Why go to such lengths to restore this pastoral love story, originally based on the celebrated Italian poet Torquato Tasso's lyric play Aminta? Beyond its importance as Ashton's homage to the great ballets of his beloved Marius Petipa, it is a truly challenging role for the ballerina, dramatically as much as technically. She must present herself convincingly in a variety of guises, from Amazonian huntress to seductive temptress outwitting her captors to, at last, a woman transformed by love – the embodiment of classical femininity. She is on stage virtually the entire ballet in a marathon of virtuosic dancing, so essentially English in its fantastically quick footwork, melting arms and complex balancing of the upper and lower parts of the body. Finally, Léo Delibes' score is one of the most delectable masterpieces of 19th-century ballet music. Tchaikovsky was so impressed with it that he once observed: "Had I known Sylvia existed, I would not have dared compose Swan Lake!"
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