What Is the Story of La Sylphide Ballet?


La Sylphide is one of the oldest surviving romantic ballets, having been first performed in 1832. It tells the story of James, a young Scotsman who is entranced by a beautiful sylph (a spirit of the air).

In pursuit of her, he abandons his fiancée Effie on the morning of their wedding day. This decision leads him on a journey of adventure and danger as he follows the sylph into an enchanted forest.

The ballet was choreographed by French ballet master Jean Coralli and Italian composer Cesare Pugni. The libretto is based on a poem by Théophile Gautier, which was adapted for the stage by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges.

The work was originally commissioned for Marie Taglioni, one of the most famous ballerinas of that era. She created both the title role and that of her rival, Effie – an innovation at the time as female roles were traditionally played by male dancers in disguise.

The score for La Sylphide features some of Pugni’s most beautiful music, including an iconic pas de deux between James and his beloved sylph. It also includes several variations with toe-tapping Scottish melodies to evoke James’ homeland. The choreography is equally exquisite, featuring graceful movements and delicate steps inspired by Romanticism.

The story ends with a tragic climax as James discovers that his attempt to capture the sylph has doomed her to death – leaving him alone in a forest filled with regret and despair. This dark conclusion highlights one of La Sylphide’s key themes: that true love can only be found in freedom and not through control or manipulation.


What Is the Story of La Sylphide Ballet?

La Sylphide is a romantic ballet from 1832 about a Scotsman who abandons his fiancée to pursue a sylph into an enchanted forest. It features exquisite choreography and music composed by Cesare Pugni, along with themes about true love being found in freedom rather than control or manipulation.