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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
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American Ballet Theatre: Sylvia

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 4, 2005
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
140 West 65th Street
New York, NY 10023

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American Ballet Theatre: Sylvia

American Ballet Theatre
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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 4, 2005

Sylvia (1952): (See November 5, 2004 Abrams Royal Ballet Review). Choreography by Sir Frederick Ashton, Music by Leo 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 Paloma Herrera as Sylvia, one of Diana's nymphs, Angel Corella as Aminta, a shepherd, Jesus Pastor as Orion, the evil hunter, Craig Salstein as Eros, god of love, Carmen Corella as Diana, the huntress, goddess of chastity, Sarah Lane and Carlos Lopez as Goats, Michele Wiles and David Hallberg as Ceres and Jaseion, Maria Riccetto and Isaac Stappas as Persephone and Pluto, Veronica Part and Eric Underwood as Terpsichore and Apollo, Conductor: Charles Barker, 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 newly staged 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. (ABT Notes).

Delibes' intriguing and intoxicating score sets the mood for mythological love and murderous lyricism. The violence in this quasi-campy tragedy is just a love arrow, piercing a heart or two, plus one arrow to rid the coast of a jealous hunter. From the moment Paloma Herrera crossed a bridge on this detailed and daring, multi-level set, the energy onstage and in the House shot up a notch. Ms. Herrera fixed her gaze upon the audience with wily, wanton confidence, and the hunt for love began.

Angel Corella, as the shepherd, Aminta, attentively and acrobatically partnered Ms. Herrera, through his near-death scene and his theatrical unweaving of this most complex plot. The ABT program notes include seven paragraphs on this unwinding story, as Sylvia is a somewhat unfamiliar tale to most NYC balletomanes. There was not the level of bravura dance opportunities for Ms. Herrera and Mr. Corella as in other more seasoned ballets, but this premiere staging was replete with elegant costumes, textured sets, rapturous music, and spiraling-staircase styled, descending choreography. Jesus Pastor, as the evil, obsessed hunter, Orion, exuded ferocious force and decadent desire.

Craig Salstein, as Eros, was as still as his shadow could be, as he watched his prey, in advance of his arrow-play, and Carmen Corella, as Diana, dancing onstage with her brother, Angel, had classic bearing and sophisticated strength. There were also two goats, Sarah Lane and Carlos Lopez, who exuded primitive animalism in their tiny clopping and cloying choreography. A high point in the drama occurs as Sylvia offers the inebriated Orion glass after glass of wine, as she dances and lulls him to sleep. This was a shrewd, chastity-saving device.

The corps, as surreal creatures, peasants, concubines, muses, and attendants, with children from the new ABT Kennedy Onassis School, was as busy tonight as the principals, as this production was an inherently equalized venture, with a full compliment of dance for the entire company. Kudos to Sir Frederick Ashton, and kudos to Christopher Newton, Robin and Christopher Ironside, and Peter Farmer. And, kudos to Charles Barker for his attentive conducting of this long, but lesser known score.

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