La Sylphide Ballet
La Sylphide (The Sylph) is one of the world’s oldest surviving romantic ballets. There were two versions of the ballet; the version choreographed by the Danish balletmaster August Bournonville (1805-1879) is the only version known to have survived.
On March 12, 1832, the first version of La Sylphide premiered at the Salle Le Peletier of the Paris Opéra with choreography by Filippo Taglioni and music by Jean-Madeleine Schneitzhoeffer. Taglioni designed the work as a showcase for his daughter Marie. The ballet’s libretto was written by tenor Adolphe Nourrit, the first Robert in Meyerbeer’s Robert Le Diable, an opera which introduced the dancer Marie Taglioni in its dances section The ballet of nuns. Nourrit’s scenario was loosely based on a story by Charles Nodier, Trilby, ou Le lutin d’Argail, but swapped the genders of the protagonists — a goblin and a fisherman’s wife in Nodier; a sprite and a farmer in the ballet.
In 1836, La Sylphide was choreographed anew by the Danish balletmaster August Bournonville with music by Herman Severin Løvenskiold. Bournonville had intended to present a revival of Taglioni’s original version in Copenhagen with the Royal Danish Ballet, but the Paris Opera demanded too high a price for Schnietzhoeffer’s score. In the end, Bournonville mounted his own production based on the original libretto. The premiere took place on November 28, 1836. The Bournonville version has been danced in its original form by the Royal Danish Ballet ever since its creation and remains one of Bournonville’s most celebrated works. Modern interpreters of Bournonville’s version include Eva Evdokimova and Lis Jeppesen, whose performance is recorded on DVD.