Houston is a prosperous Texan city, the hub of the US oil and gas industries. And home to the city’s excellent opera and ballet companies housed in the Wortham Theatre Center now recovered from severe damage caused by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. There have been close professional relations between the Houston Grand Opera and Opera Australia over many years. Similarly between the Houston Ballet and The Australian Ballet, not least because the artistic director of Houston Ballet is Australian, Stanton Welch. In February this year, Houston presented a brand new production of Sylvia which will receive its first ever Australian performance by The Australian Ballet in Melbourne on 31 August (Sydney from 8 November).
An utterly classical ballet, Sylvia was first staged in Paris 152 years ago; indeed it was the first ballet staged in the sumptuous Palais Garnier. Perhaps swamped by its setting, the ballet was not an initial success but the music by Leo Delibes was acclaimed. Among its greatest admirers was Tchaikovsky who regarded the score as superior to his own recently composed Swan Lake. As a ballet, Sylvia had almost disappeared until Sir Frederick Ashton created a production for Margot Fonteyn in 1952 giving it the prominence its music deserved. Houston’s lavish new production has a mythical Greek setting with three strong female characters. It is something of a balletic Wonder Woman times three: girls in helmets wielding swords to wonderful music.
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