Nanarina

ASHTON'S La Fille Mal Gardee in the 2000's.

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:dunno::) Sir Fred. Ashton's revival of this old French ballet in 1960, was a joy to behold. It was one of those productions you left the theatre in a happy mood, and felt comfortable in taking a young person to see it for their fist introduction to Ballet. It was simply really charming.

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"Fille" was the first ballet I ever saw, and I didn't realize how much it had changed my life because its appeal was so fresh and as you say charming. i'd been deilghted -- within an inch of my life, I'd been delighted. There wasn't a second of it that wasn't marvelous -- but I had not been overwhelmed at any point, though maybe , in fact I'm pretty sure I felt tears in my eyes when Lise was imagining having her children. THe thing I remember being surprised by -- in fact, amazed by -- was that I'd felt I understood every second of it, but could not understand HOW I understood; it's as if I had second sight. That fascinated me.

It was almost an accident that I went -- I was a student at Oxford, and a classmate and his girlfriend insisted I had to go see it with hem. THe terain trip was not difficult, but it WAS a trip to go up to London -- Saturday matinee at the Royal Opera House, very cheap in those days; it wsa Leslie Collier's debut in a full-length role, 1969 or 70. After that I was going back by myself or with them whenever i could get away.

Nanarina, you might want to know that Ashton choreographed it because "Karsavina was always begging him to revive it." he got the mime scene directly from her.

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The opportunity to stage it was hastened by John Lanchbery's discovery of a violin-repetiteur for all the 6/8 numbers in the Herold score. That's one reason there's so much of that rollicking time signatures in his finished version. I always thought it was fun that he took the ballet's subtitle "Useless Precautions" and chose to introduce the main characters (after the chickens) with the "Piano, pianissimo" opening from another show with that subtitle - Rossini's The Barber of Seville!

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Thank you to Mel ane Paul for your posts, I have such happy memories of "Fille" and I will explain why. I was aware of the connection between the mime scene and Kars. also how John Lanchberry had discovered the musical score.

In 1960 I was nineteen years old, and had just started my Apprenticeship at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. The first production I worked on was in fact "Fille" for it'S Premier the same year. I had to learn the Costume and prop schedules, which I completed, after then I found myself helping at fitting sessions costume parades, and a photo call. In the meantime, I had also become a dresser for the Ballet, and as part of this I learnt the quick changes. Due to illness of one of the Senior dressers who worked on the top floor, I found myself seconded to the Ballerina's level, and put on the spot, literally dropped into it, I suddenly had to undertake my first quick change in the wings. I had always done my upmost to learn everything I could, so I was soon in demand, as it turned out I was very quick and reliable in helping the Dancer's change their costumes. I went on to learn all the Ballet's in the Repertoire, the very comprehensive Costume Lists, as well as becoming a Costumier.

I stayed at the ROH until I was over 21 years old, and then transferred to the Touring Company, again stepping in due to staff illness. Actually, I never did return to work in "the garden", only when our Company performed there, when the resident Co. were on tour. I ended up in charge of the Ladies Wardrobe, on tour. It was quite a hard, but rewarding life, with Monday to Saturday nights, two matinee's, and travelling on Sunday. But I loved it, we were a big happy family, enjoying friendship and got to know each other very well. In some of the big cities like Liverpool, we would go with members of the Orchestra to rehearsals of the famous Orchestra's, or visit places of interest on our day off.

Fille mal Gardee was a much loved and regularly performed favourite all over the UK, and even abroad. The Touring Company began well thought of, and some later stars of the Royal Ballet made their debut in it. The orginal cast in London had been Nadia Nerina (Lise) David Blair(Colas), Alexander Grant(Alain), Stanley Holden(Widow Simone) Lesley Edwards(Farmer Thomas). Our Dancers to portray the roles equally as well were, Lise - Doreen Wells, Shirley Grahame,Brenda Last, Colas - David Wall, Gary Sherwood, Michael Coleman, Widow Simone - Ronald Emblem, David Gordon,Brien Shaw, Alain - John Sale, Gary Grant, Farmer Thomas Henry Legerton ( To the best of my memory).

The roles Sir "Fred" created were unique, Widow Simone was essentially based on a Pantomine dame, Lise her wayward naughty daughter, was a truly comic role, and Alain her reluctant simple but rich groom, (her Mother's but not her choice), was extremely funny, and would often have the cast in fits of laughter. Which was perfectly acceptable for this humorous delightful ballet.

The choreography included wonderful variations featuring wide pink satin ribbons, used to marvelous effect, from the Lovers knot, made by Lise and Colas, to the shapes the friends made to support the cornfield pas de deux, and a brilliant pose on one point, Lise makes, holding eight ribbons, when the other girls turn her on the spot, which never failed to get huge applause from the audience. The corp de ballet boys and girls dances contained traditional national dances, Morris, stick dances, a full size maypole, and the much loved clog dance where Widow Simone shows off her over zealous skills and nearly comes unstuck. Alain with his red umbrella, with it's ducks head handle, that uses as a horse, when the charming little white shetland pony, appears, and later during the storm, he is swept up high as the wind and rain catch him.

The famous mime scene, where Lise dreams of being married to Colas and having his children, after being locked in by her Mother when she has yet again tried to sneek off with the villagers, and the shock and embarresment she experiences when she learns Colas has hiden behind the hay bales and seen her.

This ballet is so essentially English, I wonder how other companies abroad, cope with the role portrayal. In recent times The Australian Ballet have made a DVD, which is very close to the original, which is well worth buying. However, The Paris Opera Ballet have also performed it , and I sincerely wonder what they make of it. I do not doubt their technical ability, this side of the production should not be difficult for them, but I do question the authenticity of how they would create the so very special roles of the main character's. I just cannot picture some of the Etoile's getting anywhere near the humerous and charming characters. I suppose the only way to find out, is to attend a performance, and hope I would not be disapointed, having been so closely involved with the original production. :cool::)

Has anyone seen "Fille" recently? if so, what did you think?

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I've not seen the ballet recently.

I first saw it at Kennedy Center in the 70s - Merle Park and Nureyev.

The chickens, Rudy bursting out of the bales of hay, Park hanging from his arms in the window - legs doing tick-tock, the ribbons, maypole and clog dances I recall the most.

In the 80s I had the honor of dancing Alain having been taught by Faith Worth and coached by Alexander Grant. My Widow Simon was none other than Stanley Holden! When I look back I can't help but be extremely thankful for those experiences.

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The last time I saw it was with ABT and it's one of the best things I"ve ever seen them do. You would have thought the ballet was set on them, about a week ago. (Alexander Grant staged it.) The cast was Ashley Tuttle and Ethan Stiefel, with Kirk Peterson as the Widow Simone. They had the tone right, the mime right, the dancing was musical, the audience howled, the critics wrote and wrote and WROTE about it -- and I don't think they've done it since. :)

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This ballet is so essentially English, I wonder how other companies abroad, cope with the role portrayal.

Beautiful memories Nanarina-(BTW, i love your screenname :) ). I grew up watching "Fille" in regular basis in Havana. It's still a highly appreciated ballet among cuban balletomanes, and Mme. Alonso keeps presenting it every year, non stopping. Particularly one Principal Ballerina of the 70's-80's, Maria Elena Llorente, was well known for dancing the role-(which in Cuba i knew by the name of Lissette, her counterpart as Colin). This production is Mme.'s own revival dated from 1952, and it's still in active repertoire.

http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=e...D1%26ie%3DUTF-8

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Cristian, I believe Mme. Alonso's version is very different. It's the same story, but it descends from the Russian (which probably descends, at least in part, from the old French). Ashton completely rechoreographed it. If there aren't dancing chickens in the version you're used to, and a lot of beautiful and imaginative use of ribbons, it's not the Ashton :)

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A friend of mine, a former dancer, saw it last year in Paris and loved it. DIdn't get a lot of details, except that her husband (who's not a dancer) loved it even more than she did.

The French dancers who've moved here and dance with San Francisco Ballet ALL seem to have a great sense of humor and a natural feel for gesture, so I bet they do do it well. But htat's just my guess.

Still, I know what you mean about its Englishness. In fact, Edwin denby commented on its mild gentle Englishness in his review of Fille and wondered if Americans would feel the charm. As Glebb recalls, it does seem to go from highlight to highlight -- but it does that without ever going for some over-the-top feat of bravura. Even when Lise is leaping about or spinning in hte midst of all those ribbons there are no show-stopping effects --

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Of course, the show as a whole goes back to Bordeaux in 1789, and the original seems to have contained dancing, dialogue, standup comedy, songs, and other performing arts. We could as easily class it as a musical comedy as a ballet. As the corps exits in its farandole, they preserve a little of the singing in the Ashton. The other version which survives is after Ivanov and Gorsky, and was preserved in versions by Ferdinand Nault and Alonso. Its music is by Peter L. Hertel.

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also, as Natalia can confirm in more detail, the Bolshoi Ballet Academy has a version of Gorsky's staging still in its repertory; a perf. was telecast in Japan with Bolshoi school not that long ago.

meanwhile, the attached, undated photocard shows much-loved moscow ballerina Sofia Fedorova as Liza at her spinning wheel in the last act of Gorsky's production. (Fedorova took on the role in 1905, when Gorsky seems to have re-staged his previous '01 production, with Grimaldi as Liza, for his russian ballerina, who danced opposite m. mordkin as Kolen/Colas.

post-848-1213117531_thumb.jpg

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The last time I saw it was with ABT and it's one of the best things I"ve ever seen them do. You would have thought the ballet was set on them, about a week ago. (Alexander Grant staged it.) The cast was Ashley Tuttle and Ethan Stiefel, with Kirk Peterson as the Widow Simone. They had the tone right, the mime right, the dancing was musical, the audience howled, the critics wrote and wrote and WROTE about it -- and I don't think they've done it since. :(

La Fille... have always been a favorite of mine and i enjoyed the ABT staging a few years ago. Apparently,it was not a big crowd-drawer and it has not been repeated. I wished ABT would do it next season. Herman and Sarah would be wonderful in this ballet, i think. :):beg:

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Colas was one of the first great successes of Marius Petipa as a dancer, in Bordeaux.

It's always appealed to me to think that Petipa came up with "DOn Quixote" as a way of using the same story -- our girl gets rescued from having to marry a rich foolish suitor that the parent INSISTS she marry, and gets to marry the guy she wanted all along, which is a fable of a revolutionary idea (the woman gets to choose) -- as a hook to hang all hte Spanish dancing he learned in his 3-year job dancing in Madrid, when he got a chance to choreograph something big and splashy in St Petersburg.

Petipa certainly kept Fille alive in St Petersburg, as well as doing DOn Q several times over.

One wonders if hte mime scene goes all hte way back. Karsavina , who taught it to Ashton, learned it from Pavrel Gerdt who'd partnered the divine ZUcchi, who'd starred as Lise in Petipa's production. Wonder if it was the same that Petipa had seen in the 1840's, and if it was Vestris's -- or maybe even Dauberval's in all its essentials to begin with?

THe Royal Ballet's DVDF on mime has a long sequence teaching the mime scene which is EXTREMELY affectingly performed (by Sarah Lamb?)

There is by the way an astonishingly detailed and amusing and impressively knowledgeable account of the history of "FIlle" at Wikipedia. The list of choreographers who kept the ballet alive is itself a hall of fame -- Petipa's production was a revival of Taglioni's. Makes for excellent reading -- I must quote the following:

"A feature of the Ivanov production was the use of live chickens on stage. One evening when Preobrajenskaya danced the role of Lise, her rival, Kschessinskaya, let all of the chickens out of their coups during her variation, with many of them landing in the orchestra pit and even on the laps of many of the musicians. Preobrajenskaya kept on dancing as if nothing happened."

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PS THANK YOU, Nanarina, for that wonderful account of your life backstage with Fille. It's wonderful to know about all that. We don't really know about the quick changes; the REAL time backstage is quite different from the stage-time the audience is aware of.

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Paul, your point about the plot parallels -- and treatment of the young, rescourceful and nice but independent girl -- in Fille and Don Q are very interesting. Thank you, also, for the information about Pepita in Bordeaux.

Humor is such a personal thing. I love the pas de trois for Lisa, Colas, and the out-of-it Alain (sorry, glebb) It's one of the most charming and witty bits of character play in ballet. On the other hand, speaking only for myself, I fail on the chicken-appreciation test.

I've only seen the Royal Ballet dvd with Lesley Collier and Michael Coleman, to designs by Osbert Lancaster. How does that peformance compare to others you have seen?

And how about other dvds? Amazon has The Australian Ballet production of the Ashton ballet, with Fiona Tonkin, and David McAllister. Nanarina recommended this above. Amazon also has a dvd of a version by Heinz Spoerli for Basler Ballett, with Valentina Kozlova and Chris Jensen. Any comments about either of those?

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And how about other dvds? Amazon has The Australian Ballet production of the Ashton ballet, with Fiona Tonkin, and David McAllister. Nanarina recommended this above. Amazon also has a dvd of a version by Heinz Spoerli for Basler Ballett, with Valentina Kozlova and Chris Jensen. Any comments about either of those?

And who will be first, in the "Ballet Videos, Films, and Broadcast Performances" forum, to review the Royal's new release? :wink:

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I lucked into last-minute tickets for "Fille" at Paris Opera Ballet last summer. (Hubby, bless him, didn't blanch a bit at paying top dollar.) It was thoroughly charming, as everyone says. As it was a first for me, I cannot say if the French "got it" as well as the Brits.

I wonder if anyone else has thoughts about an observation I had: that the character of Alain is autistic or has Asperger's syndrome. It seemed a pretty dead-on characterization to me: socially awkward, fixated on his umbrella, and if I remember correctly, with awkward and stereotyped movements (although maybe I'm making that last bit up). I've heard him described as a simpleton, but it seemed to me there was much more to him than that.

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Let's not overthink this. This is farce comedy. Alain is just another in a long line of unappetizing arranged bridegrooms. Think of poor Arturo Bucklaw in Lucia di Lammermoor: Lucy takes her first look at him, and says, "Gran Dio!"

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Well, that's the thing, I wasn't thinking at all. It just seemed very clear to me. I'm wondering if there's anyone familiar with autism spectrum disorders who has seen Fille who had the same thought.

And, why not?

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I saw Alexander Grant in the role way back when, and I thought then that he was so sweetly cretinous, he had something like a holy fool about him -- his umbrella united him to the heavens somehow, andhe did not have enough worldly wisdom about him to survive, but aside from his vanity, he's a spotless soul.... like Harpo Marx without the cutting up.

I don't know enough about Asperger's to guess, but your observatino strikes me as very plausible. It could be a very effective way to create comic stylization. Ashton was famously a great mimic -- if he'd seen someone with Asperger's, he might have been able to give a full imitation.

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I'm wondering if there's anyone familiar with autism spectrum disorders who has seen Fille who had the same thought.

And, why not?

Yeah, why not...? If not ASD, at least his behavior seems to be that of a patient with some sort of Pervasive Developmental Disorder.

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Alain is a stock character - the village idiot. Ashton got him from music hall, the same way he got Mere Simone from pantomime. The dance artist makes him a plausible human being. I've seen Alains who were terrifically sympathetic, about like the Chaplin Little Tramp, and I've seen ones who were just sort of bratty. It's all in the interpretation by the artist, and his making a connection with the audience.

We don't have a lot of time to observe this character; we could more successfully diagnose Lucy Ricardo, because we have a lot more behavior to analyze. My question would be why?

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Ashton was famously a great mimic -- if he'd seen someone with Asperger's, he might have been able to give a full imitation.

But even if he had seen one and was imitating him, he would have just been inspired by characteristics he saw, not creating a character with Asperger's unless he specified it. If it is farce comedy, you don't have a character with Asperger's per se, do you? Toby in 'The Medium' is a Gypsy mute, but we also do know that his tongue was cut out.

Alain is a stock character - the village idiot. Ashton got him from music hall, the same way he got Mere Simone from pantomime. The dance artist makes him a plausible human being. I've seen Alains who were terrifically sympathetic, about like the Chaplin Little Tramp, and I've seen ones who were just sort of bratty. It's all in the interpretation by the artist, and his making a connection with the audience.

We don't have a lot of time to observe this character; we could more successfully diagnose Lucy Ricardo, because we have a lot more behavior to analyze. My question would be why?

Don't they because Ashton is relatively recent, so contemporary observations must seem relevant that wouldn't for the 19th century, not too stretched for 'legitimate revisionist history'. Most 19th century characters, like Giselle or La Sylphide, may seem as if without a hardened enough ego or just defeatist and suicidal, even stripped of fairy status when applicable, couldn't they? I don't even tend to get very involved with Freudian talk about Siegfried and his mother, but wonder if that occurs as well because Freud goes back far enough for it to resonate somehow; Freud applied to Antigone doesn't even if it appears to. We all know that Chaplin's Little Tramp imitators don't get sympathy in real life. I do recall that Boulez heard a disturbed person playing the flute in a Scottish castle and thought it was the most extraordinary sound, but if he then 'used it', I'm sure he didn't say anywhere 'here's the part where I made the classical version of the changeling's flute-playing--it's a little birdlike thing' or here's the 'little phrase' as the Vinteuil Odette and Swann used to hear...and the clownish types in 'Slaughter on 10th Avenue' are just menacing low pimps when they leave the show. Or something like that. Others that come to mind are Marxist analyses of Mammy in 'Gone with the Wind': She appears to be loved and revered, but she is given no will of her own by the 'corrupt society'. I'm never convinced by such analyses. And Peter Pan definitely suffered from the Peter Pan Complex.

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Thanks to Paul Parish for leading us to this illustration from Wikipedia's entry on Fille, captioned as "Dauberval's inspiration for La Fille Mal Gardée - Pierre Antoine Baudouin's painting Le Reprimande/Une Jeune Fille Querellée par sa Mère, Paris, 1789."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Fille_M...mande_-1789.JPG

The date is arresting. Rebellion was in the air.

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Don't they because Ashton is relatively recent, so contemporary observations must seem relevant that wouldn't for the 19th century, not too stretched for 'legitimate revisionist history'. Most 19th century characters, like Giselle or La Sylphide, may seem as if without a hardened enough ego or just defeatist and suicidal, even stripped of fairy status when applicable, couldn't they?

I don't know; could they? While at first this seems to fall under the "no-Freud" rule (If it's from before Freud was common coin, no Freud.), I think it really falls under the "don't judge a book from its cover" rule of social engagement. (Don't try to psychoanalyze somebody you've only met just today, and for less than two hours).

It might be intellectually useful to observe characters in various dramas, but to tell you the truth, we rarely have enough behavior to follow. Using psychological techniques may help us to understand the Romantic movement, say, or the pre-Classic period here, but it rarely enhances our enjoyment. If it does for you, bully for you, and I would be the last person to deprive you of enjoyment, but I just don't think it works.

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