ballet in two acts
music by Herman von Lovenskjold
August Bournonville’s La Sylphide, set to a commissioned score by Herman Lovenskjold, premiered in Copenhagen in 1836, and has remained in the repertoire of the Royal Danish Ballet to this day. In creating La Sylphide, Bournonville used the Adolph Nourrit libretto which had underpinned Filippo Taglioni’s earlier version of this ballet, with music by Jean Schneitzhoeffer, which had premiered in Paris in 1832. Taglioni’s La Sylphide is often hailed as a landmark work which heralded the Romantic era.
The Mikhailovsky Ballet first staged La Sylphide in 1975, being the first company to bring back the ballet to the Russian stage. The then artistic director of the ballet company Oleg Vinogradov invited two of the Danish Bournonville experts — Swedish ballet dancer, choreographer and ballet master Elsa Marianne von Rosen and ballet historian Allen Fridericia, who revived the masterpiece of Romanticism.
James, Effie’s young finance, is sleeping in an arm-chair by the fireplace. Suddenly there appears a sylph, an airy spirit. She’s fluttering around James and wakes him up with a kiss. James wants to catch the sylph, but she vanishes in the air. The young man can’t stop thinking of the fairy girl, he’s just seen.
Madge, a witch, has come to the house to foretell the future of the young. She prophesies that James won’t marry Effie. James makes the witch to leave the house, which she does, full of wishes to revenge. At the wedding party the sylph appears again, seen to nobody but James. She steals James’s wedding ring and vanishes again. James follows her, leaving Effie alone.
In the magic wood Madge is conjuring spells over the boiling pot. She’s holding a scarf. Tired James has come to her: he can’t find the sylph. She comes and leaves again and again. Madge gives James a magic scarf that would help to captivate the sylph. When he finds her again, James puts the scarf around the sylph’s shoulders. The scarf is poisoned: her wings fall off, she’s dying. Other sylphs carry her away. James is inconsolable.
He can see the wedding party: his fiancée Effie has just married Gurn.