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American Ballet Theatre: Sylvia 2009

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American Ballet Theatre

Sylvia 2009

Metropolitan Opera House

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters:
Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova, Georgina Parkinson
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 1, 2009

(Read More ABT Reviews)

Sylvia (1952): (See June 4, 2005 Review). Choreography by Sir Frederick Ashton, Music by Léo Delibes, Production Realization and Staging by Christopher Newton, Original Designs by Robin and Christopher Ironside, Additional Designs by Peter Farmer, Lighting by Mark Jonathan, Performed by Michele Wiles as Sylvia, one of Diana’s nymphs, Roberto Bolle as Aminta, a shepherd, Cory Stearns as Orion, the evil hunter, Daniil Simkin as Eros, god of love, Kristi Boone as Diana, the huntress, goddess of chastity, Misty Copeland and Craig Salstein as Goats, Leann Underwood and Jared Matthews as Ceres and Jaseion, Maria Riccetto and Isaac Stappas as Persephone and Pluto, Veronica Part and Alexandre Hammoudi as Terpsichore and Apollo, Conductor: David LaMarche, and the Company as Hunt attendants, Naiads, Dryads, Fauns, Sylvans, Peasants, Orion’s Concubines, Slaves, Muses, Spring attendants, Summer attendants, Sylvia’s attendants, and Trumpeters, with students from the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at ABT as Diana’s attendants.

Christopher Newton’s 2005 staging of ABT full-length production of Frederick Ashton’s “Sylvia”, with Delibes’ melodic score, was created in collaboration with the Royal Ballet as homage to Sir Frederick Ashton’s centennial. The mythological plot tells us that Sylvia has promised to renounce love, but both Aminta, a shepherd, and Orion, an evil hunter, are in love with her. Sylvia blames Eros, God of love, for this trouble, and shoots him with an arrow, causing him to shoot her back. Sylvia now mourns Aminta’s apparent death, having been struck by Eros’ arrow, and Eros appears as a stranger to revive Aminta to locate the abducted Sylvia.

Orion tries in vane to win over Sylvia, who pours wine into his throat and dances until he sleeps. Eros again tries to reunite the lovers, Aminta and Sylvia. When Aminta arrives at a festival for Bacchus, he sees Sylvia arrive by boat with Eros. Orion still harbors evil jealousy and tries to undo Aminta, but Diana arrives and kills Orion. Diana gives up her anger at the two lovers for these violent events and blesses the lovers. (Based on ABT Program Notes).

Sylvia is not one of my favorite ballets, and I chose to see just one cast. Even on the one night, I had difficulty engaging with the music and the drama. The mythological tale is complicated enough (see above synopsis), but Michele Wiles, as Sylvia, one of Diana’s nymphs, and Roberto Bolle, as Aminta, the shepherd who loves her, exuded little chemistry and persuasion in the roles. Each was technically astute, and the role of Sylvia is extraordinarily demanding throughout two Acts, but Ms. Wiles did not seem totally in balletic form. She was, as always, enthusiastic, propulsive, confident, even larger than life. But when she raised her arms and leaped about, there was no elegance or eloquence. Even an Amazonian huntress needs some polish and style. In fact, she tended to eye the audience for approval, mid-leap, much too unsophisticated for the true ballet fans in the House. At times, she also landed after or before the Orchestra’s beat. I have seen Ms. Wiles in far better form and attitude. However, there were some sublime moments, especially when she forced Orion to drink himself to sleep, while she endlessly danced in his cave, so she could ultimately escape, with Eros’ help.

As Aminta, Roberto Bolle was in pure line and coltish athleticism. He’s a tall, muscular dancer, well-suited physically to Ms. Wiles, but, as an actor, he will hopefully grow in authentic dramatization and seamless musicality. He was just not convincing as a character who’s rapturously in love. Yet, in pure physicality, Mr. Bolle is magnetizing. I missed his other performances this Season and look forward to seeing him again next Spring. As Orion and Eros, however, Cory Stearns and Daniil Simkin were worth the experience, and more. Mr. Stearns is a Corps dancer, an artist to watch intensely. He’s magnetic and masculine in aura. His charisma is refreshing, new, and unassuming. He’s authentic and does not play to the audience. As Orion, Mr. Stearns was tormented in achieving his catch, i.e. Sylvia, and he exuded strength and focus on the role in each moment. Mr. Simkin, as well, is a natural character actor, a new face on the stage, as Eros, the still statue on high, then Eros, who shoots the arrow of love, then Eros, who’s disguised as a stranger with magic rose petals to awake the wounded Aminta, then Eros, who persuades Diana to allow Sylvia to be joined with Aminta. Mr. Simkin, like Mr. Stearns, is unassuming and refreshing. And, he dances like a panther.

As the Goats, Misty Copeland and Craig Salstein were extraordinary - witty, cunning, and adorable. These two Soloists have personality and charisma to spare. Among the remaining mythological characters, Veronika Part and Alexandre Hammoudi riveted my attention as Terpsichore and Apollo. Melanie Hamrick and Jennifer Whalen danced as Orion’s Concubines with exoticism, and Julio Bragado-Young and Kenneth Easter were outstanding as Slaves. Kristi Boone was Diana, the huntress, and she was perfectly cast with her icy gaze and sculpted form. Ms. Boone, another artist to watch, also knows how to personify her character in an unassuming manner. And, she’s skilled and musical. Sylvia has some sumptuous woodland scenery, misty and ethereal, thanks to Christopher Ironside and Peter Farmer. Leo Delibes’ score is replete with brassy introductions and heralding flourishes. David LaMarche, Conductor, kept the music grandiose. Kudos to the trumpets and Orchestral brass contingent. Sir Frederick Ashton’s ballets should be mounted in New York more often.

Michele Wiles and Roberto Bolle
in "Sylvia"
Courtesy of MIRA

Michele Wiles and Cory Stearns
in "Sylvia"
Courtesy of MIRA

Michelle Wiles and Daniil Simkin
in "Sylvia"
Courtesy of MIRA

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