By Sim Sim Wissgott (AFP) – Oct 26, 2011
VIENNA — A great classic and a new star showed that the Vienna Ballet continues to grow, as it presented Pierre Lacotte's "La Sylphide," its first premiere of the new season.
The nearly 180-year-old tale of fairies and doomed love got a thunderous reception from a packed house at the Vienna Opera and its star, Irina Tsymbal, was duly elevated to the rank of first solo dancer -- the equivalent of the French "etoile" -- after the show.
One of the great classics of ballet with its long tutus and peasant dances, "La Sylphide" is also "one of the most difficult ballets in the world," as French choreographer Pierre Lacotte noted Wednesday.
Despite its demanding footwork, his version of the 1832 original was light and fresh.
Set in Scotland, the story follows James, a young man who abandons his fiancee for a fairy -- a sylphide -- only to lose her to a witch's deadly spell.
In the title role, Tsymbal turned in a graceful and truly fairy-like performance that more than justified her later promotion.
First solo dancer Roman Lazik, as James, also impressed with his technical assurance although he was evidently more at ease performing powerful jumps and entrechats than in scenes requiring more acting.
The couple's pas de trois in the first act with Nina Polakova -- the jilted fiancee -- was a joy to watch, for Lacotte's playful choreography as much as the strong performance by all three dancers.
Alongside the youthful and wonderfully expressive Polakova, Maria Alati and Mihail Sosnovschi -- who almost stole the show in the first act with their fantastic pas de deux, including a jump-intensive solo for Sosnovschi -- also deserve a mention.
"La Sylphide" was first performed in 1832, starring Marie Taglioni, one of the first great romantic ballerinas to perform in tutu and pointe shoes.
For the Vienna version, no fewer stars were on hand: Lacotte himself rehearsed with the dancers, aided by Vienna's ballet director Manuel Legris, and his former Paris Opera partner Elisabeth Platel, now director of the ballet school at the venerable French institution.
In true romantic tradition, the sylphides wore long tutus and flowers in their hair, while the Scottish costumes remained as cliched as when they were first created 180 years ago.
The imposing sets, like the costumes, were designed by Lacotte based on the 1832 originals.
But this did not prevent a few technological enhancements, in the shape of miniature lifts allowing the Sylphide to float to the ground and more comical sylphide dolls whizzing through the trees.
After a year under Legris's helm, the dusty Vienna Ballet has already notched up a string of successes while expanding its repertoire.
Further ballet premieres this season will include two medley evenings with choreographies by Serge Lifar, Roland Petit or Vesna Orlic, as well as a Nureyev Gala in June.
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