La Fille mal gardée, with McRae and Marquez, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, May 2012Posted on 13 May 2012
La Fille mal gardée is one of Frederick Ashton’s most delightful ballets, and this review covers the same cast as for the live cinema relay on May 16.
The story is simple. Widow Simone wants to marry off her very pretty daughter Lise to the son of a wealthy landowner, thereby assuring her and her daughter’s financial future. There are just two problems. Lise is in love with a local farmhand named Colas, and the landowner’s son, Alain is a simpleton, easily outwitted by the lovers.
The ballet was first created in the year of the French Revolution, and nearly thirty years later in 1828 a new score was written by Ferdinand Hérold. In 1960 Ashton asked John Lanchbery to revitalise Herold’s music, which he did by re-orchestrating it and inserting new music by himself and other composers such as Rossini. The result is simply wonderful.
The sheer joy of the music, the clarity of the story, and the subtlety of the choreography combine to form a glorious whole, but be in no doubt, the choreography, particularly for the leading male dancer, Colas is not easy. Fortunately this cast had the superb Steven McRae as Colas, performing beautifully as well as looking and acting the part. McRae is one of the finest dancers in the Company, and his lover was Roberta Marquez, who portrayed Lise with delightful charm. Good chemistry, and fine pas-de-deux work, the bum lift in Act I effortlessly accomplished, unlike with the previous cast I saw, where it turned into a shoulder lift.
It all starts in the early morning with the cockerel and four hens, and Michael Stojko was a brilliant cockerel, showing excellent control. Widow Simone was Philip Mosley, who plays this role very well, without overdoing the comedy, and the interplay between widow and daughter was beautifully done. The wealthy landowner Thomas was brought to life by Gary Avis, portraying this charmless man to perfection, particularly after the lovers are discovered together near the end, and his son Alain very well danced by Ludovic Ondiviela, displaying more jest than pathos, though pathos should be the key here.
Altogether a fine cast and a lovely performance, well supported by Barry Wordsworth in the orchestra pit. Unfortunately there is only one performance left this season — the live relay on May 16 — and nothing next season.