“La Sylphide” is a romantic ballet in two acts, created by the choreographer Filippo Taglioni and first staged by him in 1832 at the Paris Opera. The ballet now exists in two main editions: a production by Filippo Taglioni and a production by August Bournonville. I am going to share my impressions and emotions after watching it in Bournonville’s production, as well as prove an insight and briefly talk about the plot of this masterpiece.
A cold and grey day was perfect for watching the gentle and romantic tragedy of “La Sylphide” at Atlanta Ballet. Its artistic director, who is Gennadi Nedvigin, a choice to use the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra in this play was a profound success and evidence of elevating the level of classical ballet in Atlanta. Sensitivity and emotions were the key themes of “La Sylphide,” as the Sylph was an enigmatic character. Airi Igarashi (the Sylph) performed admirably. Her Sylph was flirty and nearly naughty and seemed to be almost weightless. Sergio Masero-Olarte, who danced James, showed an excellent ballet mastery and technique, especially during his solo in the first act. However, his rival, Gurn, who was danced by Bret Coppa, overshadowed a bit Masero-Olarte’s acting and mime talents.
In the first act, my attention was also focused on the brilliant scenery from American Ballet Theatre. It was nice to see some old things, for example, the chimney, which the Sylph was flying up, or the window in arabesque, in which she appeared then. This classic antique brought the story to life, and the mime did the same by explaining the events to spectators, for whom this ballet was unfamiliar. It was further evidence that Nedvigin and the rest of the Atlanta Ballet team did a great job. Nevertheless, I would like to name one of the weaknesses of the production, which was the lack of a sense of cohesion and mutual understanding among the corps. It might appear because the majority of dancers came from different ballet schools in the USA. Another reason might be that many of them were relatively young ballerinas.
Manipulations of light were interesting when the light spot fell only on the main characters, and all the others were hidden by darkness. This emphasized a sense of intimate personal space, when lovers, wherever they were, did not need anything except for themselves. Only the Sylph, who was visible only for James, studiously tried to destroy this space and instill doubts in the sincerity of feelings.
As for the second act, it was as beautiful and amazing as the first one. First of all, the sets were magical, and I am still impressed by the artfulness of creating a real dense forest thicket on the stage. Moreover, the translucent perspective of “air” made it even more realistic, three-dimensional, with a 3D effect. Soaring in the air, flying sulfides, landing on the branches of the mighty oaks looked terrific.
Secondly, I believe that the costumes for the Sylphs and other characters could not be lovelier. All heroes, except the Sylph, appeared in a traditional Scottish cage. Red and blue suits with white trim were harmonious and looked great in motion. They perfectly combined stylization under the Scottish national costume with the requirements of scenography. It should be noted that in this ballet, dancers in traditional kilts, berets and golfs, looked almost more attractive than ballerinas. The Sylph, flitting among them, in her snow-white dress, with a wreath in her hair, seemed ephemeral. The dark floor, with a small mirror effect, further emphasized the airiness of the ballerinas and their costumes.
The choreographer Johan Kobborg added the dance for Sylph and James, which was not in the original production, but it was also wonderful. What is more, it surely added more narrative sense for the Sylph to take James into her enchanted forest. The corps de ballet was lovely, and the dancers showed their mastery and gracefulness in their pose changes, and their timid, and even almost uncomfortable movements when posing. Nevertheless, this looked natural enough and created a special atmosphere. Of course, magnificent detailed costumes, opulent scenery, and spectacular technical tricks added entertainment to the ballet. However, in the end, I felt some incompleteness, perhaps because each of the two acts of the ballet lasted about 40 minutes.
I chose “La Sylphide” because I read many reviews on this ballet, and most people loved it. All in all, I was surprised by the physical and emotional mastery of the dancers. Sergio Masero-Olarte, who danced James, was excellent, though sometimes it seemed that his impressive kilt might prevent him from moving freely. Airi Igarashi, who danced the Sylph, became more beautiful and impressive as the ballet went on, and her exciting solo and coda within the pas de deux provided a feeling of lightness and magical impulse.
The events take place in a Scottish village, where the protagonist, James, on the eve of his wedding with Effie, sees a Sylph, who is a captivating spirit of the air. She flutters around James sleeping by the fireplace and wakes him up with a kiss. James, fascinated by the Sylph, tries to catch her, but she disappears. When the guests gather, the Sylph appears again, but no one can see her except for the protagonist. Meanwhile, the sorceress Madge predicts that Effie will marry another bridegroom, Gurn. James chases the witch away, who leaves with a grudge against him. During the wedding celebration, the Sylph reappears and steals the wedding ring. Unable to resist her charms, James rushes after her, leaving the heartbroken Effie.
In the next act, Madge, the sorceress, is bending over the boiling cauldron, with a long transparent scarf in her hands. James follows the Sylph in her kingdom, which is an enchanted forest, but cannot hold her back. Then the witch offers James a magic scarf by which he can capture the elusive Sylph. When James puts the scarf around her shoulders, she loses her wings and cannot fly away. More than that, the Sylph cannot live because of this magic scarf and dies. James realizes that he lost earthly happiness in pursuit of a ghostly dream. At the same time, villagers celebrate the wedding of Effie and Gurn. James does not notice them, and unable to survive the death of the Sylph, he falls dead.
As I was a first-time viewer at Atlanta Ballet, I was overwhelmed with positive emotions. In addition, I was very impressed with the production and the commitment to it of all involved. However, this ballet left a sense of understatement; that is why I am looking forward to going to the Atlanta Ballet again to enjoy another masterpiece of our famous classics being performed so brilliantly.