Ballet in two Acts by Pierre Lacotte
after Filippo Taglioni (1832)


  Jean-Madeleine Schneitzhoeffer
Pas de trois, 1st act:
Ludwig Wilhelm Maurer
(from Taglioni's ballet "L'Ombre")
  Adolphe Nourrit
Adaptation and
  Pierre Lacotte
after Filippo Taglioni
  Marie-Claire Musson
after Pierre Ciceri
  Michel Fresnay
after Eugène Lami
  Pierre Lacotte
Elisabeth Platel
Manuel Legris

1 intermission - 2 hours 30 min.


World Premiere
Théâtre de l'Académie Royale de Musique
Paris, March 12, 1832

Original Cast    
The Sylphid
  Marie Taglioni
James Reuben,
a Scottish peasant
  Joseph Mazilier
Effie Reuben,
James's fiancé
  Lise Noblet
The Old Madge,
a witch
  Mme Élie
a Scottish peasant
  M. Élie
Anne Reuben,
Effie's mother
  Mlle Brocard
Pas de deux of the Scotts
  Mlle Julia
Antoine-Louis Coulon


Premiere of the reconstructed version
(First as a French television production, 1971)
Ballet de l'Opéra National de Paris
Palais Garnier, June 9, 1972


Premiere in Hamburg
The Hamburg Ballet, December 7, 2008


Original Cast    
The Sylphid
  Hélène Bouchet

Thiago Bordin

  Carolina Agüero
The Witch
  Sébastien Thill
  Dario Franconi
Effie's mother
  Laura Cazzaniga
Pas de deux of the Scotts
  Leslie Heylmann
Yohan Stegli


La Sylphide

"Fascinated by this work that had been lost for over a century, I dreamed of one day bringing it back onto the stage, helping it come alive again. A magical allure was to emanate from 'La Sylphide' once more, enchanting all of Europe." With these words, the French choreographer Pierre Lacotte evokes the magic of the first romantic ballet in the history of dance, which he helped to resuscitate over many years, drawing upon a multitude of historical documents, and which he brought onto the stage of the Paris opera in 1972 after an initial cinematic realization. The costumes, the scenery, and even the choreography of the work exude the spirit of those Paris years that embodied the esprit of romanticism. A wealth of perpetual creative fantasies give rise to stories whose supernatural potential captivates the audience. And so it is on May 12, 1832, when the delicate, graceful appearance of an elf in the Rue Le Peletier fills the audience with enthusiasm: it is the daughter of the choreographer Filippo Taglioni, a sylph – if not the sylph – who through her floating, ethereal dance becomes a stylistic icon. Even contemporary columnists see in her a new era of dance: "Mlle Taglioni, this is not only the most gossamer and chaste dance there is, it is an outright revolution. She was the first one to teach us how to dance without smiling, how to be light-footed and melancholy; she broke the older way of dancing beneath her feet."

Marie Taglioni extended the limits of theater. Newspapers are entitled "La Sylphide," the French language is enriched with the verb "taglionize" and the adjective "sylphidic," and so-called sylph turbans come into fashion. The great ballerina Marie Taglioni gains a mythical status that lives on to our day. She perfects her pointe technique, which creates an impression of weightlessness and gives rise to a veritable storm of enthusiasm among her many admirers.
Ghislaine Thesmar, the "resurrected" sylph in Pierre Lacotte’s revitalization of 1972, describes the role of the elf through her own natural guilelessness: "In 1832, Marie Taglioni had this wonderful inspiration to play an elf that is seductive, sensitive, coquettish, egoistic, very feminine, and at the same time completely innocent in regard to the tragedy she provokes. She embodies the eternal feminine and remains an unattainable object of desire. This inspires and awakens men’s fantasy without making the women blush. There is in her an exquisite, innocent wickedness – like a child unconscious of her own deeds."

In 1832, the impression of a fragile corporeality is accentuated by an airy, white muslin, and last but not least, by the newly-introduced tutu. And finally, in the second act we have a ballet blanc, set within an eerie romantic moonlit forest clearing.



Act I

In a country house in Scotland, James is awakened from his sleep by a winged sylph's kiss. It is the morning of his wedding with Effie, which does not, however, prevent the confused James from reach­ing after the sylph as she flits away. In the house, Effie, her mother, and the neighbours are making wedding preparations. A witch in the form of an old woman wishes to foretell James's future. James resists, but Effie offers her hand. To her horror, she learns that her fiancé is dreaming about an unattainable beautiful creature, while she herself is to marry her admirer Gurn, whom she does not love. When James drives away the witch in a fury, she vows to take revenge. In a quiet moment, the sylph, that had so captivated him, appears once again. He confesses his love to her. Gurn, who has been watching both of them from a hiding place, hurries to Effie to inform her of James's betrayal. However, the Sylph is invisible to the wedding guests—seen only by James, who is torn between Effie and the beautiful, ethereal creature. Finally, the sylph steals James' wedding ring, then flees into the forest. James follows her, leaving Effie behind.

Acte II

In a moonlit forest clearing, the witch that had foretold the future for James and Effie is dancing with her sisters. She draws a scarf out of a boiling cauldron. In a delirium, James continues to search for his sylph. The witch gives him the magic scarf. With it, he is told, he will be able to capture the sylph. Once he has found the sylph again, he manages to lay the veil over her shoulders and draw her towards him. But the moment she touches the veil, the malicious old witch’s magic begins to have its effect, and her wings fall from her. The life fades from her elfen body. The sylph dies in the arms of the despairing James. In the distance Effie and Gurn appear leading their wedding procession. For James, nothing remains but to watch as her sisters lift up the body of their dead companion and carry it away.



This is a fascinating production. The ballet is nearly all pure-dance.
The New York Times

By reinventing the original choreography, neglected for over 100 years, with the perseverance and the intuition of an archeologist, Piere Lacotte not only delivers an historical document but gives a whole new life to this ballet.
Le Monde

Lloyd Riggins - Edwin Revazov


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