Magazine article Musical Opinion

Royal Ballet's la Fille Mal Gardee

Magazine article Musical Opinion

Royal Ballet's la Fille Mal Gardee

Article excerpt

Frederick Ashton's La Fille mal Gardee has enjoyed legendary status from the moment it first reached the stage at Covent Garden on 28 January 1960, when Nadia Nerina and David Blair danced the leading roles of Lise and Colas. The inimitable Alexander Grant's rumpled countenance, inspired clowning and impeccable dancing made for an unforgettable portrait of the gauche rustic Alain.

Quite why the ballet appeals so directly is, in some respects, difficult to pin down, for the storyline is as slender as the pink ribbon which so strongly binds the lovers. However, Ashton had a genius for creating love duets of joyous rapture, for devising comic roles requiring more than mere clowning. Concerted numbers frame soloists' set-pieces with discretion and charm so that the finely-wrought balance of form and content banishes any sense of ephemerality, allows his poised, fluid, rhythmically vital choreography to work its magic. Among highlights of Ashton's balletic pastoral symphony are the three pas de deux for Lise and Colas, the first with its sprightly horse-and-trap motif and deliciously unexpected cat's cradle. In the Second Act, which is virtually a divertissement during which the narrative hangs fire, albeit delectably, the farm-labourers exuberantly celebrate harvest with sickles and Maypole, while Widow Simone enthusiastically dances her dogs off!

Then there is John Lanchbery's masterly confection of a score freely adapted from Herold's 1828 musical compilation, which itself drew lavishly upon other composers, notably Rossini, whose Barbiere di Seviglia and La Cenerentola are happily pillaged. …

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