Cauldron of magic and tragedy.

Posted: February 9, 2009 in Theatre & Event Reviews and Interviews

La Sylphide

Production:  Elizabeth Triegaardt

Choreography:  August Bournonville

Reviewed by Astrid Stark

First published in The Weekender, 7 Feb ‘09



Pat Bromilow Downing

Photographer: Pat Bromilow-Downing


Maynardville’s open-air theatre and the production of La Sylphide are, unlike the star-crossed lovers, a match made in heaven.  The romantic ballet is set in the Scottish Highlands and the drama of an ill-fated wedding plays itself out in a magical forest filled with expectant maidens, enchanting Sylphs, vindictive witches and ultimately – broken dreams.


James, a soon to be wed young farmer, played by a dashing Xola Putyea, is seduced by a forest sprite.  The hot-headed farmer offends a grotesque witch called Madge who in turn predicts that James’ fiancée will marry his best friend.  The farmer makes a half-hearted attempt to resist the Sylph but her beauty has him captivated.  In keeping with the traditional tragedy, Madge gives James a bewitched scarf which, instead of capturing the Sylph’s heart, kills her.  As the Sylph is spirited away by her mourning companions, the farmer sees his fiancée accepting the hand of his best friend. He dies, devoured by grief and regret as the old witch gleefully dances over his body.


At the start of the ballet, Frieda Mennen’s performance as the leading Sylph appears just slightly stilted and her extensions are perhaps not quite what it should be.  She does however master the stamina required for the countless leaps and beats that choreographer August Bournonville demands.  Her movements are more graceful as the story unfolds.


Pat Bromilow Downing

Pat Bromilow-Downing


Herman Lovenskjold’s music may be more appreciated with better projection of its sound. The way in which the sound is directed at the stage makes the experience feel a little less inclusive. 


It is during the second-act that the ballet really comes alive for me.  The corps de ballet’s performance is passionate, graceful and very supportive.  Madge and his troupe of ugly witches are popular with the audience and a few clever magic tricks add to the enchanted feel of the production.   


As with the annual Shakespeare-in-the-Park at Maynardville it is always a good idea to pack a picnic basket and spend an hour or two on the lawns watching the sun set.   However, very disappointing this year is the general state of the park.  The once beautiful pond is completely overgrown with Waterlillies;   plastic wrappers and glass bottles litter its surface.  The usually pristine lawn desperately needs a haircut. 


Despite this, an enthusiastic performance by the cast of the Cape Town City Ballet left a lasting impression of beauty.  The production is suited for the young, young at heart, and lovers of fairy tales and the traditional romantic ballet.


La Sylphide is performed every Sunday night at Maynardville until February 15, and at the Masque Theatre in Muizenberg from 18 – 21 February.







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