Choreography by Frederick Ashton
Staged by Christopher Newton
Music by Léo Delibes
Original Designs by Robin and Christopher Ironside
Additional Designs (revival) by Peter Farmer
Lighting by Mark Jonathan
Act 1 - 38:00
Act 2/3 - 51:00
Act 1 – A Sacred Wood. Woodland creatures dance in the moonlight before
the shrine of Eros, the God of Love. They are interrupted by the arrival
of the shepherd Aminta, who is in love with Sylvia. Hearing Sylvia and her
attendants approaching, Aminta hides and watches them dance as they celebrate
the success of their hunt. Sylvia, who as one of Diana’s nymphs has
promised to renounce love, taunts the statue of Eros. Meanwhile, Orion, the
evil hunter, has also been secretly watching Sylvia and, inflamed by her
beauty, is determined to possess her.
Aminta’s cloak is discovered and the shepherd is dragged from his hiding
place. He declares his love for Sylvia, but she is outraged and, blaming the
mischievous Eros, draws her bow at the god. Aminta, shielding the statue, is
pierced to the heart by Sylvia’s arrow. Eros retaliates by shooting Sylvia.
Shaken, she removes the arrow from her heart and leaves with her companions.
Peasants on their way to the fields, dance in honor of Eros. As they leave, Orion
enters and gloats over the body of Aminta. He is interrupted by the return of
Sylvia who, having been pierced to the heart by Eros’ arrow, now mourns
the dead Aminta. Emerging from his hiding place, Orion captures Sylvia and carries
her off to his island cave.
A peasant, having witnessed Sylvia’s abduction, calls his friend back and
they too weep over Aminta’s body. A strange, cloaked figure appears among
them, and they ask him for his help. He picks a
flower from the nearby bush and pressing the petals to Aminta’s lips, brings
him back to life. Aminta thanks the stranger who then tells him of Sylvia’s
abduction. As the peasants find her bow the stranger reveals himself as Eros
and sends Aminta in search of Sylvia.
Act 2 – Orion’s Island Cave. Orion tries in vain to gain Sylvia’s
affection by tempting her with jewels and fine clothes. She is reminded of her
love for Aminta by Eros’ arrow, but as she attempts to escape, Orion takes
it from her. He offers her wine, but she, in order to evade his advances, encourages
him to drink. She dances for him until he falls senseless, whereupon she retrieves
the arrow and prays to Eros for help. Appearing, Eros shows Sylvia a vision of
Aminta waiting for her by Diana’s temple and takes her to be reunited with
Act 3 - The Sea Coast near the Temple of Diana. A festival in honor of the god
Bacchus is interrupted by the arrival of Aminta in search of Sylvia. He hopes
to find her in Diana’s temple but is met by closed doors. He sees a boat
approaching with Eros, Sylvia and her attendants on board, and Eros reunites
The general rejoicing is interrupted by Orion, determined to recapture Sylvia.
She takes refuge in the temple and, after a fight with Aminta, Orion tries to
break in. Enraged by the intrusion, Diana appears and kills him. Her anger is
now directed at the lovers and she forbids their union. Eros reminds Diana that
she herself was once infatuated with a simple shepherd, Endymion. She relents
and gives the lovers her blessing.
The World Premiere of the original production of Sylvia was given by The
Royal Ballet on September 3, 1952 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden,
London, danced by Margot Fonteyn (Sylvia), Michael Somes (Aminta), John Hart
(Orion) and Alexander Grant (Eros).
The United States Premiere of this original production was given by the Sadler’s
The Royal Ballet) on September 29, 1953 at the Metropolitan Opera House, New
York, danced by Margot Fonteyn (Sylvia), Michael Somes (Aminta), John Hart
(Orion) and Alexander Grant (Eros).
The World Premiere of the revival of Sylvia by was given by The Royal Ballet
on November 4, 2004 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, danced by Darcey
Bussell (Sylvia), Jonathan Cope (Aminta), Thiago Soares (Orion) and Martin
Sylvia received its American Ballet Theatre Company Premiere at the Metropolitan
Opera House, New York on June 3, 2005, danced by Gillian Murphy (Sylva), Maxim
Beloserkovsky (Aminta), Herman Cornejo (Eros) and Marcelo Gomes (Orion).