LABELS: Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: Sylvia
PERFORMER: Darcey Bussell, Roberto Bolle; Royal Ballet & Royal Opera House Orchestra/Graham Bond; chor. Frederick Aston (London, 2005)
CATALOGUE NO: OA 0986 D
This DVD, the first released since Opus Arte came under Royal Opera House control, shows the Royal Ballet at the top of its current form. Well, perhaps not quite current since Darcey Bussell has since retired from the stage. She makes an imperious huntress and a commanding Bacchante once held captive by the powerful, exotic Orion of Thiago Soares. For their latest hard-working three-Act spectacle, the company persuaded Christopher Newton to revive what he could of Frederick Ashton’s 1952 choreography. Ashton clearly cared as much for the muscular men in his production as his French predecessors did for the ballerina’s bare legs, and he would surely have been smitten by the tall, handsome Aminta of Roberto Bolle (though Martin Harvey’s nearly-nude Eros does less well by an unhappy blond wig).
It’s good to have Delibes’s glorious score so boldly projected by the Royal Opera Orchestra under Graham Bond. He gets as much continuity as he can within and between numbers (the splendid sections of the ‘Cortège de Bacchus’ are especially fluently done). The cameras work hard to give us all the orchestral solos in the Prelude, too. Your option here is to summon up an alternative backstage introduction voiced over by Bussell – don’t miss her Act III preface: it includes dazzling though soundless footage of the original Ashton production, with Fonteyn even more eloquent at a distance than her distinguished successor.