Premiere of ballet "La Sylphide" by Hermann Lövenskold promises to surprise Kazakh audience
The main event of the fall – the premiere of Herman Severin Løvenskiold’s ballet La Sylphide promises to surprise the discerning audience of our country, El.kz cites astanaopera.kz.
The production about the chasm between dreams and reality will be presented at the Astana Opera on September 29 and 30, October 1 and 3. It is customary to call this ballet one of the most famous. All those involved in bringing the production to the capital’s opera house stage share the secret of such popularity.
It is difficult to imagine in the 21st century the enormous fame that the ballet La Sylphide achieved two centuries ago. This performance at one time revolutionized the usual understanding of dance. After the premiere, the performer of the main role of the Sylph, Marie Taglioni, was highly sought-after by high-ranking officials from around the world to attend their receptions. However, in order to achieve such success, choreographer Filippo Taglioni had to work hard. He was the first to put the ballerina on pointe shoes, thus bringing her closer to the Sylph, mythical air spirit. It was he who tormented his daughter with rehearsals so much that she fainted after classes. Still, all the efforts were not in vain. The premiere of the ballet to the music of the French composer Jean Schneitzhöeffer took place in 1832 at the Salle Le Peletier of the Paris Opéra. Nevertheless, as fate would have it, this legendary ballet has reached our time thanks to another choreographer from Denmark – August Bournonville. After watching the production, he immediately wanted to get his hands on the ballet so that it would be performed in Copenhagen. Due to the lack of money for the original production, the Danish ballet master bought only the libretto, choreographed it himself and commissioned the music from the young composer Herman Severin Løvenskiold. The Danish stage turned out to be very small in size, so Bournonville’s style acquired the characteristics of miniaturism.
“Indeed, there is a lot of intricate small technique here. It can hardly be called the Danish style specifically. Rather, it is the Bournonville School, because here there are different body frame positions, hands and head placements, which is very unusual for us. At rehearsals with the choreographer of the production, Altynai Asylmuratova, I gain a lot of knowledge. At the beginning of rehearsals, I habitually tried to dance in the classical style, but then I had to adapt. The choreographer reveals the nuances, we slightly change the tilt or position of the body frame, and everything turns out quite simply,” principal dancer Madina Unerbayeva, Honored Worker of Kazakhstan, says.
In addition to Madina Unerbayeva, the opera house’s ballet soloists Shugyla Adepkhan, Anastasia Zaklinskaya and Sofia Adilkhanova are also working on this part. The task before the performers of the part is not an easy one. Suffice it to remember that in Celtic mythology, a sylph is a light, almost weightless creature, personifying the element of air. Thus, the ballerinas have to be in flight almost all the time. One jump gives way to another and from the darkness of the night the beautiful nymph disappears into the dawn haze.
Opening the doors of the rehearsal studio, one is impressed by the gallant and refined movements of the ballet dancers, and the ballerinas flutter easily around their partners.
“La Sylphide started a new era in ballet, the era of Romanticism. My heroine is significantly different from all those already in my repertoire. This is an unexplored part for me, which opens up in a new way at every rehearsal, just like the entire era of Romanticism itself. There is no particularly complex technique here. It is important to understand that the Sylph is an elusive maiden of the air, she is a spirit, so we need to show the lightness, translucency of the heroine without showing away the hard work involved. Even the jumps in this ballet are unlike those in all the others. They must reflect the poetics of movement, certain weightlessness, in order for the viewers to comprehend that you are an unreal being. It was very important for me to understand the ballet’s dramaturgy, to take a foray into a different line of character, to reveal different facets of myself. It is a very interesting journey to take inside myself,” Shugyla Adepkhan emphasized.
The soloist also noted that it is necessary to study various materials before any premiere, including books that served as the basis of the plot of the ballet, and read articles by critics. However, the most important thing in preparation is to watch videos. Of particular value are older video recordings and preserved archives featuring the previous generation of dancers. “It is there that you can see the true image of the ballet and your heroine. We are happy that Altynai Asylmuratova is working with us, because she is considered to be a ballerina of the generation when ballet was treated with great reverence, every portrayal was prepared thoroughly, so every remark of hers is worth a lot,” Shugyla Adepkhan concluded.
The ballet reflects motifs typical of the Romanticism era: striving for a dream and its unattainability, the illusory nature of happiness, the fear of loneliness and love that brings death. All this will have to be realized onstage thanks to the acting skills of not only the female cast of performers, but also of the male ballet dancers. Thus, the Honored Worker of Kazakhstan, principal dancer Yerkin Rakhmatullayev, soloists Serik Nakyspekov, Dias Kurmangazy and Daniyar Zhumatayev each in his own way strive to bring to light the portrayals of their hero James.
