The Australian Ballet’s repertoire for 2019

Stanton Welch, the Australian born artistic director of the Houston Ballet, has delved into Greek mythology with his new production of Sylvia, a ballet with a long history dating back to 1876, a beautiful score by Delibes, and a heroine who is both a nymph and a huntress.

With a cast of many, designs by Jérôme Kaplan, and a focus on a female warrior, Welch’s Sylvia looks set to be one of the highlights of the Australian Ballet’s 2019 repertoire.

From the company’s point of view the highlight is the appointment of the dancer, Alice Topp, as a resident choreographer.

Topp is the first female resident choreographer since the turn of the century when, in 2000, Natalie Weir stepped into that role during the brief artistic directorship of Ross Stretton.

In April next year, Sydney audiences will see Topp’s latest work, Aurum, for the first time.

The ballet was acclaimed when it premiered in Melbourne earlier this year as part of a triple bill titled Verve that included the works of two other resident choreographers, Stephen Baynes (Constant Variants) and Tim Harbour {Filigree and Shadow).

Sylvia, a coproduction with Houston Ballet and the Australian Ballet, follows a chain of previous Sylvia ballets that began in Paris in 1876, with choreography by the ballet master, Louis MĂ©rante and a score by Delibes.

After two more Sylvia productions – one for the Mariinsky Ballet in 1901 and another at the Paris Opera in 1941, the English choreographer Frederick Ashton choreographed the definitive Sylvia for the Royal Ballet first in 1952, later in the 1960s and once more in 2004 when it was reconstructed by Christopher Newton, a former ballet-master at the Royal Ballet.

(As you can see in the photos below, the style of Ashton’s Sylvia has changed dramatically since 1952.)

Other Sylvias were later choreographed by John Neumeier, David Bintley and Mark Morris but, as far as I know, Sylvia, in any of its versions, has not been performed in Australia.

Sylvia will premiere in Melbourne in late August and in Sydney in November.

Another new ballet, The Happy Prince, will also premiere in Melbourne (March) and then in Sydney (May).

This full-length ballet, choreographed by Graeme Murphy, is based on Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince and Other Tales, first published as a children’s book in 1888.

At the launch of the Australian Ballet’s 2019 repertoire, the artistic director, David McAllister, said that Kim Carpenter, a director and designer who established Theatre of Image in 1988, had been working on the project for about three years.

Carpenter is the set and costume designer for The Happy Prince, Christopher Gordon, the composer and Damien Cooper, the lighting designer.

The 75 minute ballet (no interval) tells the tale of a prince, who, after his death is honoured in the form of a golden statue with sapphire eyes and a compassionate heart.

His messenger is The Swallow.

Plenty of leeway there for stunning colours and projections.

It’s odd that this year, The Happy Prince has made a comeback with a production at the Grand Rapids Ballet in Minnesota, titled The Happy Prince & Other Wilde Tales.

The ballet blends the life of Wilde with his stories.

As well, this year a movie titled The Happy Prince premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

Written and directed by Rupert Everett, the film is a biographical drama of Wilde’s life.

The AB’s 2019 repertoire includes two box office hits – Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Brisbane in February, Melbourne in June) and Sir Peter Wright’s The Nutcracker, (Melbourne in September and Sydney from late November into December).

The Ballets de Monte-Carlo will be in Melbourne from late June to July with LAC, an interpretation of Swan Lake by Jean-Christophe Maillot, the company’s artistic director since 1993.

The company was here once before with Maillot’s production of Romeo & Juliet in Brisbane.

Next year the Australian Ballet will travel to New York in May to perform at the Joyce Theatre with a triple bill that will include Aurum.