Sylvia Pas de Deux
Alexandre Silva and Julia Erickson in Sylvia Pas de Deux
Choreographer: George Balanchine
Music: Leo Delibes
Costumes: Built in the PBT Costume Shop under the direction of Janet Marie Groom
Lighting: Cindy Limauro
World Premiere: New York City Ballet, December 1, 1950
PBT Performance Date: April 2011
Program Notes (2011)
By Lisa Auel, Manager of Audience Education and Archives
Sylvia was composer Léo Delibes second ballet (his first was Coppelia) and is considered the best pre-Tchaikovsky dance music. The original ballet, with choreography by Louis Mérante, did not impress critics when it premiered in Paris in 1876, but Delibes’ score kept audiences interested. Tchaikovsky felt it to be better than his own work and remarked that if he had known of the music he “would never have written Swan Lake.”
Balanchine’s high regard for Delibes’ sumptuous composition led him to create a new pas de deux for Sylvia in 1950. In contrast to the modernism of Agon and the avant-garde qualities of Prodigal Son, the Sylvia Pas De Deux keeps the tradition of a grand pas de deux, with an adagio, variations and a coda. Created originally for New York City Ballet dancers Maria Tallchief and Nicolas Magallanes, it is a vehicle for virtuoso performances. Balanchine expanded his Sylvia into a divertissement in 1965; his 1968 Delibes ballet La Source draws from both the pas de deux and the divertissement.
Former PBT Artistic Director Patricia Wilde’s last performance was in the Sylvia Pas de Deux in the spring of 1967. It was for a Red Cross benefit at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris. Her partner was Andre Prokovsky, choreographer of The Three Musketeers, performed by PBT earlier this season.