La Fille Mal Gardée (The Wayward Daughter) is one of the oldest ballets still regularly performed. It was originally conceived by Jean Dauberval, an important choreographer in the 18th century. He is said to have been inspired by Pierre Antoine Baudouin’s La Réprimande/Une Jeune Fille Querellée par Sa Mère (1789), a painting he was greatly amused by. This resulted in a musical pastiche called Le Ballet de la Paille (Ballet of the Straw) which told the story of Lison and Colin and their tricks to get Lison’s mother, the widow Ragotte, to accept their romance. Le Ballet de la Paille premiered July 1789 in Bordeaux. The ballet was later renamed La Fille Mal Gardée. With modern choreography by Sir Fredrick Ashton, the ballet remains in the repetoir of the Royal Ballet and more than twenty-two companies world wide, including the Bolshoi and the Paris Ballet.
The dancing of the Royal Ballet in general, and this ballet in particular, has strong roots in the Chichetti style, the first modern ballet method, which has emphasis on grace and prettiness of stage pictures, as apart from modern Russian ballet, which is distinguished by speed and technical brilliance. In addition, Ashton drew heavily on pastoral and folk dances, so that the ballet includes a clog dance, a Maypole dance, and a Morris dance, among others.
The plot is a simple one: Lise (Roberta Marquez), the "Fille" of the title, loves Colas (Steven McRae), a handsome and dashing swain. Her mother, the Widow Simone (Philip Mosely) prefers that she should marry Alain (Ludovic Ondiviela), the idiot son of Thomas (Gary Avis), the neigboring rich farmer. Lise and Colas snatch embraces under Simone's nose while wedding plans go forward, until circumstances force Simone to accept their love and assent to them being married.
Along the way, there's a lot of fine dancing and good comedy. The first scene, in the farm yard, opens with a dance by a quintet of barnyard fowl. You will never think of "chicken dance" in the same way again--.
Ondiviela, as Alain, has a lot of very eccentric but effective choreography that underscores how foolish the character is. Philip Mosely in the travestie role of Widow Simone played the role lightly, and let the music, dance, and situation set up the comedy for the character. Roberta Marquez acts expressively, especially in the famous "if I were married" mime in the third scene.
The score for this production was based on the 1828 Ferdinand Hérold score, which "mashed up" themes from popular operas such as Rossini’s "The Barber of Seville" and "Elisabetta, Regina d’Inghilterra", Paul Egidi Martini’s "Le Droit du Seigneur" and Donizetti’s "L’elisir d’amore", and was added to by Ashton's collaborator John Lanchbery.
The result was utterly charming, and a delightful evening at the ballet--once the show got underway. The Marcus Majestic cinema at Brookfield seems to have difficulty setting up for these encore showings, so, as with "The Bright Stream" a couple of weeks ago, we waited fifteen minutes past showtime for the staff to get things working. Once that was done, however, things did run without a hitch.
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