I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship for overseas travel in 1995. As part of my journey, I went to the Royal Danish Ballet to be coached by world renowned Danish ballerina – Lis Jeppesen.

This short period of my career was very special, I worked very hard,  jumped a lot in those history steeped studios, suffered a lot and returned home with a true and very human understanding of the role of the Sylph.

Below is the La Sylphide synopsis and fun facts to add to your knowledge and understanding of romantic ballet classics.

Written by;  Vicki Attard

La Sylphide Synopsis

Act I:  La Sylphide takes place in Scotland. James is sitting in an armchair at the fireside.  It is the dawn of the day of his marriage to Effie.  Near him a winged spirit, a sylphide, (sylph), appears, gazes at him with love, and wakes him with a kiss.  As James wakes, the sylph runs away, dancing.  Effie, her mother, some neighbours, Gurn, (Effie’s disappointed suitor), and Madge, (an old witch that James had sent away), arrive.  Madge prophesies that Effie is not loved by her betrothed, (James), and will marry Gurn. When he is left alone James sees the sylph again.  This time she professes her love for him and invites him to follow her.   Gurn has witnessed this and runs to tell Effie, so that she may see James’ infidelity.  The sylph is in the big chair, but James covers her with his cloak, and when Gurn whips it away the chair appears to be empty.  During the party the sylph moves among the dancers, visible only to James.  Finally, she takes the wedding ring intended for Effie from his hand and rushes into the forest, with James in pursuit, leaving Effie in tears.  Gurn leads the guests in search of James.

Act II:  The witch Madge is in a dark cave conjuring spells and surrounded by demons.  She dips a filmy scarf into the cauldron. Now, in a dense forest, James enters followed by the sylph, with whom he is now in love, even though she continually evades him. Meanwhile, Gurn and the others have returned from their search after failing to find James.  Madge appears and gives James the scarf “with which he can hold his elusive love.”  After a couple of tries he succeeds in tricking the sylph and encircling her in the scarf. Immediately her wings fall off, as Madge has cast a spell on the scarf, and the sylph dies.  Overcome, James falls to the ground, and in the distance the sounds of the marriage feast of Gurn and Effie can be heard, whilst the witch gloats over her revenge.

La Sylphide Fun facts;

  • La Sylphide was the first major Romantic ballet.
  • La Sylphide premiered on March 12, 1832 at The Paris Opera, choreographed by Filippo Taglioni, father of Marie Taglioni, who performed the lead female role at the opening.
  • The second version of La Sylphide choreographed by August Bournonville in 1836, is the only known version to have survived.
  • A sylph is a mythological creature or spirit.

Australian dancers should keep an eye out for performances of this classic ballet in the upcoming season with The Australian Ballet.  For further information on performance dates,  CLICK HERE

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