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Sylvia: Spring Met season 2013

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I saw Sylvia last night, with Cornejo/Reyes. Here are a few thoughts.

Xiomara Reyes (Sylvia) gives the impression that she has a lot of pent up energy, and her dancing is controlled release of that energy (as opposed to energy being something she has to summon). That works well for parts of this ballet. I don't want to sound critical - she was fine throughout - but I did find myself wishing I had seen what Osipova would have done in the role.

Herman Cornejo (Aminta) is one of those dancers who gives the impression that he could effortlessly do whatever he wants to with his body.

Ivan Vasiliev (Orion), I thought, was well cast. He did a very good job of communicating the essense of a man who thinks that his strength and wealth entitles him to whatever he wants.

Daniil Simkin (Eros) has very light feet, if that makes sense. He seemed to float.

The choreography didn't particularly impress me. It wasn't bad, but it didn't particularly impress me.

My favorite part was probably the interaction between Sylvia and Orion in the cave. Both dancers did a very good job of conveying the tensions between a man who both is willing to take what he wants by force and expects not to have to, with a tiny woman who's having none of it, and is both defiant but aware of the danger she's in. I think it worked so well because it played to both dancers' strengths.

For a love story there wasn't very much in the way of romantic dancing. Take the meeting of the lovers, separated since the first act, in front of Diana's Temple. First Eros dances a mostly solo dance. Then Sylvia dances a solo. Then Aminta dances a solo. Then those weird animal characters dance a pas de deux. Then, finally, the main characters dance a pas de deux, and it's not particularly passionate.

The corps could have been more in sync.

I liked the sets. Sitting in row C of the balcony, though, the vision of Diana and that shepherd was partially cut of from my sightline.

This is a minor point, but it bothered me nonetheless. Why did Eros have his Greek name when all of the other gods had their Roman names?

[edit: typo fixes]

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- but I did find myself wishing I had seen what Osipova would have done in the role.

You and at least half the patrons in the audience.

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- but I did find myself wishing I had seen what Osipova would have done in the role.

You and at least half the patrons in the audience.

Myself included!

I did very much enjoy the performance, despite the disappointment of not seeing Osipova in the titular role. Cornejo was fantastic, radiating purity and strength in every movement. Reyes was absolutely fine and really accredited herself well given the last minute debut. But she wasn't vivid for me, if that makes sense. Her dancing didn't draw me in, and I found myself focusing on the other dancers on stage (don't mean to suggest that focusing most of my attention on Cornejo was anything other than a pleasure.)

I'll echo the others who liked Vasiliev as Orion, I thought it suited him very well.

Thanks to those who reported on Part's debut in Sylvia; now I'm regreting not having taken the day off from work to make the performance. :(

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For me, an unexpected highlight of the Sylvia performances I saw was the Act II, scene II pas de deux as danced by Bolle and Semionova. His strength as a partner and her long, beautiful limbs meant the trickiest partnering highlights became genuine dance highlights--as mentioned above the flying fish dive was just spectacular especially the first one (perhaps because it was the first one) as she freely leapt towards him and was just swept into a gorgeous position with (seeming) total ease. But also the opening, entrance lift of the adagio in which Bolle was able to phrase the walk, as I assume is set in the choreography, with little dips every few steps, while holding her by her lower calf with her other knee resting on his shoulder as her long body extended upwards--skywards really with these two tall dancers--and again with total ease and grace from both dancers. Semionova has yet to fully win me over, but I also appreciated the way she caught the whiff of Aurora in the pas de deux, though I rather wished she would lose the frozen ballerina smile she sported throughout that portion of the ballet.

Matthews as a last minute replacement for Gomez on Sat afternoon had tremendous difficulty with Murphy in the opening of the adagio: the whole of it was rather spoiled and as he very shakily let Murphy down and as her position became more and more awkward I almost wondered if she would injure her knee; you can bet that they didn't go for broke with the fish dives which were respectable though with a very bunched up ballerina tutu messing the line up rather. Otherwise, at the performance I attended I would say his Aminta was respectable and he does look the part. I could wish I had seen Murphy with Gomez , but it remains a fabulous role for her and she was terrific in Act I especially and had the freest upper body of the ballerinas I saw in her Act II, scene II (or, I should say, Act III) variation.

