Music orchestrated and arranged by John Lanchbery
Scenario: Jean Dauberval
Choreography: Frederick Ashton
Stage and Costume Design: Osbert Lancaster
Staging by Mikhail Messerer and Michael O'Hare
Ballet Mistress: Anna Razenko
Lighting Designer: Alexander Kibitkin
Musical Director of the production: Philip Ellis
Music by Ferdinand Hérold arranged and orchestrated by John Lanchbery is performed by arrangement with Oxford University Press
STARRING NIKOLAY TSISKARIDZE
La Fille mal gardée
ballet in three acts
music by Louis Joseph Ferdinand Hérold
Premiere of the production at the Mikhailovsky Theatre: 27 March 2014
This extraordinary ballet centres around the captivating character of Lise and her dreams of reuniting with her one true love, in spite of her mother’s best efforts to marry her off to their rich, albeit dim-witted neighbour. La fille mal gardée is a buoyant and scintillating ballet with has long captivated audiences with its charm. The Mikhailovsky Theatre’s production features Frederick Ashton’s choreography, regarded as a classic example of British ballet.
Act I: The farmyard
The dawn of a busy day on the farm is heralded by the cockerel and his attendant hens. Lise, disappointed at not seeing Colas, leaves a ribbon tied in a lover’s knot as a token of her devotion. Colas finds it and binds it to his staff. The lovers meet, but are interrupted by Simone, who sets her daughter a task churning butter. Colas, hiding in the loft, joins her. The work is shared and then forgotten as they declare their love.
The farm girls summon Lise to play, but her mind is elsewhere. Her suspicious and ever-watchful mother catches hold of her and chastises her. Just then Thomas, the pompous and wealthy proprietor of a vineyard, arrives with his son Alain. Simone, aware of their mission, dismisses Lise, and Thomas asks her hand for his son. When Lise returns, Alain coyly and clumsy shows off his paces. She is amused and a little shocked by his antics, but not interested. They set off for the harvest.
Act II: The cornfield
It is harvest time, and after working in the fields the harvesters, led by Colas, relax in a joyful dance. Lise and Alain dance, but Colas intervenes, and the young girl makes it clear where her preference lies. One of the harvesters plays the flute, to everybody’s general delight, and Alain thinks he will have a try; but the harvesters mock him and he is rescued from their horseplay by his indignant father.
The field is now left clear for the triumphant Colas, who dances with Lise. Simone joins in the merriment of the harvesters. Suddenly they are interrupted by a storm that drenches them, scattering them far and wide.
Act III: Interior of the farmhouse
Mother and daughter, soaked by the storm, return to the farmhouse. They sit down to spin; work, thinks the mother, should keep Lise out of mischief. But she is overcome by sleep, and Lise, who has seen Colas through the gate, tries to take the key from her. Simone wakes and, in order to remain watchful, plays the tambourine for Lise to dance. But the beats grow feebler, she begins to nod, and now she is fast asleep.
Colas opens the top part of the farmhouse door and leans towards Lise. She runs joyfully into his arms. The knocking of the harvesters, coming for their pay, awakens Simone. Simone tells her daughter to get on with her chores as she leaves to give the harvesters a drink. Lise, thinking she is alone, dreams of the delights of married life. Colas cannot resist and comes out from hiding. She is bashful at having been taken by surprise, but once again they declare their love, exchanging scarves as a token. As Simone reappears, Lise hustles Colas into her bedroom. The ever-suspicious mother suspects that the lovers have been meeting, and in her turn hustles Lise into the bedroom, locking the door.
Alain and his father now arrive with a notary to complete the contract. When it has been signed, Simone hands Alain the bedroom key. After a moment of idiotic indecision, he opens the door and, to everyone’s dismay, Colas and Lise come out. The lovers fall on their knees to ask Simone for forgiveness and a blessing. In spite of Thomas and Alain, she finally gives in amid general rejoicing.
It is over half a century since Russia first welcomed Frederick Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée when it arrived as part of the repertory in The Royal Ballet’s inaugural visit to Leningrad with a performance held during the White Nights, on 15 June 1961, the year following its premiere in London. Ashton recalled that the ballet was received by the Russians as ‘a triumph’. ‘They just wouldn’t stop clapping’, he told a friend on his return home.
The starry Russian company gets to grips with Frederick Ashton.