The Royal Ballet breathes new life into Sylvia

PUBLISHED: 17:00 11 November 2010

Photos Bill Cooper for the ROH

Photos Bill Cooper for the ROH

Bill Cooper for the ROH

THE Royal Ballet had its work cut out when it decided to recreate Frederick Ashton’s mismatched three-part ballet Sylvia as part of the celebrations for their founder’s centenary.

The production, first staged in 1952, was a complicated take on a Greek love story, bringing together gods, heroes and even livestock.

Rustling through old files for photographs, stage designs, sketches and video footage of Ashton’s unique choreography was challenged by the organisation’s dodgy record-keeping and the forgetfulness of past stars who had performed in the show up to 60 years ago.

But the mission to stay true to Ashton’s vision and choreography - headed by Christopher Newton - was steadfast.

What we are left with is a dreamy, visually scrumptious production.

The simplicity in many of the group performances, and at times even the solo dances, gives this revamp a traditional ambience.

At times that is endearing, at others it leaves you wanting slightly more from the performers.

The story follows huntress nymph Sylvia who is teasingly detached until she is compelled by god of love Eros to fall in love with the shepherd Aminta.

In later acts, she must deflect the affections of infatuated hunter Orion before being rescued by Eros to join her true love once again.

Zenaida Yanowsky as Sylvia shines when she is coupled with David Makhateli’s Aminta, but these moments are few and far between and more contact would give a deeper breadth to the love story.

However, the enchanting set, beautifully exotic costume designs and dreamy score hold together what could have been an over-complicated production.

Staying true to Ashton’s vision may have been a challenge but Sylvia still has its place in this increasingly demanding dance form.


Sylvia runs at The Royal Opera House until December 1.

Go to for information.

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