La fille mal gardée

 

La fille mal gardée is the oldest ballet in today's repertory. This is the leading version today with choreography by Frederick Ashton. Ferdinand Hérold originally composed the music (based on numerous folk songs), and John Lanchbery adapted and arranged the version of the music used on this disc. This was staged 2005 by Alexander Grant and Christopher Carr at The Royal Ballet. Stars Marianela Nuñez (Lise), Carlos Acosta (Colas), William Tuckett (Widow Simone), Jonathan Howells (Alain), David Drew (Thomas), Giacomo Ciriaci (Cockerol), Gemma Bond, Bethany Keating, Iohna Loots, and Natasha Oughtred (hens), Christina Arestis, Deirdre Chapman, Lauren Cuthbertson, Cindy Jourdain, Sarah Lamb, Laura Morera, Vanessa Palmer, Christina Elida Salerno (Lisa's friends), and Alastair Marriott (Notary). Anthony Twiner conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House (Associate Concert Master Sergey Levitin). Sets by Jean Dauberval; designs by Osbert Lancaster; lighting by John B. Read;  directed for TV by Ross MacGibbon. Released  2009, music was recorded with 48kHz/24-bit sound, and disc has 5.1 PCM sound output. Grade: A+

[Special note added November 2015: this title released in 2009 was the first HDVD of La fille mal gardée. In 2015, The Royal Ballet danced and recorded a newer version of the same production with an all-new cast headed by Natalia Osipova as Lisa and Steven McRae as Colas. The story you are now reading is about the 2009 version and it focuses on the plot of the ballet. Our story about the 2015 version  focuses on the differences between the two recordings. I wound up preferring the "old" version (graded "A+") over the "new" version (graded "A-"), but some viewers might still prefer the new version over the old. ]

This deliriously delicious disc has it all: non-stop melodies scintillatingly played, beautiful stars who can act, comely corps, celebrated numbers, character dancers gobsmacking your funny bone, plus ingratiating scenery, costumes, and lighting! Innocent love justifies all the tricks played by this not-so-dutiful daughter to get her guy! Impeccable sound and video picture with no motion or artifact issues except in brief dark scenes.

With that glowing endorsement, I should not bother with screenshots, but I can't resist. Once upon a time, there was a small farm in France:

Where Lisa lived:

With her mother, Widow Simone:

Lisa was in love with Colas, a young, poor farmer:

But Widow Simone wanted Lisa to marry Alain, the son of the richest farmer in the area:

A bad first date at the harvest festival:

Colas stays in the running:

Everyone begs Widow Simone to put on wooden shoes:

Which leads to maybe the funniest scene in all of ballet, a furious, non-stop clog dance. Getting a decent screenshot of this is about impossible:

After the festival, Widow Simone still thinks Lisa will marry Alain. Simone locks up Lisa and leaves to make arrangements for the notary and the wedding party:

For now, this is the best the lovers can do:

But Colas has a secret plan. The farmers bring the harvest to Widow Simone. Neither Widow Simone nor Lisa knows that Colas is hiding under the sheaves stacked up in the farm house:

Widow Simone goes out again. Lisa daydreams of becoming a mother; she wants 3 babies:

Colas pops out of hiding, and the lovers agree never to part. Suddenly there's noise of a crowd: the wedding party is arriving! Colas and Lisa hide in the room where Lisa has her trousseau. Alain arrives with a giant ring for Lisa:

Alain climbs the steps to Lisa's chamber, but he runs into a small problem:

Everyone feels bad for poor Alain. But it's for his own good; he's not quite ready yet for the responsibilities of marriage:

Widow Simone relents and accepts Colas as future son-in-law:

It's hard to imagine how anyone could be a better Lisa than Marianela Nuñez in this performance. This will be the one disc on your shelf that everybody will love, and it will probably have a long shelf-life for anyone who buys it. (And after you show this to someone for the first time, you can have fun asking them the following, "Who do you think was dancing the role of Widow Simone?")