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American Ballet Theatre returns to Segerstrom Hall at the Orange County Performing Arts Center for its 18th engagement with The Center premiere of Sir Frederick Ashton’s Sylvia and a program of mixed repertory, including George Balanchine’s Apollo, the Company Premiere and Center debut of John Cranko’s _Jeu de Cartes _and Mark Morris’ Gong, also a Center debut.

The New York Times called this revival of Sylvia “a ravishingly pretty, fast-paced frolic set to the most hummable of scores with choreography that the Ballet Theatre dancers perform to light, sweet, virtuostic perfection.” Set to a score by Leo Delibes, Sylvia tells the story of a chaste nymph united by the deity Eros with the lovelorn shepherd Aminta.

Please note that the ABT is performing two separate programs, which are separately ticketed.

May 2-4, 2006: Repertory Works (Apollo, Jeu de Cartes & Gong)

George Balanchine’s Apollo, set to music by Igor Stravinsky, was given its world premiere by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1928. It was first performed by ABT in 1943 at the Metropolitan Opera House. The ballet, which is a simple program without a plot, includes the birth of Apollo, dances with the Three Muses – Calliope (Muse of Poetry), Polyhymnia (Muse of Mime) and Terpsichore (Muse of Dance and Song) – and the god’s ascent to Mount Olympus. Apollo is staged for ABT by Richard Tanner.

John Cranko’s Jeu de Cartes_, “A Poker Game in Three Deals,”_ was given its world premiere by the Stuttgart Ballet in Stuttgart, Germany on June 22, 1965. Danced to a score by Igor Stravinsky, Jeu de Cartes includes scenery and costumes by Dorothee Zippel. The ballet is considered to be among Cranko’s choreographic jewels. ABT’s performance of _Jeu de Cartes _on May 2 marks the ballet’s company premiere and the Center debut.

A ballet for fifteen dancers, Mark Morris’ Gong was given its world premiere by ABT in 2001. Suffused with orientalism, Gong brilliantly melds light and shadow, gamelan-inspired music, and Isaac Mizrahi’s color-saturated costumes to create a kaleidoscope of innovative movement. Staged by Tina Fehlandt, Gong is performed to “Tabuh Tabuhan” by composer Colin McPhee. Lighting design is by Michael Chybowski. This marks the ballet’s Center debut.

May 5, 2006: SYLVIA

With a score by Léo Delibes, Sylvia was Sir Frederick Ashton’s second full-length work when it was premiered by The Royal Ballet in 1952 with Margot Fonteyn, Michael Somes and Alexander Grant in the leading roles. Set in mythical Greece, Ashton described the plot as “Boy loves girl, girl captured by bad man, girl restored to boy by god.” The ballet tells the story of the nymph Sylvia, who has pledged her allegiance to the chaste goddess Diana. As an acolyte, Sylvia has sworn off love. However, she is pierced by the arrow of Eros and falls in love with the shepherd Aminta, only to be kidnapped by the hunter Orion. In the way of things mythological, the gods intercede.

Performed by ABT in two acts, Ashton’s _Sylvia _is staged by Christopher Newton, former dancer and ballet master for The Royal Ballet. This new production has scenery and costumes by Christopher and Robin Ironside, with additional designs by Peter Farmer. This engagement by ABT will signify the first time Sylvia will be performed at The Center.

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