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La Sylphide


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Should the second act be set at day or night? Some versions set it at night but I believe this gives the ballet too much of a Giselle feel. I do, however, believe that once Madge offers James the scarf it should become dark as most companies do.

What does everyone think?

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Act II opens on midnight, as Harald Lander's production made clear. There were witches zooming around on brooms everywhere! And there was ground fog - a lot of ground fog. Clearly, the action is taking place in the very small hours of the morning. Remember, James takes a bird's nest complete with bird out of the tree and gives it to the Sylph. The only time birds sit on their nests unless they're brooding is at night. Ditto about finding a butterfly at rest. Sylphides are accompanied by will-o'-the-wisps and fireflies, and may even cast their own light. Madge is sort of like Joe Bftsplk, the character from the old comic strip "L'il Abner" who carried around his own personal rain cloud. She travels in dark.

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The late Sarah Linnie Slocum, terrific lighting designer here in San Francisco, once told me that she had to put a lot of pink into the light for the glade scene -- "THEY'RE NOT DEAD," she said, "it's not moonlit." She was going for dawn, the radiant early light the romantic poets liked so much. (They all hated flat-on noontime light, but sunrise and sunset were big romantic rapturous time-zones.)

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The late Sarah Linnie Slocum, terrific lighting designer here in San Francisco, once told me that she had to put a lot of pink into the light for the glade scene -- "THEY'RE NOT DEAD," she said, "it's not moonlit." She was going for dawn, the radiant early light the romantic poets liked so much. (They all hated flat-on noontime light, but sunrise and sunset were big romantic rapturous time-sones.)

Bournonville's original libretto describes the witches' scene as taking place in 'a forest at night. Thick fog shrouds all but the nearest trees and rocks'. But after the witches disappear, 'The fog disperses; dawn yields to sunrise'. I've always assumed, too, that Gurn and Effie would not be getting married in the middle of the night. Though I suppose time may appear to pass at a different rate in Sylphide-land.

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