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American Ballet Theatre: Sylvia 2013
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American Ballet Theatre: Sylvia 2013

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American Ballet Theatre

Sylvia 2013

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,
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
James Timm, Director of Marketing and Brand Management
Susan Morgan-Taylor, Manager of Press and Online Media

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 24, 2013

(Read More ABT Reviews)

Conductor: David LaMarche
(See an Interview about Spring Season Ballet Music 2013, with David LaMarche, Conductor)

Sylvia (1952): 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 Gillian Murphy as Sylvia, one of Diana’s nymphs, Marcelo Gomes 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, Stella Abrera and Grant DeLong as Ceres and Jaseion, Luciana Paris and Alexei Agoudine as Persephone and Pluto, Simone Messmer and Thomas Forster as Terpsichore and Apollo, 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 vain 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).

I had forgotten what an exquisite and scintillating ballet Ashton’s Sylvia can be, under the right circumstances, and those circumstances were perfectly aligned tonight. Opening night of the next story ballet in Spring Season is always stirring, but it’s not always sensational. Tonight’s performance, with Marcelo Gomes as Aminta, Gillian Murphy as Sylvia, Cory Stearns as Orion, Daniil Simkin as Eros, and Kristi Boone as Diana, seemed magical and mesmerizing. The music, composed by Delibes, was brought to life by David LaMarche, commandingly conducting from the pit. Ballet Theatre orchestra gave him a truly memorable opening night presentation, filled with rapture, resonance, and relish. The brass and strings were sumptuous.

Ms. Murphy shines in this powerful role, as a nymph of Diana, who has renounced relationships with men. In a way, she reprised Myrta (Giselle) with a bow and arrow, instead of rosemary twigs, but vulnerable in the arms of Aminta, the shepherd; one wonders…if only Myrta had an ardent admirer. Ms. Murphy dances with poise, balance, speed, muscularity, confidence, and emotional affect. She was purely poignant, when she eventually melts, and purely impulsive, when she wards off Orion, by seducing him with wine into a drunken stupor, to secure her escape. Ms. Murphy is one of Ballet Theatre’s strongest ballerinas in her prime, and it’s thrilling to catch as many of her performances as possible, as she achieves impressive elevation, buoyant pirouettes, and dervish fouettés. In fact, this performance, in the gestalt, was so aesthetically visual, that it seemed filmatic, an enduring work of art. Mr. Gomes danced with an urgency, as Aminta in pursuit, one of his best roles, the epitome of the determined cavalier, like a character from Fragonard’s figurative paintings. He lurks, he chases, he seems to die, he’s reborn, he’s tireless, he’s passionate.

Cory Stearns, as the menacing Orion, was fittingly cast, tall, imposing, also determined, but foolish enough to succumb to goblets of wine and dances to the deepest sleep. He’s manly and malevolent, and he leaps about with swiftness and vigor. Daniil Simkin is solidly cast as Eros, and he stands endlessly still, as the statue of the God of love, until he wounds Sylvia with his arrow. He moves in slight nuanced motion, a great role for Mr. Simkin, who is far better suited to these solo showcased roles. When he crawls about in a cape in disguise, his posture and affect could not be more authentic. Kristi Boone is a proud, yet humble Diana, who re-visits with Eros’ help, a dream image of a former lover and acquiesces to Sylvia’s new love for Aminta. The Festival for Bacchus includes two goats, Misty Copeland and Craig Salstein, and these two are natural partners, well suited physically and spiritually. Mr. Salstein has operatic proportions to his theatrical dance acting, but it was toned down somewhat for this duo caper. Ms. Copeland was superbly engaging. Stella Abrera and Grant Delong caught my eye as Ceres and Jaseion, while Simone Messmer and Thomas Forster were stunning as Terpsichore and Apollo. Luciana Paris and Alexei Agoudine danced robustly as Persephone and Pluto. In the Corps, Arron Scott and Joseph Phillips caught my eye.

Peter Farmer revived the original designs by Robin and Christopher Ironside. Mark Jonathan designed the lighting. Without doubt, the scenery and costumes of Sylvia are worthy of murals and framed art. I often wish Ballet Theatre could create filmed recordings of these gorgeous and virtuosic productions. The beauty is so fleeting, so worthy of permanent replication for homes, theaters, and study spaces. There was magic in the air tonight. The stage was imbued with the same ambient mood of Ashton’s The Dream. David LaMarche kept the music alluring and spellbinding. Kudos to Sir Frederick Ashton.

Gillian Murphy in
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

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