Set in a mythical forest with alluring nymphs, virtuous shepherds, evil hunters, interfering gods and other mythical creatures, the full-length ballet Sylvia is articulated by elegant, virtuosic choreography from Sir Frederick Ashton and backed by one of Léo Delibes’ most endearing scores. Last year, American Ballet Theater successfully revived the work as a vehicle for its current crop of pyrotechnic stars, who will shine particularly brightly in the two evening casts. Friday showcases the icily sparkling Gillian Murphy paired with the aristocratic Maxim Beloserkovsky, the extraordinarily powerful Carlos Lopez, and the equally strong Marcelo Gomes. Lopez returns Saturday night in a dream cast pairing the fiery Paloma Herrera with the exuberant Angel Corella. The Saturday matinee features two stars of the film Center Stage, Julie Kent and Sascha Radetsky, while the Sunday matinee is led by fast-rising Michele Wiles paired with David Hallberg, who has stepped into several roles after ABT veteran Ethan Stiefel was sidelined by knee surgery. Of course, after Stiefel’s highly publicized, brief tenure as artistic director of O.C.’s Ballet Pacifica, which culminated in the cancellation of its 2006 season and his abrupt resignation, Stiefel might be well advised to avoid that neighborhood for a while. At the Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Fri., May 5, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 6, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., May 7, 2 p.m.; $85-$25. (714) 556-2787 or

—Ann Haskins

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