Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Silfiden, Danish for La Sylphide, continues to exert its otherworldly magic as presented on June 18 by the Royal Danish Ballet on its first visit to New York City in many years. The charm and delicacy with which the mostly very youthful company presented this August Bournonville classic certainly captivated this audience member. And everyone else.

The delicate-seeming but actually very difficult choreography—oh, those precise finishes in fifth position!—is complemented by a real sense of fairy-tale fantasy, perfectly expressed by the two leads; they really seemed not quite of this world and could not survive in it.

Quaint nineteenth-century stage touches are managed deftly: the Sylphide whooshes up the chimney at the end of the first scene, so that our hero, James, isn't even sure she's been there at all. When she reappears on the windowsill, cf. the old Taglioni lithograph, she floats to the floor. When she meets her tragic end, her little gossamer wings drop off one by one, and, finally, her corpse is borne off aloft, on wires, accompanied by her fellow airy beings.

As an avid opera as well as ballet aficionada, I was also charmed by the lovely sets and costumes, totally in keeping with echt romanticism, that were designed by Mikael Melbye in one of the most successful career changes in the world of the arts. I heard him sing Papageno at the Met a number of years ago, and he was one of the most prominent Danish lyric baritones when he retired from singing in 1999. Also a painter, he has since become an internationally successful theatrical designer. (New York City Ballet could use him.)

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