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  • Your Reaction: What did you think of Sylvia?

Your Reaction: What did you think of Sylvia?

Audience responses to The Royal Ballet's production of Frederick Ashton's sparkling showpiece.

By Mel Spencer (Senior Editor (Social Media))

24 November 2017 at 12.56pm | 27 Comments

Press reviews:

Arts Desk ★★★★
The Stage ★★★★
Telegraph ★★★★
Evening Standard ★★★★

What did you think of Sylvia?
Share your thoughts via the comments below.

Silvia runs until 27 November. Tickets are still available.

By Mel Spencer (Senior Editor (Social Media))

24 November 2017 at 12.56pm

This article has been categorised Ballet and tagged Ashton, by Frederick Ashton, Social Media, Sylvia, The Royal Ballet, your reaction

This article has 27 comments

  1. Geoff responded on 24 November 2017 at 8:09pm Reply

    I saw Nunez on opening night. There is true glory in her performance but I have no idea how authentic what she was doing was, either to the 19th century inspiration or to Ashton. A lot was very big (rather like a Balanchine dancer I felt). Which may have been because she is a huntress. Or it may have been because, according to the programme, the coaching was by Bussell (never my idea of an Ashton dancer).

    In any case both she and Muntagirov showed themselves to have mastered the very difficult choreography, not so some of e.g. the corps (but I am pleased they are trying to do it, as learning the steps and the style will surely help to further raise the overall standard).

    If I have any overall observation, it would be that the comedy was not pointed as much as it might have been. Today's audience probably needs more help to understand the parody elements, the jokes, and indeed the overall light-heartedness. There is a risk that audiences may just look at the scenery and make assumptions about old-fashioned solemnity, which would be to miss the point. The music makes it all clear, of course, but not everyone trusts their ears these days.

    I am looking forward to going back.

    • Joe responded on 14 December 2017 at 11:54am

      Hi Geoff,

      Liked your remarks. But I didn't notice the comedic moments.
      Best of the ballet is Act III,

  2. Wendy Barker responded on 24 November 2017 at 8:40pm Reply

    I was mesmerised by the intricacy of the dancing last night not to mention the score, staging, costumes. A real feast for the senses with a touch of comedy. Awesome! Nunez and Muntagirov were outstanding.

  3. Ben Evans responded on 24 November 2017 at 10:02pm Reply

    Why oh why isn’t there a live cinema link up of Sylvia?!!

    • Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media) responded on 25 November 2017 at 8:18am

      Hi Ben,

      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately it's not possible to screen every production during the Season and therefore difficult programming choices have to be made.

      You might be interested to know that the production is available to buy on DVD, starring Darcey Bussell:

      Best wishes,


    • anja responded on 25 November 2017 at 10:07pm

      I fully agree with Ben Evans. Many of the ballet live relays this season have already been broadcast in the past 2-3 years, some even with the same casts. I'm miffed at this season's selection of relays and am sad I don't get to see Sylvia.

  4. Diana responded on 25 November 2017 at 11:24am Reply

    I would love to watch "Slyvia" on the cinemas, especially when we have already seen "Manon", "The Nutcracker" , "Alice in Wonderland" (with almost the same cast). In my opinion (and I don't want to sound rude or ungrateful),it would be lovely to watch different ballets with different casts ;)

  5. elleG responded on 25 November 2017 at 11:50am Reply

    I think that the ROH sometimes misses a trick where filming is concerned. Nunez and Muntagirov are hugely popular dancers. They are an amazing partnership and fabulous artistes: two of the very brightest jewels in the RB's crown. So it would have been a good plan to film them in this run and have the DVD/BlueRay ready for sale when Sylvia returns (hopefully within a fairly short timescale). People in the future audience would then be all the more tempted to buy the merchandise. And a cinema relay would have introduced many to the delights of Ashton.

