork and danced with conviction -- notable feet were Cindy Jordain's (as Terpsichore)-- it will take a lot of performances of Sylvia before the upper bodies have caught up. The men's villagers' dance could have been an entire company class in itself; the demands of the steps were frighteningly difficult, even if the men, like the slaves in Act II, looked a bit schoolboyishly neutered.

I liked Act II a lot; the part of Orion looked like it was tailor made for Gediminas Taranda, which, by definition, puts it high in my book :) Sylvia plays more of a seductress in Ashton's version than in Mark Morris', and I can imagine the men in the audiences of 1952 needing to be revived after Fonteyn vamped in that costume in that choreography. I loved the extended mime sequence in the beginning, in which Sylvia proudly rejects all of the riches Orion tries to bestow on her.

Act III lost me until Sylvia's solo, and then again until the grand pas de deux. The main reason was that there was little poignancy to the reunion of Sylvia and Aminta; it lacked a certain bittersweet recognition that they might never have been blessed by the gods to find each other again. Here was another resemblance to Sleeping Beauty: apart from a perfunctory reconciliation, the wedding might just as well have been preordained and arranged between Acts II and III.

Perhaps I was being dense, but when the soloist couples entered, I thought the I was seeing the Ashtonian equivalent of Puss 'n Boots and the White Cat, Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, and a few more Sleeping Beauty-like divertissements. These people were not costumed like gods and goddesses. It wasn't until the finale, when I wondered, "Where are the goats?" that I realized Puss and the Cat were the goats :wub: According to the article, "Reconstructing Sylvia," "in going back to the authentic score [Newton] had to drop two dances (an interlude for Apollo and the nine muses and a pas de cinq for Jason, Ceres, Pluto, Persephone and Eros), and 'slightly stretched out the male solo.'" It seemed rather odd that the three god/goddess couples had little mini-breakouts during the ensemble dancing, but not a number of their own, and the goats pas de deux alone seemed unbalanced.

Zenaida Yanowsky danced Sylvia, and she was as opposite to Fonteyn as could be. She's an amazon, with long, muscled legs, in the Karin von Aroldingen mold. (In San Francisco, she would have been cast as Diana.) There was no doubt for the most part of the ballet who was in charge. Since Eros isn't really a pixie, I think it would have taken a Marcelo Gomes to have the presence to make Eros' power over her believable. Joshua Tuifus didn't have it, and it was almost as if he had opened her unconscious and allowed her to realize that it was really her idea to fall for Aminta.

That said, it was that much more surprising that Yanowsky's strongest dramatic moments -- both acting and dancing -- came in the three most unlikely places: immediately after she falls for Aminta, in the seduction solo in Act II, and in the Act III solo, the latter until the final phrases, which reminded me of one of the Beauty Fairy solos, and during which she was done in by her long legs. (It almost looked like she was being funny, but it wasn't possible for her to look spritely.) Yanowsky's arms were beautiful; in Act I especially, they were a source of her power. It was wonderful to see a dancer with the patience to be in the moment and not push the pace or phrasing.

If I had a beef with David Makhateli's performance, it was that in his first solo, he didn't have this patience. He seemed to want to get somewhere and it looked rushed. The transparency of the choreography, where every degree of every movement requires equal commitment and precision, was unforgiving. He's got a beautiful body for a dancer, though, with long, long legs to match Yanowsky's, and I'd love to see him in the Petipa classics.

Gary Avis danced Orion. He phrasing was a little soft, and he lacked a little of the panther-like menace that makes Orion a little sexy, not just the guy who is going to get his because of theatrical convention. Poor Gillian Revie as Diana -- she had to out-Diana Diana! She was lovely, though, in the recognition scene, where Eros reminds her of her love for a shepherd. (Ashton's Diana takes this change of affairs much more in stride than Morris' Diana.)

I would see this again in a heartbeat, however, Manon has entered the building, and Sylvia doesn't return until 1 December.

#8 rg

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Posted 23 November 2005 - 07:59 AM

if this SYLVIA footage being mentioned in black&white is the same i've seen, the leads are Christopher Gable and Doreen Wells.

#9 Helene

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Posted 23 November 2005 - 08:43 AM

In the reconstruction article in the program, there are two mentions of films, on which Newton relied:

1. "The Royal Ballet video archive contains some clips of the third-act pas de deux, variations and coda from various galas down the years, as well as a balck-and-white record of Nadia Nerina as Sylvia but that shows none of the subsidiary roles."

2. "Anthony Russell-Roberts, who is also Ashton's nephew and legatee of most of the choreographer's works, unearthed black-and-white footwage of an entire stage rehearsal featuring Christopher Gable and Doreen Wells., then of the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet. It was shot in 1965 by Ednee Wood, wife of the company manager at the time..."

Newton commented on the latter, "It's really primitive. The stage lighting isn't strong enough to see them clearly. She [Wood] misses openings and enddings. There was no sound and she made attempts to add it later, which frankly is worse because it never synchs, so usually I work on it with the sound off."

#10 drb

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Posted 23 November 2005 - 02:54 PM

Will the Royal's Christmas Day telecast of "Sylvia" (Darcey Bussell) be released as a DVD?
How similar is the Royal's "Sylvia" to ABT's version? I think ABT's has one less intermission.

#11 Helene

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Posted 23 November 2005 - 03:24 PM

I forgot to note that Darcey Bussell is the poster girl for Sylvia twice over: she's all over the Tube in a full-length pose from Act I -- also replicated on the back of the cast list flyer for the Royal Opera performances -- and she's also on the cover of the 2006 calendar, held aloft in a lift.


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