Thought I would also mention Messmer's authority and beauty as Terpsichore, especially as it may well be the last time I get to see her dance. In this ballet, in the final tableaux, Terpsichore is held aloft upstage center behind the lovers as if to say that dance is what presides over the ballet's reconciling of opposing forces (Bacchic indulgence, Virginal independence, Loving desire). It's great to see a ballerina in that role and I used to love Part in it, but I think Messmer may have been as good or almost. In the Barcarolle, Thursday night and Sat afternoon, when she, Abrera as Ceres, and Boylston as Persephone were all lined up next to each other, I found them all lovely in rather different ways, but I thought it was Messmer alone who looked like a fully-fledged ballerina.

A few years back when ABT did Sylvia I remember the opening dances for fauns and other woodland creatures as just magical: I found the scene less magical this time around because at every performance I saw at least one or two dancers (a male dancer here, a female dancer there, or even two of them together) was behind the beat or otherwise uncoordinated with the rest of the dancers. Ashton's effects depend on greater cleanness and precision from everyone. But the ballet is, on the whole, danced well by the company and at every performance I saw the Act III ensemble dancing was very enjoyable.

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I saw the Saturday matinée performance with Murphy/Matthews and then that very evening performance with Reyes/Cornejo. Well, what a pleasure was to see these strong veteran ladies of ABT being so commanding of the stage with their junior partners. Murphy was absolutely beautiful, particularly in her sparkling seduction scene outfit in the cave. She was a vision of beauty with that bright red hair. As some have commented already, I noticed a dangerous moment during the initial lift of Sylvia during the last act PDD adagio. Matthews struggled a lot while carrying Murphy center stage, to the point that I thought he was going to drop her. Luckily, that didn't happen, but that definitely spoiled the rest of the pas for me. I noticed in both performances that the effect of the parade of Sylvia to the stage by Aminta resembled that of someone carrying an umbrella on top of the head. Sylvia's position all the way upright with the grabbing of her leg plus the flat tutu placed horizontally over Aminta's head didn't look particularly pretty to me, something I hadn't noticed in the Bussell/Bolle video. I have to go back to it and check to see what was done different to this effect.

As I said, Murphy was just a goddess per se. Tall, commanding, beautiful, strong...she had it all. Her technique is wonderful, and she really stood up for me over everybody else onstage. On the contrary, Matthews lack of ballon made for a less than perfect performance, although I generally enjoyed his dancing. I guess it is really hard to make a mark while dancing in a company surrounded by some of the best, with the likes of Vasiliev, Cornejo, Gomes or Bolle jumping around day by day.

That very evening, Reyes demonstrated she's really an old school trooper. Saturday night...a packed house full of people grinding their teeth for a last minute cancellation of their top diva, dancing in the middle of way younger male stars such as Cornejo, Vasiliev and Siimkin, with probably not too much rehearsal time, and still delivering such wonderful performance...? Wow...SHE is my type of dancer. I realize Reyes has had a difficult although long career. The fact is that she has always been considered "not really suited" for this or that role, and still has done them all with such consistency, gusto and high technical level, despite having been labeled by many as a matinée dancer. No, I think Reyes was the real star of this run of Sylvias. I give the big prize to the ballerina who goes thru it all without fear, who is consistent, reliable, who throws herself into either Giselle, Odette or Kitri with the same energy and still makes it for a great night at the ballet, without having ever had the title of "my favorite dancer". I will always remember her performance, for which she completely erased my high frustration over having been again thru the pain of yet another trip from out of town ending in a cancellation of the diva. Good for you, Xiomara. I'm very happy to have seen you in the role, flawless turning like the best of turners and telling all this young gods of the dance around you that this short limbed Cuban ballerina has what it takes to substitute the favored Russian goddess anytime.

Vasiliev was amazing, as usual. Thing is...I notice that every time I see him, which has been in between long periods of time, he always looks stockier to me. Could it be that he has actually put more bulk into his body, particularly his lower part...? That wasn't too noticeable in his Orion covered costume, but rather very explicit in his bluebird attire in SB. I found myself wondering if I would enjoy him right now as Albrecht, although the black outfit against the dark backdrop of the romantic ballet could be very beneficial to him rather than the bright environment of Beauty. Dancing wise, he was amazing as Orion...his cambres during jumps are a thing of marvel. Wow..what a wonderful back does he has.

Cornejo was beautiful to watch. I have nothing to say against anything I saw from him. Everything was a joy...dancing, looks, rapport with Reyes-(they look as if having a great understanding toward each other's dancing). Definitely great.

As per the ballet itself...well, I'm a sucker of Tchaikovsky's ballet tunes, and I could be one of the few that hasn't still incorporated the Sylvia score completely into my mind. I must say I much prefer Coppelia's music, and I would be VERY curious as what the treatment of Petipa was back in the days to this work. Must of all I enjoyed the classical PDD, tutus and all. I found the first act too bucolic for my taste, but that's just me, I know.

This question is for doug...is this ballet notated...?

Very nice to have seen fellow BT'rs during intermissions! Thank you, blond Susan, for your response to my original idea of a post performance meeting. I didn't realize it was going to be so difficult to go back up the stairs after the performance. I waited instead outside to see if you were going to exit, and after a while I though you were gone! Oh well, another time, another performance, another trip for sure. flowers.gif

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I would like to add a belated response to the the June 26 Sylvia matinee with Part and Gomes. After viewing this performance, I felt that the ballet is a fantastic showcase for Part, and Sylvia and joins Odette/Odile and Nikiya as one of her top roles. I hope she will have the opportunity to explore the role again in the future. Yes, the story of Sylvia is inconsequential (who can really be moved by sixteenth-century pastoral poetry?), but Ashton's ballet provides a tripartite challenge for the ballerina that is thrilling to behold--be bold and imperious; be seductive, sinuous and sexy; and finally be prim and precise and perfectly tutu. From pumping her fists in the air among her fellow glamazons, to letting loose in Orion's den and delighting in her own wily, sensuous abandon, to finally etching the pizzicato in the most delicate manner, Part was utterly enthralling.

Sylvia is a moving ballet--not in the personal, cathartic way that Swan Lake or Romeo and Juliet can be, but rather in sheer dance terms. An image I will never forget is Part's dart-to-the-heart variation in Act I in which her leg tries to escape the inevitable, stroking the dance floor in a backwards, segmented fashion, while her arms and chest reach towards Aminta. I've never seen it danced with more genuine pathos. Nor will I soon forget the wild yet self-possessed Part who wrapped her body around Orion in the second act. One critic has said that Part is best when she "goes for broke"; this was it.

In a way, Part and Gomes's performance reminded me of another classically-inspired piece that is near and dear to me, Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos; the story is ridiculous and not at all intended to be moving in real life terms, yet it but provides a vehicle through which the artists can achieve some of the most beautiful singing possible. Whether through the vocal chords of a Jessye Norman or the sensitive body and mind of a Veronika Part, works like these can reach a plane that is sublime.

As ABT's summer season draws to a close, I feel an incredible sense of gratitude towards the dancers. It's performances like this Sylvia that I will savor all year. In the never-ending doldrums of winter, when March never seems to end, I'll think of Veronika Part held aloft over Marcelo Gomes's head as she triumphantly enters the stage--arriving before my mind's eye again and again to delight and inspire.

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Saw Reyes' second performance, and the only thing I'd like to add is that Devon Teuscher was breathtaking as Diana. What an upper body!

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Very nice to have seen fellow BT'rs during intermissions!

It was good to see you Christian. I hope you enjoyed your trip!

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Ashton's ballet provides a tripartite challenge for the ballerina that is thrilling to behold--be bold and imperious; be seductive, sinuous and sexy; and finally be prim and precise and perfectly tutu.

I hadn't thought of it like that, but that's certainly true; the role of Sylvia demands a wide range of expression.

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