, January 2013
Sir Frederick Ashton’s production of La fille mal gardée has been one of the Royal Ballet’s crown jewels ever since its premiere…
The importance of this BBC film…is that it preserves the performances of the original Covent Garden cast, all still at their prime.
At the same time it utilises the BBC’s own considerable resources to showcase the production to finest effect. The unnamed director and cameramen, in particular, are obviously skilled at working on full and busy sets to achieve the best and most inventive camera angles and to offer plenty of visual variety.
The dancing here is…outstanding. Ashton choreographed the ballet specifically to play to his principals’ strengths and characters. Pocket spitfire Nadia Nerina is all flighty runs and cheeky grins, while David Blair proves equally adept at both romantic ardour and, especially, communicating a sense that he is having great fun. Needless to say, both of them display virtually flawless technique too.
Two other points are worth making about the members of the cast. First, there is some surprisingly effective acting going on, as well as the dancing. Nadia Nerina…is very adept at conveying convincing emotions. Her interpretation of Lise…is a very compelling one.
I also enjoyed Alexander Grant’s portrayal of Lise’s simpleton suitor Alain. Another unexpected treat was Royal Ballet stalwart Leslie Edwards’s contribution as Alain’s father, Thomas. His body movements, facial expressions and…his eyes are used to superb effect to create, in less than a minute, a real character out of nothing very much at all.
The second point worth making about the cast members is their collective skill as a company, especially effectively demonstrated in the closing scene where all the main characters are on stage simultaneously. A very brief and quite delightful sequence occurs between 74:47 and 75:15. Widow Simone, Thomas, the notary and the notary’s clerk all dance briefly to a jaunty tune in celebration of what they imagine to be a forthcoming union between Lise and Alain. They line up together with linked arms but each character is expertly individually characterised by constantly changing facial expressions…and highly individual styles of movement. At the same time, however, they interact to telling effect with the others. If you watch this very brief sequence four times—concentrating each time on a different character—you will see an impressive demonstration of the company’s strength in depth in such character roles.
The corps de ballet have a great deal to do in La fille mal gardée and, in this film, they do it very well. Assorted peasants of both sexes harvest and deliver crops, go picnicking, dance around maypoles, run for shelter in a thunderstorm and join in wedding celebrations, all with appropriate gusto. John Lanchbery, who arranged the score for Ashton, directs the Covent Garden orchestra stylishly and his musicians sound as if they are having a great time…
The “enhanced mono” sound quality is absolutely fine. © 2013 MusicWeb International Read complete review