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The first night was very good tonight. The score alone is to die for and ABT's orchestra played it sublimely. Ashton has a great gift for the theater -- It's more than choreography, it's theatricality and staging as a whole. He loves to base stagings on Baroque Tableaux and this one could have been based on Veronese.

Of course the company struggled with the production in many respects. Primarily the corps de ballet at ABT is a mess right now, a giant mess. Any time someone complains that Peter is starving his girls across the plaza, they ought to come see this -- evidently this is the alternative. They've also had huge turnover over the past few years and you can't absorb losses like Sean Stewart and Ricardo Torres steadily without it showing.

But all in all the company brought great heart and soul to this evening and it showed. That includes Gillian Murphy and Max Beloserkofsky -- It was not a natural role for her but she danced her soul out in it and one appreciated it so much -- extremely and sincerely dramatic and giving herself to the audience direclty in a way I've never seen before from her. Also, Monique Meunier replaced Veronika Part as Terpsichore and danced just beautifully.

Seeing the title role makes one appreciate how incredible a dancer Fonteyn must have been in 1952. It must be a sort of shadow image of her. No one today, I think (except perhaps Ileana Cojucaru?) could master the repeated extremely quick shifts of weight from over one leg to over the other, the again extremely fast and seamless changes of position and pose, as well as the extraordinary range of the role, from big dramatic jumps, to petit allegro to pas d'action which simply cannot be classified.

It is wonderful that this has been restored to the repertory of Ballet in general writ large.

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Helene there was much much more positive than ruinous in this, it was a marvelous night at the Theater, one of the ones one lives for. (How's that for ones?). Live works are always imperfect in some way and a big production like this one can very forgiving. I should also have mentioned how very good Marcelo Gomes was as Orion, very fluid and strong he is right now, their faith in him over there is being grandly repaid, even if he does play Evil Nasty characters (from this to Raymonda to Swan Lake) a bit in a "Snidely Whiplash" fashion. Which after all is not inappropriate in what was originally an over-the-top 19th century work. Gomes is having a splendid season.

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If I understand right, this is a 2 act version, yes? I've seen the Royal Ballet's 3 act version that they resurrected this season, and was wondering if anyone has seen both to detail what changes were made and how they play in comparison?


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Seeing the title role makes one appreciate how incredible a dancer Fonteyn must have been in 1952.  It must be a sort of shadow image of her.  No one today, I think (except perhaps Ileana Cojucaru?) could master the repeated extremely quick shifts of weight from over one leg to over the other, the again extremely fast and seamless changes of position and pose, as well as the extraordinary range of the role, from big dramatic jumps, to petit allegro to pas d'action which simply cannot be classified.


I saw Fonteyn in this role and Zenaida Yanowsky in the current revival. This is one of the roles that Fonteyn really was unsurpassed in and one where I really did "get" her. (Slight aside, I mentioned in a previous thread that Fonteyn was never one of my favourites)

The thing that characterises the current crop of Sylvia's as opposed to Fonteyn is the need to superimpose the modern aesthetic of technique, Fonteyn COULDN'T do the crotch splitting jetes which have become common currency, her petit allegro and terre a terre work were joyful as they weren't hampered by the obssession with pretty feet which is inhibitive to a great deal of batterie and she had quicksilver speed which she was able to utilise to its fullest as she was primarily concerned with the role and not technique for technique's sake. The role demanded that the technique serve the speed, the fleet footedness of the goddess/nymph. I think this is one of the prime faults of modern ballet, technique cut and restrained to serve a role is technique at its greatest and most powerful, not vice versa.

The casting for Sylvia at the Royal was strange all three dancers Yanowsky, Bussell and Nunez are the antithesis of Fonteyn physically - Sylvia being a goddess Mason cast the most Amazonian ballerinas in the company. And as such teh role written on Fonteyn's diminuitive frame had to be opened up at the seams and as such the strain was showing in parts. Rojo is perhaps the closest dancer within the Royal in terms of shape to Fonteyn, I felt she should have been given a crack at it.

