By Jennifer Coles
The Australian Ballet continues to pursue perfection and pure entertainment with each new production they take on. This ‘romantic double bill’ is no exception. Exquisite and technically masterful, the pairing of Paquita (1847) and La Sylphide (1836) is a wonderful joy to experience.
To begin, Paquita as a performance piece (music by Ludwig Minkus, choreographed by Marius Petipa and special note must be made of the grand pas de deux, Leanne Stojmenov and Daniel Gaudiello) made excellent use of the space and was accompanied by a charming, minimalist set. The ensemble moved well together, and were completely dedicated to each gesture and movement. The piece also features a lot of pointe work, which was a treat to watch and relish in.
This elegant professionalism continued throughout the performance of La Sylphide (choreographed by Erik Bruhn after August Bournonville). It tells the tale of James (a young Scottish farmer, preparing for his upcoming wedding), who is distracted by the appearance of a woodland sprite called La Sylphide. After his attempts to catch her are unsuccessful, the fairy disappears. He returns to the wedding and angers the local witch, Madge. However, the reappearance of La Sylphide proves too strong to resist and he follows her into the woods. What follows is an extremely unfortunate set of circumstances brought about by the very witch James just wronged.
The set perfectly created the optimism of a romantic wedding in the first act, and a lovely open woodland in the second. Lighting (William Akers‘ original design, reproduced by Francis Croese) was charming and character-reflective (a nice blue hue spotlight for La Sylphide was a terrific touch), and costumes (designed by Anne Fraser, who also created the set) were of course functional and beautiful. As James, Adam Bull was charismatic, and as La Sylphide, Lana Jones was endearing and elegant. Particular delight was the choreography itself , in which La Sylphide (as had Paquita) made use of the musical phrasing excellently and appropriately. The orchestra was also in fine form, responding well to the artists just as the artists responded to the lush music by Herman Lovenskjold.
The Australian Ballet will no doubt have another successful season with this lovely production. After having the privilege of viewing it, it isn’t hard to see why.
Paquita and La Sylphide will be playing until September 7: tickets bookings can be made online.