La Fille mal gardée

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(Eng. title Vain Precautions, also The Unchaperoned Daughter)

Ballet in two acts with choreography and libretto by Dauberval, set to various popular French songs. Premiered 1 Jul. 1789 at Bordeaux's Grand Theatre with Mlle Théodore (Dauberval's wife) as Lise. This seminal work was one of the first ballets to deal with everyday characters and their lives. It tells the story of Lise and her lover Colas, and their attempts to outwit her mother's plans to marry her to Alain, the simple-witted son of a rich landowner. Its original title was Le Ballet de la paille but it gained its present title when staged at London's Pantheon Theatre in 1791. Highly popular, it was performed all around Europe, although not at the Paris Opera until 1803. In 1828 Dauberval's pupil Aumer revived it for the Opera with a new musical arrangement by Hérold, which included Rossini melodies and some of his own music. Elssler danced Lise to much acclaim in 1837 and the ballet remained in the Paris repertory until 1854. In St Petersburg it was first produced in 1818 by Didelot (who had danced Colas under Dauberval's coaching in 1791) followed by another production in 1828, and in 1850 Elssler danced in the Moscow production. P. Taglioni produced a new version to music by Hertel for Berlin in 1864 and when Petipa and Ivanov staged their own new production in St Petersburg (1885) with Zucchi and P. Gerdt they used the same score. This was the basis of many subsequent productions, including those of Gorsky (Moscow, 1901), Lavrovsky (Leningrad, 1937), Nijinska (Ballet Theatre, 1940, incorporating elements from Mordkin's 1938 production for the Mordkin Ballet), and Balashova (Nouveau Ballet de Monte Carlo, 1946, later taken into the repertory of the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas). Vinogradov's 1971 version for the Maly Theatre, Leningrad, returned to the Hérold score and in 1989 the Dauberval original was reconstructed by Ivo Cramér for Nantes Opera Ballet, using traditional airs arranged by Farncombe. H. Spoerli choreographed a new version for Paris Opera in 1981 using music adapted by J.-M. Damase but the most popular version seen today is Ashton's two-act version. Set to Lanchbery's arrangement of the Hérold music and with designs by Osbert Lancaster, it was premiered 28 Jan. 1960 by the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden, London, with Nerina, Blair, Grant, and Holden. This recaptured the innocence and humour of the Dauberval original but also exploited the advanced virtuosity of 20th-century dancers (the choreography for Colas included some of the most dazzling dance Ashton wrote for a man). It is acknowledged as one of his most perfectly constructed ballets, with its seamless mix of humour and tenderness, classical dance, and mime (Karsavina taught Ashton mime sequences that date back to Zucchi's acclaimed performances) and it is loved for its vivid characterizations, especially the high-spirited lovers, the sharp but tender Widow Simone, and the daft, dreamy Alain. It has since been revived for many companies, including Royal Danish Ballet (1964), Australian Ballet (1967), Budapest State Opera Ballet (1971), PACT Ballet (1969), Munich State Opera Ballet (1971), Royal Swedish Ballet (1972), State Ballet of Turkey (1973), San Francisco Ballet (1978), Joffrey Ballet (1986), Houston Ballet (1992), and Paris Opera (2007).


Subjects: Dance.

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