Thursday, 03 May 2012

Ballet Review: 4 May

Written by Gillian SpickernelI


The Wayward Daughter...

Now an old master, Carlos Acosta dances with all the vitality of a young buck in this awe-inspiring revival


gillianWhat better way to celebrate this English spring than by indulging yourself in an evening at the Royal Ballet watching La Fille Mal Gardée (The Wayward Daughter).

Sir Frederick Ashton's ballet tells the story of high-spirited village girl Lise, who charmingly disobeys her interfering widowed mother to marry the man she loves – cleverly avoiding a union with the (rich) village buffoon along the way.

Often described as the essence of Englishness, the ballet originally started out in France in 1789 on the eve of the French Revolution, but today it's a pastoral scene of English countryside, farmyards, cornfi elds and maypole dancing. It bursts with life and the exuberant hope of young love. Marianela Nuñez as Lise, the wilful daughter of tiresome old Widow Simone was perfectly matched with Carlos Acosta as her suitor, Colas, the lusty young farmer.

There's no dark side to this ballet – those looking for sorcerers, tortured heroines, swans or sylphs, tutus or tiaras, should look elsewhere. Ferdinand Hérold's score conveys the soaring loveliness of a summer's day and Osbert Lancaster's painted backdrops are filled with light and warmth. William Tuckett as Widow Simone was sublime – the embodiment of pantomime-style nuisance. Now a mature, established star, Carlos Acosta as the ardent young farmer Colas was the perfect foil to Marianela's Lise, the pair looked so well rehearsed that Carlos became Colas before our eyes.

Mime and gesture score highly – the movements flow out of the characters with a clever observation that is a hallmark of Ashton's choreography. When Alain, the hopeless suitor (ably danced by Jonathan Howells) tries to impress Lise with his clumsy dancing and flute-playing, the audience grimaces (discreetly) with her.

With dancing villagers, dancing chickens, a halfwit suitor more attached to his red umbrella than our heroine, and even a star turn by a small Shetland pony, La Fille Mal Gardée could be interpreted as a childlike ballet for adults. Yet to be cynical would be wrong. Go. Enjoy. And allow yourself to be won over.

On 4, 9, 11, 16 May, Royal Opera House: 020-7304 4000, and live at cinemas nationwide on 16 May.

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