It also didn't get nearly enough performances to GROW. Also some very lackluster soloist work got in the way, Keith Rossen was a wonderful Cupid and he was poorly served in memoriam by Harvey.

Edited by Kate Lennard
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Sylvia being a goddess Mason cast the most Amazonian ballerinas in the company.

Kate thanks so much -- This Board is an unbelievable experience when one can instantly get a response and information like that, out of cyberspace as it were. I never expected such a wonderful insight informed by first hand viewing of both the original Fonteyn and the current revival.

Gillian Murphy, last night's Sylvia, is also the Amazonian type -- Thus her first dance with the attendants was her strength but a struggle ensued with much of what followed and due precisely to the need to "open up the seams" in the choreography which you mention. Perfect description.

Regarding the two act vs. three act thing -- The only intermission in the current ABT edition occurs at the end of the opening scene in the Sacred Wood, that is, after Eros has revived Aminta and sent him off to look for Sylvia.

The later change of scene between Orion's Cave and the Temple of Diana occurred during a mere orchestral pause -- the curtain dropped and the orchestra played the most heavenly few minutes of transitional music -- it was completely transporting, the use of the orchestra for dramatic transition was Wagnerian in the sense of being the kind of theatrical cover used during both Tannhauser and the Ring -- and then curtain came back up in the Diana's Temple scenery for the divertissements, the Grand PDD and the concluding action.

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Sylvia being a goddess Mason cast the most Amazonian ballerinas in the company.

Gillian Murphy, last night's Sylvia, is also the Amazonian type

Depending on how you characterize Julie Kent (who is tall but fine-boned), all of ABT's Sylvias are Amazonian. The others are Paloma Herrera and Michele Wiles.

This acquisition was a great choice by ABT, and I look forward -- most eagerly! -- to seeing how it looks next year, by which time the dancers will have broken it in -- or vice versa :D .

Despite a sign on the landing of the staircase that Monique Meunier would be dancing the role of Terpsichore Saturday night, Veronika Part showed up as scheduled and danced divinely.

Oh, and to the gentleman who gave me his comp (Orch, DD7), if you read this board, many, many, many thanks. :D

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Went to the Saturday evening performance; beautiful score but a very silly ballet. The corps looked ragged in Act I. Herrera & Corella danced very well but she is too large for him; her facial expressions have a strange element of "surprise" as if to say "I can't believe I just did that!" She is also not especially musical. It seemed odd to gather all these "characters" together in Act II including such luminaries as Wiles & Hallberg (welcome back, David!) and then they don't really DO anything. The role of Diana is over before it begins: "You cannot marry a lowly shepherd!" she says to Sylvia. "YOU loved a lowly shepherd once," Eros reminds her. Diana muses for a moment, "Oh yeah, I forgot about that." Then there were the goats...

Couple nice bits: as Carbro mentioned Meunier was "announced" for Terpsichore but Part actually appeared in the role. Meunier did dance in the first Act as one of the Hunt attendants. When they all did fouettes, Monique's were so spacious & velvety...and she didn't travel an inch. Craig Salstein made a tall & impressive Eros, his character dancing (incognito) very accomplished and making a fine effect in Act II.

It is a very short evening; first act started at 8:05 and was over at 8:40; then there was a long intermission. Acts II & III compressed lasted less than 40 minutes, including a longish interlude. Whole thing over before 10:00. It was fun to see this purely decorative ballet once, but not sure I could get thru it again. The music, however, is truly wonderful.

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I have to say something about the "silliness" :D I think this ballet might be best approached -- like the Kirov's new/old "Bayadere" of a few months back -- if it's considered within its time and tradition. Not Ashton's time, but the time of the score and the whole mind set of the old mythological ballets. It's the dancers' job to make that work. If Diana is authoritative enough, it should. But if the viewer's perception is, if they don't have 3 solos to dance it ain't a role, then you're going to be disappointed. "Sylvia" was a 19th century take on a late 18th century style of ballet, originally, and Ashton was using that very deliberately -- although, like his "Cinderella" and "Romeo and Juliet" and "La Fille Mal Gardee," it's not a pastiche, but of its own time, as well. But he could have expected his audience, or at least much of it, to understand the contexts. (It's also of the time of the tableaux vivants, as Michael pointed out, as well. In the continuum, it's the direct predecessor to "Sleeping Beauty" and it's lesser, but very popular cousin, "Excesior."

