La Sylphide Synopsis
Act I – Interior of a Farmhouse in Scotland
It is James’s wedding day. An enchanting creature, a Sylphide, kneels at his feet gazing at him lovingly as he sleeps in a chair. James awakens and sees the Sylphide, which he has just been dreaming of, before him. He tries to catch her but she vanishes.
Effie, James’s fiancée, enters with her aunt, the rich widow, Anna. Effie kisses James. Who embraces her with unexpected intensity, believing her to be the Sylphide. Full of sadness, Effie declares that he was not thinking of her, but James consoles her reassuring her of his love.
Effie’s girlfriends arrive with wedding gifts. Just as James hands her the family tartan, he notices Madge, and old fortuneteller, sitting by the fire. He violently insists that her presence is a bad omen and wants to throw her out, but Effie intercedes and James reluctantly agrees to let Madge stay. Madge tells the girls’ fortunes and when it is Effie’s turn, she predicts that Effie will not marry James but will marry Gurn. In a fury, James throws the fortuneteller out, but not before she curses him and swears vengeance.
After Effie leaves to prepare for the wedding, James is left thinking of the Sylpide. Suddenly, the Sylphide appears at the window. She declares her love for James and her despair that he is to marry Effie. She dances for him until he is at the point of yielding to her entreaties. Gurn enters and calls for Effie and Anna to see this. By the time they arrive, the Sylphide has disappeared and no one believes his story that James was not alone.
The wedding guests arrive. James sees the Sylphide again. Just as he gives Effie her wedding ring, the Sylphide snatches it away and places it on her own finger. Unable to resist, James follows her out into the forest. Family and friends rush to find them while Effie recalls Madge’s prophecy and collapses in tears.
Act II – The Forest
Madge, seething with hatred for James, conjures a magical scarf. In the forest, James tries to capture the Sylphide, who continually eludes him. Continuing his search, Gurn discovers James’s hat but is stopped by Madge who makes him promise not to reveal what he has found. In return, she will help Gurn to persuade the distressed Effie to marry him.
Tormented by his unfulfilled passion for his beloved Sylphide, James begs Madge to help him. She consents to do so on the condition that he follow her instructions without question. He agrees and Madge gives him the scarf to drape around the Sylphide. Madge promises him that if he does what she says, the Sylphide will be his forever.
When the Sylphide returns, James does as Madge instructed. Trembling with pain, the Sylphide sheds her wings and sinks to the ground. Giving back the wedding ring, she dies.
James seeing Effie and Gurn’s wedding procession approaching. The gleeful Madge stops when she notices James and triumphantly reveals that she is avenged. Overcome with grief, James falls to the ground as Madge’s laughter echoes through the forest.