Roberta on the Arts

Contact Roberta
Jazz and Cabaret Corner
On Location with Roberta
In the Galleries: Artists and Photographers
Backstage with the Playwrights and Filmmakers
Classical and Cultural Connections
New CDs
Arts and Education
Onstage with the Dancers
Offstage with the Dancers
Upcoming Events
Special Events
Memorable Misadventures
Our Sponsors

San Francisco Ballet Presents Sylvia at Lincoln Center Festival
-Onstage with the Dancers

Check out our Sponsors
Check out our Sponsors
Lincoln Center Festival 2006
Nigel Redden, Director
Marian Skokan, Media

San Francisco Ballet

A Ballet in Three Acts
Choreography, Mark Morris

Helgi Tomasson, Artistic Director and Choreographer
Glenn McCoy, Executive Director
Lesley Koenig, General Manager
Kyra Jablonsky, Assoc. Director, Public Relations
Martin West, Music Director and Principal Conductor
Guest Orchestra, New York City Opera Orchestra
Ashley Wheater, Ballet Master and Asst. to Artistic Director

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 28, 2006
Originally Published on

Sylvia (2004): Music by Léo Delibes, Choreography by Mark Morris, Scenic Design by Allen Moyer, Costume Design by Martin Pakledinaz, Lighting Design by James F. Ingalls, Assistant to Mr. Morris, Susan Weber, Conductor: Martin West, and New York City Opera Orchestra, Performed by Vanessa Zahorian as Sylvia, Guennadi Nedviguine as Aminta, Damian Smith as Orion, Garrett Anderson as Sorcerer/Eros and a Pirate, Muriel Maffre as Diana, and the Company as Dryads, Satyrs, Naiads, Nymphs, Friends, Villagers, Orion‚s Slaves, Heralds, Celebrants, Slave Women, and Visions.

Using the audience as my guide, it was Act III, the seaside scene, the longest and most entertaining of the three acts, that entertained and engaged not only those watching, but also the dancers participating. Act I, the forest scene, when the characters are introduced, in this less than serious ballet, has arrows darting about, as Sylvia shows loyalty to Diana by thwarting the shepherd, Aminta's, attention, as well as that of Orion, the hunter, who has a cache of "silly" slaves. Eros, god of love, intervenes, now and then, as does the goddess, Diana, in a later act, along with a memory vision of one of her own past trysts. Act II, the cave scene, has Sylvia making wine with her feet and bunches of grapes, getting Orion and his slaves drunk, to escape her kidnapped fate.

Mark Morris‚ strength, as one can see from this magazine‚s several reviews of his own company and other guest-choreographed works, is his innate wit and his ability to create outsized and interesting choreography, not necessarily virtuosic, but always unique with signature affectations. I wish Mr. Morris had allowed his imagination to go wild in his staging of Sylvia to make it very different from that of Sir Frederick Ashton's renowned choreography of the same story and score. In this writer‚s opinion, Mr. Morris was too restrained in the first two acts, with Sylvia and the Nymphs of Diana in conservative choreography without a great degree of visual structure.

In Act I, with the action around the various arrows, as Sylvia pierced Aminta and then Eros pierced Sylvia, with both living on in blissful dance, Mr. Morris could someday build, as only Mr. Morris can, some campy characterizations filled with theatricality and motion. In Act II, there was a watershed moment, as slaves leaped about on large rocks, drinking and pushing, but the movement was athletic, lacking much of a ballet genre. The sumptuous score allowed for driven dynamics, and Mr. Morris, again, could expand the dramatic dance potential for Eros, Aminta, Orion, Sylvia, and the slaves. Both Acts I and II were brief and, in this case, could have been combined.

However, Act III, a "Bacchanale", was perfection - lengthy, textured, campy, colorful, structured, and even virtuosic. The audience showed its approval throughout the action. Two Heralds, Moises Martin and Ruben Martin, bounced about in circles, adorable and aerobic. Guennadi Nedviguine, Aminta, had a rapturous and elegant solo, as did Vanessa Zahorian, Sylvia, and their pas de deux was struck with lightning. Muriel Maffre, as Diana, was imperious and long-limbed, well cast as the intractable goddess. Damian Smith, as the gruff, yet vulnerable Orion, was persuasive and passionate (in the cave scene as he lusted after Sylvia, his kidnapped prey). Garrett Anderson, as Sorcerer/Eros/Pirate, had exceptional stage presence, as he stood still and statuesque in the background, before leaping into the fray. The Company was also exceptional in the choreography as created, but the Act III dances were especially riveting and rare. Here, Mr. Morris excluded many of Ashton's minor corps roles, opting for exotic dance and pure artistry.

Martin West conducted the New York City Opera Orchestra with aplomb and expertise. The lush Delibes score shown brightly. I was particularly taken with Allen Moyer's full-flowered curtains and the Act III seaside sets. Martin Pakledinaz‚ costumes were also most persuasive in Act III, with chiffonny scarves and bright, buoyant colors. I would love to see Mr. Morris‚ Sylvia, a venture for him into full-length, story ballet, worked again to its fully humorous and charming potential. Kudos to San Francisco Ballet, a tour de force ballet company.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at