Tuesday, September 05, 2006

La Sylphide

Prompted by one of P's (husband's) law professor's love of ballet, I borrowed a DVD of "La Sylphide" from the library this weekend for us to watch and see if V (daughter) was interested in it. To say that she was interested in it is an understatement. For two acts (2.25 hours) she was glued to the screen, the graceful dancing, the symphonic accompaniment, the costumes, the mystery, the questions. And the questions. And more questions. And she watched it 3 times. Because the on-screen synopsis was in French, I researched online as we began watching it so we would know roughly what the storyline was. Strangely enough, there is some degree of interpretation involved, and we never quite settled some key points. James is supposed to marry Effie, a human girl. Instead he becomes infatuated with a fairy, and she pursues him by appearing to him periodically throughout the day of the wedding. The fairy (la sylphide) steals the wedding ring and runs off with it, thus interrupting the ceremony, and James follows her to the forest where she lives. Because she is a fairy, he can't really be with her because she's constantly flying around, so he implores a witch to make a magic scarf which will remove her wings. When he puts the scarf around her, however, not only do the wings fall off, but she also dies. Meanwhile, Effie marries his friend and James is left with nothing. What we weren't quite sure about was whether the witch *meant* to kill Effie or not. She held a grudge against James after he evicted her in Act I because she predicted (by reading palms) that James and Effie were not supposed to be together. Some storylines claim the witch gave James instructions for using the scarf, which he violated. Others claim the witch was tricking James all along just to make him miserable. To start, we spent much time explaining to V what a fairy is, why everyone can't see her, and why someone would want to marry a fairy instead of a human girl. We boiled down the moral to "Greedy Greedy makes a hungry puppy" because if James had just been happy with the fiancee he had, he might not have lost everything. V seemed satisfied with this explanation, but had plenty of questions about fairies and flying and invisibility and why someone can't marry two people at the same time. She loved watching the dancing, which didn't surprise me as much as her interest in the story. It also took a while to explain to her the concept of a "curtain call" where the performers are no longer "in character". Overall, an enjoyable show which educated all of us. I had never heard of La Sylphide before, but it is a famous Romantic Ballet from the 1800's.