The mythology inspired ballet Sylvia, is a three-act ballet set to the music of French Composer Lo Delibes. Often considered to be one of Delibes's greatest musical works, this ballet made its debut in 1876 in Paris. The inspiration for the ballet's story is believed to be the 1573 pastoral play 'Aminta' by Italian poet Torquato Tasso. It premiered at the Palais Garnier in Paris on June 14th 1876 was unfortunately met with a poor reception and subsequent productions of the ballet were also largely unsuccessful.
Sir Frederick Ashton revived the ballet in 1952, however Sylvia still received a lukewarm reception, with many critics believing the story to be over complicated and confusing. Ashton revised the storyline further changing it into a one-act ballet but Sylvia never became as popular as other ballets and this version was last performed in 1965. A former student of Ashton's called Christopher Newton resurrected Sylvia once again in 2001, as he knew that Sir Frederick had always wanted to try again and change the ballet into three acts. In recent times the new version of Sylvia has received a better reception than previously.
The main roles in the ballet come from mythology; they are Sylvia a huntress nymph, Aminta a shepherd who is in love with Sylvia, Eros the God of love, Diana the Goddess of chastity and the hunt and Orion a malevolent hunter who kidnaps Sylvia. Minor roles include peasants, hunt attendants, goats, fauns and various nymphs and dryads.
The first act of the ballet is called A Sacred Wood and begins with Aminta stumbling upon the various woodland creatures dancing before the God Eros. Sylvia, the object of Aminta's desire, and her fellow hunters also arrive at the woodland ritual for Eros and begin to mock the God. Confusion breaks out when Sylvia spies the hidden Aminta and she fires her bow at Eros. Aminta in trying to protect Eros is injured by Sylvia's arrow and Eros shoots Sylvia who is mildly injured. Sylvia's unwelcome admirer Orion has also been watching this scene and he continues to spy as Sylvia returns to check up on the wounded Aminta and seizes the opportunity to kidnap the young nymph. Eros revives Aminta and tells him of Orion's kidnap.
Act two is called Orion's Island Cave and this secret location is where we find Orion and the kidnapped Sylvia. Orion tries to appease Sylvia with wine and jewels but she will not be swayed and is distraught at the thought of the wounded Aminta. Sylvia cunningly proceeds to get Orion drunk and invokes the God Eros to help her. Eros appears to Sylvia with a vision of Aminta recovered and waiting for her to return. Eros and Sylvia then leave for the Goddess Diana's temple where Aminta is waiting for Sylvia.
The final act - The Sea Coast Near The Temple Of Diana - sees Sylvia and Aminta briefly reunited however Orion is fast to catch up with them and starts to fight with Aminta. During the fight Orion tries to enter Diana's shrine, which is forbidden making the Goddess angry and she refuses to allow Aminta and Sylvia to be together. However all is not lost as God of love Eros presents Diana with a vision of her own young love. The memory of this past love results in Diana reversing her decision and Sylvia and Amintas' union is allowed with the good will of the Gods.
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