  6. Faith Lesley responded on 25 November 2017 at 3:22pm Reply

    Already have the DVD staring Darcy Bussell. Would have like to see this latest production

  7. Steven Gregory responded on 25 November 2017 at 7:55pm Reply

    Loved loved this performance. The ballet is dated but no sin in that. All the roles even the corp were wonderful. Vadim and Nella were superb. Thiago was gorgeous in the first costume.

  8. Janet Phare responded on 25 November 2017 at 11:23pm Reply

    We are looking forward to our visit on Thursday 7th December to see Lauren Cuthbertson who comes from our home town of Paignton, Devon.

  9. Stevie responded on 27 November 2017 at 12:21am Reply

    Even better than the DVD, it is also available on blu-ray with Darcy. Although I have both, I would still have enjoyed a cinema broadcast with Nella. I had thought about the 700 mile round trip but couldn't manage it. Maybe another blu-ray release is iminent.

  10. This production with Marianela and Vadim, or Lauren and Reece in the leads would have been ideal for a cinema broadcast- the score and the Ashton choreography make it a piece that many around the country and abroad would like to see. After all, if it's good enough for the Mariinsky Ballet and American Ballet Theatre to acquire for their dancers, it would be worth the expense and effort. I know of quite a few friends outside London and outside the country who would attend.

  11. elleG responded on 30 November 2017 at 6:34pm Reply

    It seems a great pity that, because the ROH/RB decided against a cinema broadcast or new DVD for Sylvia, most of the comments on this board are understandably preoccupied with relay/recording rather than with the performances. So, to redress the balance...... I have been absolutely captivated by the performances I have seen so far. Both Nunez and Cuthbertson gave us the strong yet ultimately soft-centred woman Sylvia should be and danced gloriously throughout. Muntagirov - well, what can I say? What a superlative and complete artist he is. The character of Aminta can so easily fade away into whimpishness but here we have a real man giving us a real character while dancing like a dream. And, as for Reece Clarke: what an impressive debut he produced last night. He too made the role his own and showed us that he is not just 'up and coming' but 'the real deal'.Given the prominence of Sylvia throughout the ballet, it is interesting that, on both nights, much of the audience talk was about either Muntagirov or Clarke. Deservedly so.

  12. Francois responded on 1 December 2017 at 1:37pm Reply

    I agree with the above comments: Many of my friends who live far from London would have loved to see this revival of Sylvia at the cinema, they are somehow frustrated that this season's live relays are only about ballets that have already been broadcasted in a very recent past.
    I personally was lucky enough to come to Covent Garden and I attended two casts: Cuthbertson-Clarke and Osipova-Bonelli. They were both fabulous and made the best of this extremely difficult choreography. And the production is magnificent, delightful for the eyes throughout the show. I think I could see the third act again and again many times, it is a jewel visually, musically and in the dancing. I hope you will show this production again in the short term, it should definitely be part of the company's usual repertoire.

  13. Jonathan Minden Crick responded on 1 December 2017 at 8:10pm Reply

    We saw Osipova last night. Incredible. I am still processing the ballet to some extent. Please do include it again next year!! Act II (though so short at 20 minutes) was , quite simply, divine.

  14. Nicola responded on 2 December 2017 at 11:28pm Reply

    I saw the Nunez/Muntagirov cast last night. Wonderful. What a partnership. And they are both so radiant, Muntagirov radiates joy when dancing and it's so infectious.

    Agree there should have been a cinema relay of this.

  15. John Ginman responded on 3 December 2017 at 10:57am Reply

    Sylvia is a charming piece, and the staging and performance last Thursday were excellent, but the ballet's impact was severely compromised by the excessive time the audience was required to spend in the bar.

    Sylvia lasts barely 90 minutes. Are ballet audiences really so feeble they need two 25 minute intervals, one of which was allowed to overrun last Thursday, to help them through the evening? Any interest in the ballet's slender narrative evaporated long before the end.

    Intervals were generally shorter in the 50s when the work was premiered, and the ballet was the prime focus, rather than food and drink - it opened when rationing will still in force. In any case, I believe this work would be better served by removing the first interval completely. Act Two lasts all of twenty minutes.