(p.s. to Oberon -- I've never seen "Sylvia" live, but I never thought I'd be much of a fan of the goats either :D I may well recant that later!)

Edited by Alexandra
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The thing I like about Ashton, is the complete entertainer he was as he developed each of his ballets. In most of his works, there is a moment or two, at the least, that either/and, gets you to say that was different or you think about it later and you want to see it again. ABT's Sylvia, at best, is an incomplete renconstruction. Even Ashton before his death, was having trouble with remembering his own ballet. I got that from the article that is in the program for Sylvia at the Met.

I think that when Eros first shoots an arrow in Act1, I would liked to have seen a variation for him.

There are still some beautiful parts I appreciate in Sylvia. I just don't consider it his best, or a top shelf full-length. I will like to see it again. Gee, I like Ashton so much overall!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Well,if one likes the cats in Sleeping Beauty and the chickens in La Fille.. you will find things to enjoy with the goats in Sylvia.The steps looks difficult to dance

Joe :)

I like the chickens, LOATHE the cats! (My staging of SB will not have that pas, no matter how cheated that makes some audience members feel!) I thought the goats were enjoyable, but not as witty as the chickens.

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I don't know the connection between Dionysius and his goats, Carbro -- maybe there's a Hellenic scholar around. Paul? Do you know? As far as their use in the ballet, I've read that they're very like the two poodles in Massine's "Boutique Fantasque" and I've read they're like the two cats in "Sleeping Beauty." So take your pick!

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I attended the Saturday matinee and agree with oberon that Act 1 looked ragged. This included Ms. Kent's Sylvia. I hardly knew it was her but maybe it was because of my seats near the back of the Family Circle. The worst of the act was the Hunt Attendants who seemed like they were a bunch of unconnected dancers just thrown together quickly to do a little dance that afternoon. It was also the LOUDEST pointe shoes I have ever heard on the Met stage and I can't blame my seating on that comment. Mr. Saveliev's overall performance was fine but nothing outstanding. I did enjoy the Sylvans (was expecting Collins, Eason, Murphy but later confirmed Collins was replaced by Scott), Mr. Lopez's Eros was very fine during the whole ballet and the Peasants seemed to start to pull things together as the afternoon got rolling.

Act 2 seemed to be a different ballet altogether. Radetsky's Orion was powerful and it was a very good performance for him. Sometimes his dancing can be a bit pale, lacking confidence, but his Orion was not only clean with excellent turns but the heart of his performance filled the house. Ms. Kent came into the act transformed also, she danced as I remembered her, one of the finest ladies in ballet. Her little pas de trois with the 2 Slaves, Mr. DeLong and Mr. Scott, was quite beautiful. Her Sylvia's longing to leave reminded me of a deer held captive as Orion's toughs held her firm with an interesting series of turns and lifts. I was quite entertained by the Slaves but being big a fan of the 2 Pennsylvanian fellows, I am very much prejudiced.

Although there was no intermission I will call the next "Act 3" as it is stated in the program. I was hoping the momentum gained in Act 2 would continue but it felt more like an engine that was running on poor grade gasoline. The corp work was much more together than the first act but it it wasn't quite enough to get through the many hesitations, planned or not. Early on in the act, I saw Ms. Copeland as the white Goat clearly stumble and twist her ankle then hustled offstage soon followed by Mr. Salstien's abandoned gray Goat. The hole this couple left on the stage was very evident.

