This week’s Wednesday Watch Party from English National Ballet features Bournonville’s enchanting ballet La Sylphide. Starring Jurgita Dronina as the Sylph and Isaac Hernández as James – the young man whose heart she steals – this production is a recreation – by Eva Kloborg, Frank Andersen and Anne Marie Vessel Schlüter – of the 1836 ballet by August Bournonville.
La Sylphide was originally a French ballet, loosely based on a tale by French writer Charles Nodier, and choreographed in 1832 by Filippo Taglioni for his daughter, Marie. Set to a score which Taglioni commissioned from Jean-Madeleine Schneitzhöffer, the work was premiered by the Paris Opera Ballet on 12th March, 1832, marking the dawn of the Romantic era of ballet.
August Bournonville’s interpretation of La Sylphide is an adaptation of the Taglioni ballet, but since the Schneitzhöffer score was too expensive to use, Bournonville set his ballet to music by Norwegian composer, Herman Severin Løvenskiold, who was just 19 at the time. It premiered on 28th November, 1836, at the Royal Danish Theatre in Copenhagen, and is now one of the oldest ballets in existence, with the oldest Romantic ballet score still being performed today.
Set in Scotland in the 1800s – a time during which the country was regarded as an exotic, faraway land – the ballet opens on the morning of the wedding between James and his fiancée Effie. Relaxing in an armchair, James has his reverie disturbed by the presence of an ethereal and alluring sylph, which sets in train a series of events that leads to a trail of infatuation, betrayal and, finally, tragedy.
The part of Effie is danced by Anjuli Hudson, Gurn is performed by Giorgio Garrett, Precious Adams is the Lead Sylph, and Jane Haworth is the sorceress Madge.
This performance was filmed at the Manchester Palace Theatre in 2017, during English National Ballet’s Autumn Tour that year. The English National Ballet Philharmonic is conducted by Gavin Sutherland.
Information sourced from English National Ballet programme notes