    Operas and their audiences are treated with more respect. This month the two hours and three acts of Rigoletto will be performed with only one interval - though of course a second interval might push the orchestra and chorus into expensive overtime, so perhaps that explains the difference in house policy.

  16. Dana responded on 3 December 2017 at 3:48pm Reply

    I enjoyed every minute of it and it gave me goosebumps at various points. Can’t fault it in any way and it’s so jolly - typical Ashtonian piece as with La Fille mal Gardee and the Dream.

    Next year is 30 years since the death of Ashton and I hope there will be a celebration of his career as there was with MacMillan this year - fingers crossed this means Cinderella makes a comeback too!

  17. Sílvia Torres responded on 5 December 2017 at 6:58pm Reply

    I'm sorry to comment this in here, which is a bit unrelated, but ROH do please give us Marianela in the SWAN LAKE Relay!! It would be the only cinema relay I'd look foward to. Perhaps it would make up for the fact of not relaying and recording Sylvia with Nela (tragic mistake)!!

  18. Delia responded on 7 December 2017 at 11:59am Reply

    It was brilliant, so beautiful to watch. The costumes were lovely.
    Nunez/Mutagirov wonderful partnership.
    Very special mention to the fantastic orchestra. Simon Hewett has done a great job with this lovely score. Particular mention to the violinist playing a moving solo during the third act. Found it quite emotional.

  19. Lesley Main responded on 7 December 2017 at 4:17pm Reply

    Marianela true as ever....

  20. Clare responded on 7 December 2017 at 5:36pm Reply

    While it is tempting to think that the ballet would be improved by removing the first interval I am not sure that the dancers would necessarily agree with you.

    The ballerinas at the Mariinsky who performed the title role said it was the most difficult thing they had ever danced. While Yanowsky, who for me gave the outstanding performance of the role in 2004, has said that the role is exhausting because Sylvia is different in each act which makes performing it feel like dancing three different ballets in a single evening.Personally I am prepared to accept the dancers' assessment of the role.

    As far as improving it is concerned well I believe that Ashton was not entirely satisfied with it. Now we have no way of knowing whether this was his own opinion of the work or whether it was the result of the helpful opinions expressed by others. but the end result was that he first reduced it to two acts and then to a single act after which it disappeared from the repertory.

    On the basis of the performances given in this run I would regard it as a great loss to the company's repertory if it were to disappear yet again. It is a paper thin story on which Ashton has managed to attach a great deal of fine choreography.

    Now if the company could manage to see its way to revive the Ashton two and three act works with the regularity with which it programmes MacMillan's successful three act works it would make a lot of people very happy. Cinderella has been out of the repertory for far too long. Having gone to the trouble of reviving Two Pigeons I do hope that it is going to be programmed again before too long. Then there are a significant number of Ashton works which have not been revived in years such as Facade, A Wedding Bouquet,Les Illuminations, Jazz Calendar, Les Rendezvous and above all Daphnis and Chloe.
    So what about a serious, systematic revival of the entire Ashton repertory with regular revivals of the full range of his works and not just a handful of them? I still find it hard to believe that Marguerite and Armand is currently the most frequently staged Ashton work worldwide.

  21. Dana responded on 8 December 2017 at 3:30pm Reply

    Re John Ginman's comment about intervals, I had always assumed that their purpose was to give the dancers an opportunity to get a much needed rest break in between strenuous acts, as well as an opportunity for the stage to be prepared for the next scene (rather than solely being an opportunity for the audience to have a comfort break)

  22. It would be silly to pad out a ballet just to make it "worthwhile" or "get one's money's worth" to make Sylvia a longer ballet for the sake of length. While Ashton experimented with the length of the ballet over the years - including turning it into a one-act ballet at one point - to see if he could make it a more interesting work, given that we have no film records of all the different versions, Christopher Newton has done a sterling job in producing a succinct, compelling and entertaining ballet that does justice to the score (the most important consideration of any classic ballet), justice to what we know of the original choreography, and to the spirit of the story.

