La Sylphide

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June 2024


The Czech National Ballet in Prague will stage an adaptation of the ballet La Sylphide by Johan Kobborg, a Bournonville connoisseur.


Johan Kobborg gained great acclaim as principal dancer of the Royal Danish Ballet and The Royal Ballet in London. He has also been a sought-after choreographer and director. His La Sylphide is a tribute to August Bournonville and his work, a vital part of the global cultural heritage.


""I am a sylph … I come from another world, and you dream about me.”
And indeed – although she is a phantom, James will soon become obsessed by her, he will love the sylph."


The ballet La Sylphide tells the story of James, a young Scotsman, whose mind is riven. Possessing a restless soul, although he adores Effie, his tender bride-to-be, he longs for a different world, with his visions transcending earthly life. Is it appropriate to dream of sylphs on one’s wedding day? James is duly approached by a sylph, an ungraspable symbol of his desires, who lures him to the forest. Yet a sylph cannot be caught – whenever James stretches out his arm to touch her, she escapes. And when he finally embraces her, she dies. Sylphs cannot live and love like humans …


Precious few ballets occupy a position in the history of art as extraordinary as that of La Sylphide. A ground-breaking work applying a novel dance technique, with the heroine being a spirit clad in a mousseline costume with wings, it shows audiences an entirely different universe, inhabited by magical supernatural beings, a world reflecting desire and dream. The ballet La Sylphide centres on the clash between the real and the unreal, depicting destructive love and extreme emotions.


Johan Kobborg’s La Sylphide has been staged at numerous prestigious theatres worldwide. Premiered by The Royal Ballet at Covent Garden in London in 2005, it earned Kobborg a nomination for the coveted Laurence Olivier Awards. Highly acclaimed too was the ballet’s  2008 Bolshoi Theatre production, which received three Golden Mask ​​2009 nominations (Best Production, Best Choreographer and Best Dancers categories). In 2014, the ballet’s production in Romania was branded as “Achievement of the Year”. Kobborg’s La Sylphide has also been presented by the Ballett Zürich, the Lithuanian National Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada and the Atlanta Ballet. In 2023, it is scheduled to be staged by the Sarasota Ballet, Florida.


The Bournonville phenomenon is timeless. A unique, singular style, which has remained virtually unchanged since its inception, it has been treasured and nurtured in Denmark. The technique has made an impact on classical dance and the ballet repertoire, the approach to direction and staging, as well as dance training. The Bournonville idiom differs from the other ballet styles by its encompassing special enchaînements. Its main principles include that the dancers should perform with natural grace, levity and harmony between the body and music.

Program and cast

The Sylph: Alina Nanu; Aya Okumura; Ayaka Fujii

James: Paul Irmatov; Erivan Garioli; Oleg Ligaj

Effie : Irina Burduja; Olga Bogoliubskaia; Alexandra Pera

Gurn: Matěj Šust; Giacomo De Leidi; Francesco Scarpato; Danilo Lo Monaco

Madge: Tereza Podařilová; Miho Ogimoto; Kristýna Němečková

James's mother: Monika Hejduková


Creative team

Choreography - Johan Kobborg after August Bournonville

Music - Herman von Løvenskiold

Sets - Martin Černý

Costume design - Barbora Maleninská

Lights - Pavel Dautovský

Music preparation, conductor - Piotr Staniszewski

Performed by State Opera Orchestra


Approximate running time: 1 hour 40 minutes, 1 intermission (25 minutes)

Prague State Opera

The State Opera today


The State Opera (formerly the State Opera Prague, between 1948 and 1992 the Smetana Theatre, and originally the New German Theatre) has been a part of the National Theatre since 2012. The Opera and Ballet ensembles give repertory performances at the State Opera.




The Prague State Opera resides in the building which on January 5, 1888 was opened as a Prague German stage with the performance of Wagner’s opera, The Mastersingers of Nürnberg. In the 19th century, Prague Germans performed in the Estate’s Theater in alternation with a Czech company. Desire for their own theater led to negotiations in 1883 for the construction of a new theater building for the German Theater Association. Over the next three years, a blueprint was drawn up and handed over to the Vienna atelier of Fellner and Hellmer. Also sharing in the design was the architect of the Vienna Municipal Theater, Karl Hasenauer, while Prague architect Alfons Wertmüller took part in the construction. Financing came from private collections. With its spacious auditorium and neo-Rococo decoration, this theater building is among the most beautiful in Europe.




By car

On Wilsonova street, from the left lane close to the State Opera building take the slip road to the Slovan above-ground garage. The parking fee is 40 CZK/h.


By tram


By daytime tram No. 11 to the stop “Muzeum”, through the underpass beneath Legerova street in the direction of the NationalMuseum, at the crossroads turn right along the NewBuilding of the NationalMuseum.


By daytime trams Nos. 3, 9, 14 and 24 or night trams Nos. 51, 52, 54, 55, 56 and 58 to the stop “Václavské náměstí”, then by foot uphill on the left side of the Wenceslas Square to the traffic lights across Wilsonova and Vinohradská streets. Then turn left along the NewBuilding of the NationalMuseum.


By metro

To the “Muzeum” station, lines A and C (green and red), and then by foot along the NewBuilding of the NationalMuseum.

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