“The role of James is very interesting, probably because the ballet itself has a fascinating plot. We are performing Bournonville’s version, where he enhanced the national zest and everyday mise-en-scènes. There are really a lot of them, which creates some difficulties for the soloists, and, of course, there are complex technical elements here. To convey the atmosphere of romanticism, James’ feelings for the Sylph, you need to work on yourself a lot, take something from other performers – world ballet stars, but also not forget that we are all individuals, which means we need to add our own interpretation. James is a simple farmer, not a prince, so there is a lot of freedom and ease in his movements,” Dias Kurmangazy noted.
Despite the fact that the Sylph dies in the end and viewers emphasize with her, they will still be happy for Effie, James’ abandoned bride, who will marry Gurn, a thrifty peasant guy, who is far from fanciful romantic notions. They, unlike James, who ran away from home following his incorporeal dream, found their happiness.
On different days, Moldir Shakimova, Adelina Tulepova, Yerkezhan Zhunussova and Bakhytgul Ispanova will perform Effie, James’ earthly bride.
“Effie is a new part in my repertoire. I have never had to show such emotions onstage before. I am very excited to have an opportunity to perform this particular role, as I am discovering myself in a different line of character. Living out the story of my heroine more and more each time in the rehearsal studio, I understand that Effie feels betrayed by James. It is difficult for her to accept his actions. Certainly, I emphasize with her hard lot in life. I hope that our team will manage to convey the spirit and manner of this performance. This is a new challenge and step up for our ballet company, thanks to which we will become even better and more proficient,” Moldir Shakimova noted.
The appearance of the village sorceress, Old Madge, in the performance will add to its fairytale quality. She will predict Effie’s fate, and she will give a scarf to James, with which he will destroy the winged maiden – the Sylph. The performers of this magical role, Sultanbek Gumar, Kuat Karibayev, and Sunggat Kydyrbai, will have to show malevolence and deviousness. There is no doubt that they will master this task, because the teacher-repetiteur Elena Sherstneva, who knows the part from the inside, works with them painstakingly. In her time, she was a magnificent Madge.
The costumes by the famous designer Vyacheslav Okunev, who also created the sets for this production, will help the dancers transform into the fairytale heroine. And, of course, lights by the lighting designer Sergei Shevchenko play an important role here.
All of the opera house’s workshops, under the leadership of deputy director for design and production Victor Carare, began preparations for the premiere back in June.
The costumes will reflect the 19th century trends and will also clearly show the contrasting worlds of reality and fantasy. The viewers will be able to see the Chopin-style romantic ballet tutus, made similar to those that adorned ballerinas of that era.
“To make Chopin tutus, it is necessary to use five layers of mesh and theatrical gauze. Their length is slightly shorter than those we are used to seeing in Giselle or Chopiniana. We are making Scottish men’s kilts for the first time in accordance with the sketches and technical drawings provided by the designer. The upper parts of the costumes, tunics and corsets are made from fabrics such as velvet and velour. The women’s pleated skirts, in which the lower part consists of four layers of mesh, are also made of checkered fabrics. The production includes more than 100 costumes plus headdresses. Both men’s and women’s are very difficult to make, each has its own unique specificity,” Fatima Satybaldina, head of the Costume Shop, spoke about the preparation process.
The staff of the Restoration and Crafts Shop also did a tremendous amount of work. They produced various set elements, many of which were handed over to their colleagues in the Prop Shop for further processing. Here, for example, wooden chairs are dressed in soft upholstery and are ready for the premiere.
“Despite the fact that the audience will see an old-style ballet onstage, both old and new technologies were used in the sets and props manufacture. The production will be of interest to everyone, because it is fairytale-like. This means that we created the props to be a little magical. Fire will burn under the witch’s cauldron. For this, we use a fan and yellow lighting. A lot of details were made out of papier-mâché: a violin, stemware, firewood, and even a taxidermy stag shoulder mount that will decorate the interior of Anna’s house. A special technique was used to make nylon flowers, giving them a convex shape. To do this, the tool is heated on a hot plate, applied to a nylon piece part, which turns into a rose that we then attach to the wreaths. This is very painstaking manual work,” prop maker Makhabbat Sarbayeva says.
The witch’s attributes, a stick and a cauldron, have already been transferred to the stage for rehearsals. The numerous plates prepared for the wedding ceremony are very reminiscent of precious Chinese porcelain, but once you lift them, it becomes clear that it is lightweight painted paper coated with varnish. The prop makers put the finishing touches on various types of Scottish sporrans, day sporrans for peasants as well as full dress ones, with some of the dressier ones adorned with arctic fox fur. There are even bagpipes here. The name of this woodwind instrument “a’ phìob mhòr” is translated from Scottish Gaelic as “the great pipe”. Of course, those will not make any sound, as the Astana Opera Symphony Orchestra under the baton of the music director and conductor of the production Arman Urazgaliyev will be responsible for this.
Delightful music, incorporating Scottish melodies, will convey different states of mind of the characters, from bright joy to bitter sadness. Graceful and melodious, it will captivate the listeners with its romantic rhythms.
Dream and reality will meet onstage next Friday, so one should hurry to purchase a ticket to attend the upcoming premiere!