On Centre Stage.
Flings Aint What They Used to Be.
Queensland Ballet with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.
Choreographer Peter Schaufuss after August Bournonville.
Running time two hours with one 20 minute interview.
Playhouse Theatre QPAC.
Season runs until March 31.
Artistic director Li Cunxin’s triumphant tenure at the Queensland Ballet continues with an award-winning production of one of the world’s great romantic ballets.
La Sylphide has a remarkable multi-cultural heritage, but seems to be as fresh today as it undoubtedly did for audiences at its second premiere in 1836.
It has certainly been a firm fixture in the Royal Danish Ballet repertoire since that date, although it had a previous life from 1832 at the Paris Opera.
In that vision – now lost in the mists of time – choreographer Filipo Taglioni mounted the work, based on the writings of Frenchman Charles Nodier, so his talented daughter, Marie, could show-off her exquisite point work.
The dancer even shortened her dress – scandalous back then – to highlight the beauty of her legs as well as her then revolutionary skill.
When the young director of the Royal Danish Ballet, August Bournonville, wanted to showcase it some four years later he found that the fee for the musical score was too expensive.
Norwegian composer Herman Lovenskjold was commissioned to write what was destined to be one of the oldest full-length scores from the 19th century.
Finally, La Sylphide draws on one more ethnic reference as it is set in Scotland and in the words of Queensland Symphony Orchestra conductor and musical director Andrew Mogrelia is, ‘full of memorable, characteristic melodies that brim with Scottish flavor.’
The result, from contemporary choreographer Peter Schaufuss, is a golden nugget of a show with appeal for a broad demographic.
The story is set in a Scottish farmhouse on the morning of James’s marriage to Effie, but the best laid plans are soon in disarray when a winged figure, The Sylph, flies to our protagonist and seduces him with a kiss on the forehead.
The ballet’s first half is consumed with confused passions as James’s feel for the mythical creature over take him and appear to leave his bride to be, Effie, abandoned.
However, James’s revival in love, Gurn, is hovering on the sidelines and then there’s an old woman with magical powers, who becomes a dangerous enemy.
A stellar Queensland and international cast, including Cuban star Yanela Pinera (The Sylphide), Beijing’s Qi Huan (James), Mary Li (Madge), Shane Weurthner (Gurn) Sarah Thompson (Effie) and Janette Mulligan (Anne mother of James), lead the company in a vigorous first act and a sobering darker second one.
La Sylphide is tipped to play to sell-out houses at the Playhouse and then perform at London’s Coliseum in August as the Queensland Ballet deservedly makes its mark on the world stage.