    Ballet has never been about making audiences suffer or work just to prove that they can endure a long evening. It's always been about quality rather than quantity. (Conversely I have attended a few opera productions that could do with some pruning to improve the tedium but that's a thread for another topic.) The best classics are not long -Giselle and The Nutcracker will get you out of the opera house before 10pm with a 7.30pm start, just like Sylvia.

    Afternoon of a Faun and Ballo della Regina are even shorter than 20 minutes - and there would probably be riots if anyone suggested stretching these Robbins and Balanchine classics beyond their 12 and 17 minute lengths to treat the audience with (imagined) "respect". Ballo is always performed with an interval immediately after, and while ROH takes advantage of Faun's simple set by sometimes not having an interval immediately, many eminent companies around the world do put an interval after it to make the most of its evocative mood.

    Indeed, it is more disrespectful to the audience to tinker with what is a concise and eloquent account of the second act. We don't need 3 or 4 more drunken dances with Drigo or Minkus music to make it "worthwhile" and ruin the score; the point has been made with just a 20 minute act, and made very well.

    While today's ballerinas definitely are super athletes who put most of the population to shame by probably having the fitness and stamina to do all the dancing in Acts 1 to 3 (and Sylvia is a huge test of aerobic and anaerobic fitness compared to most if not all the other ballet repertoire) nonstop and probably run the Olympic 200m final afterwards as well, the real reason why intervals are where they are isn't due to enabling dancers to rest- it's down to scenery changes. The magnificent sets in Acts 1, 2 and 3 all need time to be changed and put in place so, if a few audience members are bored waiting, well....we want to see the sets and they're part of the production so.....there's always other shows that impatient patrons can watch instead. (The sold out status of every show proved there are plenty of patrons eager to get the tickets.)

    As for the story in Sylvia being considered a slender narrative.....don't make me laugh- we are comparing this to opera, where even singers and conductors agree that the narrative is often far-fetched and nonsensical??! There are only about 10 operas I can count (including those from composers as diverse as Monteverdi, Gluck and Adams) where the opera plot is rational and believable. Nobody goes to the ballet or opera for the narrative.

    Plus, nobody's forcing anybody to go to the bar at all - most of my row stayed in our seats for the second interval and were glad of the opportunity to discuss how much they were enjoying the show. Judging by the long queues for restrooms at the first interval and a few harrassed patrons worried that they might not get to use the restroom or make it back to their seats in time, there were also quite a few patrons glad of a second interval for this reason. While there were no child discounts for Sylvia, many families had paid top price to bring their budding little dancers to see this famous ballet at the performance I was at, and were visibly glad it was two acts of 20 minutes and 40 minutes rather than an uninterrupted one hour act.

    Sylvia does not need tweaking, lengthening or cutting of intervals. It's a superb production to watch live, the score is glorious (as even Tchaikovsky himself pointed out) and Mr Newton and the Royal Ballet have produced a stellar work with this reconstruction. Don't just take my word for it- the artistic directors of the august Mariinsky Ballet and the eminent American Ballet Theatre, no less, thought this production was so amazing that they asked to acquire it for themselves- and have gone on to perform it many, many times.

    There probably is just one complaint about Sylvia this season- not enough shows (including cinema relay)! More Sylvia, please. Long live Sylvia! Next season? Maybe in two rounds (like we had with The Two Pigeons)?

  23. Sandie responded on 18 December 2017 at 11:20am Reply

    I would just like to say how much we have enjoyed this run of Sylvia and are really sad that it has now ended. Please don't make us all wait another nine years to have the pleasure of this lovely ballet again.
    The pairing of Osipova/Muntagirov was a wonderful bonus. Not only do we hope to see them dance together again, but please consider a cinema relay (and a DVD) to share this joy with a wider audience.

  24. Laura responded on 17 February 2019 at 11:22am Reply

    I cannot believe there's not a dvd for this.
    It was a MUST. It's been too long since a DVD of Sylvia has been released, and one starring Nunez and Muntagirov would have been a cash cow.
    Such a missed opportunity...this is so sad.

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