Saveliev and Kent had some beautiful moments in their pas de deux. I LOVED the hold he uses while from behind her in arabesque he holds her head and then moves down to her arms. It wasn't quite enough to shine over a lot of stumbling they had as individuals in this pas. The flow was then interrupted by the Goat pas. It is a difficult piece that Mr. Salstein and Ms. Lane (without white face makeup) performed very well but it is just one of the factors which made me feel like the ballet was more piecemeal that integral. I also want to mention how beautifully Mr. Underwood (replacing Mr. Hallberg who moved into the role of Jaseion) danced the role of Apollo. Those wonderful legs!!

I know that things will run more smoothly as time goes on but I was surprised it wasn't a more cohesive performance. I think I was expecting it to have the feel that Raymonda did for me last year when I saw the first matinee performance. I will look forward to seeing Sylvia again sometime, you gotta love our pantheon set in another ballet.

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I also went to the Saturday matinee. After hearing a lot of negative things about the ballet beforehand (especially with regard to the plot) I wasn't expecting too much. But I really enjoyed "Sylvia" - the sets, the costumes, the choreography and especially that glorious, glorious music! Julie Kent was a very sweet Sylvia. I loved her musicality and the delicacy of her phrasing, but she lacked the stamina needed for the part (IMO anyway). The hero, Aminta, doesn't really get to do very much. On Saturday afternoon, Gennadi Saveliev danced very well, but his Aminta was pretty colorless. Sacha Radetsky as Orion, however, was wonderful both in his acting and dancing. During Act II when Sylvia was trying to get Orion drunk, Radesky was very funny. And Orion's two slaves (danced by Grant DeLong and Arron Scott) were even funnier. With regard to the goats - I didn't even know they were goats. I thought they were cats. I kept wondering what those annoying cats from Act III of "Sleeping Beauty" were doing in "Syliva". I didn't realize they were goats until I read my program after the ballet was over.

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I saw my first Sylvia last night with Julie Kent and Gennadi Savaliev as the leads. All the above posters who described the spectacular scenery and costumes were so very right. What especially pleased me was the way the scenery was made to fit that cavernous Met stage, so the whole ballet had the look almost of a "chamber ballet" and was more intimate. Very, very clever. And the costumes were gorgeous; there was no stinting on the fabrics and design.

That being said, this seems to me to be a ballet built around the talents of one woman, so that one woman had better be a pretty spectacular ballerina. Although Julie turned in a very nice performance, for me it didn't rise to the level of a great ballerina performance, so actually I found it a little boring. (Sorry) Unfortunately, I won't be seeing this with Gillian Murphy, but I have high hopes that next Monday's casting with Michele Wiles and Marcelo Gomes as the leads will make this ballet a more magical experience for me.

Now, those of you who are regulars on this board know that I am a great Balanchine lover, so you can take the following comments in that light: In the last act, Balanchine used the same music for the wedding pas and part of coda in his Coppelia. And, of course, all I could see was how much more Balanchine's choreography answered that delightful music more than Ashton's choreography. In my head, I kept seeing Patty and Helgi. Apologies to all Ashton fans, but once you've seen how Balanchine choreographs certain music, you can't get it out of your head.

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this seems to me to be a ballet built around the talents of one woman, so that one woman had better be a pretty spectacular ballerina. 

My feelings, exactly---it's why I did not get a ticket to see it this season---hopefully Ananiashvilli will be back next season... :)

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I saw Friday night's performance, and it was interesting to see ABT's "take" on a ballet I saw danced by its original company, the Royal, last November. On the whole I thought ABT did extremely well -- better, in some respects, than the Royal. (For instance, Carmen Corella managed to make Diana forceful without seeming shrewish, which neither RB Diana had, and Gillian Murphy's technique and reading of the scene in Orion's cave were much better than either Darcey Bussell's or Marianela Nunez's.) On the other hand, I preferred both RB Eroses (Martin Harvey and Joshua Tuifua) to Herman Cornejo, who never looked like a statue. (In London, I was convinced that the Eroses were props at both performances, even after they began to move -- I thought they'd sneakily replaced the prop with the dancer when I wasn't looking :wub: .)

