La Sylphide – one of the world’s oldest surviving ballets – opens the new Bolshoi in Cinema season this weekend, with a screening of Johan Kobborg’s highly acclaimed staging of this romantic work, which has become synonymous with the name of Danish ballet master August Bournonville.
The original version of La Sylphide was premiered in Paris in 1832, a production by Filippo Taglioni, in which his daughter, Marie, danced the lead – the first time that an entire ballet was danced en pointe. Bournonville saw a production of the ballet, and decided to stage his own interpretation of it for his company, the Royal Danish Ballet. This production was first seen in Copenhagen in 1836 – set to a commissioned score by Herman Lovenskjold – and is the version of La Sylphide which has been handed down through the years, and is still being performed today.
Based on a libretto by Adolphe Nourrit and Filippo Taglioni, the ballet is set in a Scottish manor house, and opens on the eve of James’s marriage to Effie. He’s dozing by the fireside when he is woken by a Sylph who kisses him on the forehead. Enchanted by this beautiful winged creature, he tries to capture her, but she vanishes up the chimney. A group of local people arrives to start celebrations for the wedding, amongst whom is James’s rival, Gurn, who is also in love with Effie, and who suspects by James’s behavior that he has become infatuated with another.
James is preoccupied by his encounter with the Sylph throughout the wedding preparations, and Gurn takes this opportunity to woo Effie. On the morning of the wedding, the Sylph appears to James again, and entices him into the forest, where he again tries to capture her. Ultimately he manages to throw a veil – provided by a mischief-making old woman, Madge – around the Sylph’s shoulders, and he kisses her, but his embrace is fatal, the Sylph loses her wings and dies. By this time, Gurn has persuaded Effie to marry him, and as James stands alone in the forest, he listens forlornly to what should be the celebration of his own wedding taking place in the distance.
Dancer, choreographer and artistic director, Johan Kobborg is well placed to stage this production of La Sylphide for the Bolshoi Ballet. Not only is he one of the world’s leading interpreters of the role of James, but as one of the Royal Danish Ballet’s finest dancers he has performed in almost every ballet which Bournonville created for the company. Also a former Principal of The Royal Ballet, Kobborg was invited to stage a new version of La Sylphide for the Company in 2008, and such was the success of the production, that it led to the invitation from the Bolshoi for Kobborg to stage it for them as well.
The role of the Sylph in this production is performed by Bolshoi principal dancer Anastasia Stashkevich, a graduate of the Moscow State Choreographic Academy. Later this month, Ms Stashkevich will be seen in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s The Taming of the Shrew (which he choreographed for the Bolshoi) and in John Neumeier’s Lady of the Camellias.
Semyon Chudin, who dances the role of James in this production, graduated from the Novosibirsk Choreographic College, and danced with the Universal Ballet Company in Seoul, Republic of Korea, before joining the Bolshoi Ballet, where he is now a principal dancer. Mr Chudin will also be performing in The Taming of the Shrew later this month.
The Bolshoi Orchestra in this performance is conducted by Alexei Bogorad, a resident conductor of the Company. Maestro Bogorad is a former principal clarinetist of the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra, and soloist of the Russian National Orchestra. Chosen by Vladimir Jurowski as his assistant at the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia (Svetlanov Symphony Orchestra), Alexei Bogorad has also conducted major Russian orchestras such as the Russian National Orchestra, National Philharmonic of Russia, the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra, the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra. In this cinema season, he will also be leading the Bolshoi Orchestra in performances of Raymonda and The Nutcracker.
The original choreography of La Sylphide is by August Bournonville, new choreography is by Johan Kobborg, the Designer is Peter Farmer, Pavel Klinichev is Music Director, and Damir Ismagilov is the Lighting Designer.
The Bolshoi Ballet’s production of La Sylphide can be seen in cinemas worldwide on Sunday, November 11th. Details of screenings, and information on tickets, can be found by visiting the Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema website.
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