Frederick Ashton’s delightful full-length classical ballet is a charming feast for the senses, set to Delibes’ marvellous score.
Sylvia was Frederick Ashton’s second full-length ballet, created in 1952 as a sparkling showpiece for his muse Margot Fonteyn. Ashton used Delibes’ gorgeous 1876 score – famously beloved by Tchaikovsky, who praised its ‘charm and elegance… its riches in melody, rhythm, and harmony’. The ballet fell from the repertory but in 2004 was reconstructed by Christopher Newton for Ashton’s centenary –so rescuing from the archives a seminal work of Ashton’s English style.
Delibes’ first-rank ballet music inspired Ashton to create some of his most inventive dance imagery. There is a wealth of detail and fun in every character, and in Sylvia herself Ashton created one of the most surprisingly wide-ranging Principal roles. From the powerful huntress of Act I to the artful, witty woman who schemes her escape from pirates, and the rosy bride of the final scene, she emerges as a marvellously layered character – her challenging choreography a test to each new generation of Ashtonians.