Sylvia is a role that makes unaccustomed demands on today's ballerinas. It doesn't call for acting in the sense that, say, Manon does. It doesn't need mime in the way that, for instance, Swanilda needs mime. And it's not a pure dance role. It calls for the ballerina to be herself, but that self has to be an interesting and multi-faceted woman, and that is what the present generation of ballerinas has not be raised to be. Murphy worked hard, but at this point in her career she lacks the stage experience to hold and keep the audience's attention independent of the choreography. Her best scene was the one in Orion's cave. Unlike Bussell and Nunez, she showed sorrow and grief for what had happened and a wiliness in getting the better of her captor. Murphy, for all her thinnness and straight up-and-down classicism, has a full bust and round hips, and in this scene she used them to project a sensuality and womanliness that I hope will carry over to her other roles. She showed signs here of being the fascinating creature that Sylvia ought to be.

Marcelo Gomes played Orion less brutishly than his RB counterparts, with a hint of Raymonda's Abderakhman's dangerous appeal. I'm not sure how Ashton would have liked this, but it sure was more fun than a one-note, fire-breathing heavy. :)

Unlike Michael, I didn't think the corps looked messy at all. In fact I was thinking how much better they looked than they had in Washington.

Sylvia is the only Ashton ballet I know of that contains hints of homoeroticism. I'm thinking of the treatment of Eros and the scene of Endymion being worshipped by Diana -- I doubt that a straight man would have treated them in this way.

Ashton brings out the best in ABT. He tames the beast in them. If only they were bringing this to Washington next year instead of yet another week of R&J. :helpsmilie:

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Goats, goats, goats.

Mel could do this better than I but -- capricorn, capriole, caper, cabriole -- do these words sound familiar? Capricorn is Greek for goat, and to caper is to be able to move like a goat. "Cabriole" also derives from the Greek word for goat.

Goats are famously nimble-footed, able to leap and run about on mountainous crags with sure-footed ease, and hte ability to move like that used to be the hallmark of a dancer. Nowadays, we tend to think of dancers as cat-like, but in ancient Greece and Rome, and in the neo-classicizing Renaissance, and again in the 18th century, goat-footed was almost synonymous with agility.

And the goat-legged fauns that accompany Dionysus/Bacchus in Bacchanalias are dancing constantly.

Capriole Suite? Sound Familiar? Frederick Ashton's first ballet, 1928, set to Peter Warlock's Capriole Suite, which was based on the airs written out in the Renaissance manual f dancing, "Orchesographie," translated int English by Cyril Beaumont in 1925.

Thoinet Arbeau? (author of "Orchesographie," a neo-Platonic dialogue between a dancing master and a student code-named Capriole).

Open your Code of Terpsichore to plate 14 and you'll see a pair of goat-legged fauns girdled in grape-leaves beside a premier danseur, portraying Bacchus girt with a leopard -skin and holding his arms "a la lyre", with a thyrsus in his upper hand.

"Afternoon of a Faun" -- by the time Bakst was through fantasizing, Nijinsky's legs looked dappled like a deer's, but the htighs were already goat-like.....

SO a pair of goats, if you're in the know, would be conspicuous by their absence in an Ashton ballet involving Dionysus.......

By the way, it's curious to note that Lev Ivanov (who dies before the premiere) choreographed a version of Sylvia in 1901 for Preobrajenska and gerdt. Wonder WHAT it was like.

Finally, how I envy you all. I love the music, and I also think that the temper of hte times suits a revival of thi kind of semi-preposterous ballet. I HAVE seen Mark Morris's wonderful version, for San Francisco Ballet, their best new thing in YEARS -- which is in some ways Ashtonian. Morris admires Ashton, and even quotes some of his favorite steps ( like hte attitude penchee-d to the side).

WHoa, I've got to go watch my neighbor's new robot-vacuum cleaner do its thing. Semi-choreographable, it seems....


PS re the preposterous complexity of the story -- Morris went along with it too, and if you're curious, I discussed that a lot in what I wrote about SFB's production of Sylvia, in "Dance view times": at this URL: http://www.danceviewtimes.com/dvw/reviews/...spring/sfb5.htm


Edited by Paul Parish
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