American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera House
Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Kara Medoff Barnett, Executive Director
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters: Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa, Keith Roberts
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
James Timm, Director of Marketing and Brand Management
Susie Morgan Taylor, Manager of Press and Online Media
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 14, 2016
(Read More ABT Reviews.)
(See a Conversation with Conductor, David LaMarche, on the Spring 2016 Season Ballet Music.)
Sylvia (1952): Choreography by Sir Frederick Ashton, Music by Léo Delibes, Original Designs by Robin and Christopher Ironside, Additional Designs (revival) by Peter Farmer, Lighting by Mark Jonathan.
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).
Cast on May 12, 2016:
Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Isabella Boylston, Maria Kotchetkova, and Hee Seo as Sylvia, one of Diana’s nymphs, Marcelo Gomes and Roberto Bolle as Aminta, a shepherd, Daniil Simkin as Orion, the evil hunter, Craig Salstein as Eros, god of love, Devon Teuscher as Diana, the huntress, goddess of chastity, Gemma Bond and Joseph Gorak as Goats, Zhong-Jing Fang and Blaine Hoven as Ceres and Jaseion, Luciana Paris and Gabe Stone Shayer as Persephone and Pluto, April Giangeruso 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.
Cast on May 14, 2016:
Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Isabella Boylston as Sylvia, one of Diana’s nymphs, Xander Parish as Aminta, a shepherd, Alexandre Hammoudi as Orion, the evil hunter, Gabe Stone Shayer as Eros, god of love, Zhong-Jing Fang as Diana, the huntress, goddess of chastity, Skylar Brandt and Arron Scott as Goats, Cassandra Trenary and Jose Sebastian as Ceres and Jaseion, Lauren Post and Zhiyao Zhang as Persephone and Pluto, April Giangeruso and Gray Davis 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.
What an amazing night to open my two-month American Ballet Theatre Spring Season, as the listed Principal, Gillian Murphy, was suddenly injured, and, in her place, three different Principals took the role of Sylvia, one in each act. The three Sylvias on May 12, respectively in each act, were Isabella Boylston, Maria Kotchetkova, and Hee Seo. In the male lead role of Aminta, Marcelo Gomes starred in Acts I and II, with Roberto Bolle starring in Act III. As Orion, the evil hunter, Daniil Simkin appeared in all three acts, and, as Eros, the god of love, Craig Salstein appeared in all three acts. So, as this is a romantic and theatrical story ballet, we had Ms. Boylston pursued by Mr. Gomes, then Ms. Kotchetkova fell in love with Mr. Gomes, and then the wedding took place between Ms. Seo and Mr. Bolle. This was a busy night for balletomanes, who buzzed at intermission with delight at the serendipitous shifts. And, just as importantly, David LaMarche conducted the Principal cast of five, in the two lead roles, with sumptuous sizzle and stunning serenity. In fact, he was quite a trooper, and, at the curtain, the audience gave him generous accolades.
On the 12th, the first night of my Ballet Theater seasonal spring ballets, it was apparent what seasoned pros this Company is composed of, to be able to pick up the storyline (see plot above), and, with more difficulty, Ashton’s extremely challenging choreography for Sylvia, requiring endless, rapid pointe work and specifically poised torsos, also en pointe. Of the three Sylvias on the 12th, Ms. Boylston seemed the truest to Ms. Murphy’s style and Ashton’s choreographic intent. Comparing Mr. Gomes’ partnering in the first two acts, he, too, seemed strongest and most in character with Ms. Boylston. In the third act, Ms. Seo and Mr. Bolle exuded little chemistry but infinite capability. For a wedding scene, I prefer the chemistry. However, it should be mentioned that all three Sylvias were technically astute in the dances en pointe. As Orion, Mr. Simkin, physically slim, seemed miscast. For tonight, I would have preferred Mr. Salstein in the role of Orion, and Mr. Simkin as Eros, for the imagery and transporting effect. Mr. Simkin was also substituting for James Whiteside, who’s well suited as Orion. Ms. Teuscher, as Diana, seemed underused, as she’s a Soloist in waiting, one with sensational skill and charisma, one whose presence begs for lead roles. In the expansive ensemble, Luciana Paris and Gabe Stone Shayer were outstanding as Persephone and Pluto, and Skylar Brandt and Devon Teuscher caught my eye as hunt attendants.
On May 14, Ms. Boylston had one partner, as Aminta, to herself for the full ballet, the Exchange Artist from The Mariinsky Ballet, Xander Parish. Compared to Mr. Gomes, who partnered Ms. Boylston on the 12th, Mr. Parish seemed to need further rehearsing, and he seemed to be anxious on the Met Opera stage. For the strenuous and dynamic role of Aminta, one that centers the impassioned, Léo Delibes orchestral themes, Mr. Parish seemed miscast. One need only to turn the mind to past Amintas reviewed on these pages – Angel Corella in 2005, Roberto Bolle in 2009, and Marcelo Gomes in 2013, the latter two appearing in strength just two nights previously on the 12th, to find a great Aminta. Ms. Boylston is a powerful Sylvia, her legs busily quivering en pointe, in rhythm with the scintillating score, also conducted by Maestro LaMarche on the 14th, and she was truly a joy to behold. As Orion, Alexandre Hammoudi was in his element, perfectly suited to capture, then become outmaneuvered by Sylvia in his island cave scene. Gabe Stone Shayer was a gorgeous Eros, and Zhong-Jing Fang commanded the stage as Diana, as she acquiesces to Sylvia’s marriage to Aminta. In the ensemble, Skylar Brandt and Arron Scott were adorable and buoyant as Goats, and Cassandra Trenary and Jose Sabastian caught my eye as Ceres and Jaseion.
In the gestalt, Ashton’s three-act Sylvia, scored to Delibes, has the same rapturous, magical aura as his one-act The Dream, scored to Mendelssohn. The orchestral strings are especially mesmerizing in both ballets. The solo violin in the Act II-Act III Overture, along with the trumpets, draws the audience in with tonal lure. In fact, the listening experience for Sylvia is equally, if not more, memorable to the audience, than is the visual. This ballet grows on the attentive viewer on every level and should be included more frequently in the repertoire. Kudos to David LaMarche, who conducted on both nights, including the May 12 “potpourri”. And, kudos to Ashton and Delibes for this lustrous ballet.
Maria Kochetkova and Daniil Simkin
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor
Isabella Boylston in "Sylvia"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor