La Fille mal gardée
Ballet in Two Acts
Metropolitan Opera House
Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Victor Barbee, Assistant Artistic Director
Elizabeth Harpel Kehler, Executive Director
Ballet Masters, Guillaume Graffin, Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova, Georgina Parkinson, Kirk Peterson
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Farah Lopez, Manager, Press and Marketing
Review by Dr. Robert E. Zlokower
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
May 24, 2003
La Fille mal gardée (2002): Choreography by Frederick Ashton, Staged by Alexander Grant, Christopher Carr, and Grant Coyle, Scenario by Jean Dauberval, Music by Ferdinand Hérold, Adapted and Arranged by John Lanchbery, Sets and Costumes by Osbert Lancaster, Lighting by Brad Fields, Performed by Guillaume Graffin, Nina Ananiashvili, Maxim Belotserkovsky, Ethan Brown, Carlos Lopez, Julio Bragado-Young, and the Company, Conducted by David LaMarche. La Fille mal gardée received its World Premiere in 1960 by The Royal Ballet in London and New York. ABT has presented previous versions since 1940, the earliest being choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska. This version is fairly recent. (ABT Notes).
La Fille mal gardée is a simple but charming story about Widow Simone, a rich farmer, whose daughter, Lise, is promised to Alain, son of a prosperous vineyard owner. However, Lise is in love with Colas, a young farmer. There are harvesters, friends of Lise and Colas, the Village Notary and Clerk, who seal and then destroy the official marital deal, four life size hens, and a cockerel. This is a ballet for both children and adults, with prancing farm animals, adorable sets, and cozy ambiance that lift and entertain, on a cold, misty, May evening. This was an evening of firsts, for me; the first time I saw Guillaume Graffin in the man/woman role, so popular in ballet, in which certain humorous, old, or evil female characters are always played by men. Men can lift the female dancers, be larger than life, and fill the stage, especially stuffed with padding and bustles, to create a matronly, campy act; and the first time I saw Nina Ananiashvili in this particular role (I have followed her performances for many years, own her specially signed slippers, and have spoken with and photographed her.
Xiomara Reyes as Lise and Angel Corella as Colas in "La Fille mal gardée."
Photo courtesy of Marty Sohl
Mr. Graffin, as Widow Simone, was absolutely in peak form, took over the stage and provided the underpinnings of this two-hour mother-daughter duel. He tap-danced in wooden clogs, spanked and locked up and lifted Ms. Ananiashvili in numerous, hilarious moments. Mr. Graffin (also a Ballet Master) seemed to thoroughly enjoy this new opportunity to dance in a lead role that rivets the audience with cartoonish and sophisticated humor. Maxim Belotserkovsky, as Colas, the lover by choice, danced with more force and bravado than I have seen in his previous, lead performances. He was on time, spinning and leaping in circular and on-high projections that brought the audience to a roar. (This is what I love about the ABT audience. It performs on cue, as well.) His partnering of the virtuosic Ms. Ananiashvili was flawless. He showed charisma and character. I rooted for his romantic success, although I certainly knew the happy ending.
Ms. Ananiashvili, as Lise, displayed new skills with ribbon dances, knots, yarn, and scarves, all of which seemed symbolic, although perhaps unintended, as brightly decorated umbilical chords to her possessive and bumbling mother/father. She, as did the entire cast, exuded joy, charm, and half-hearted anger, as she escaped the traps of the marital deal. Ms. Ananiashvili moves like a hummingbird. She has dance skills that are unparalleled. Perhaps it was her training in Russia, that she is capable of enrapturing the audience with the mood and motif of the moments in every ballet, in which she performs.
Ethan Brown was extremely effective as Thomas, the rebuffed vineyard owner and father. He has developed a tremendous, theatrical technique. Yet, the other star of tonight's enjoyable presentation was Carlos Lopez as Alain, who can turn an umbrella into a horse, a flying broomstick, a weapon, and its intended use, a rain protector. Mr. Lopez performed with extreme dexterity and campiness, looking like a boy-suitor, so inappropriately matched to Lise, so out of his element, so spoiled and protected, so immature and terrified, and yet so lovable. He moved in defiance of gravity, with tiny steps yard in front of his body, a cartoon character, gone live to Ferdinand Hérold's masterful score.
Julio-Bragado-Young, as the Cockerel, as well as the four hens, were in sync and in role, and actually moved in similar bowl-legged fashion as the cocky Widow Simone. The cozy, Exterior and Interior, Farmyard and Farmhouse scenes were reminiscent of a Millet painting. In fact, the perfect staging called for a live horse and buggy, so well conceived in a City replete with such a method of transportation. Kudos to David LaMarche, who was inadvertently omitted from the program. He is a Conductor's Conductor, who recently co-led the ABT Orchestra in the marathon All Around Is Light celebration of Greek Culture. And, kudos to Kevin McKenzie for another wonderful evening at ABT.