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American Ballet Theatre: La Fille mal gardee 2016
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American Ballet Theatre

La Fille mal gardée 2016
Ballet in Two Acts

At the
Metropolitan Opera House

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Kara Medoff Barnett, Executive Director
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters: Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa, Keith Roberts
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
James Timm, Director of Marketing and Brand Management
Susie Morgan Taylor, Manager of Press and Online Media

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 25, 2016

(Read More ABT Reviews.)

(See a Conversation with Conductor, David LaMarche, on the Spring 2016 Season Ballet Music.)

La Fille mal gardée (1960): Choreography by Frederick Ashton, Staged by Malin Thoors, Scenario by Jean Dauberval, Music by Ferdinand Hérold, Freely adapted and arranged by John Lanchbery (from the 1828 version), Sets and costumes by Osbert Lancaster, Lighting by Brad Fields. 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 from 2002.(ABT Notes).

Cast on May 24, 2016

Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Roman Zhurbin as Widow Simone, a rich farmer, Isabella Boylston as Lise, her daughter, Jeffrey Cirio as Colas, a young farmer in love with Lise, Thomas Forster as Thomas, a prosperous vineyard owner, Craig Salstein as Alain, his son, Alexei Agoudine as Cockerel, and the Company as Hens, Lise’s Friends, Colas’ Friends, Village Notary, Notary’s Clerk, and Villagers, harvesters, grooms, etc.

Cast on May 25, 2016

Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Roman Zhurbin as Widow Simone, a rich farmer, Misty Copeland as Lise, her daughter, Herman Cornejo as Colas, a young farmer in love with Lise, Daniel Mantei as Thomas, a prosperous vineyard owner, Craig Salstein as Alain, his son, Alexei Agoudine as Cockerel, and the Company as Hens, Lise’s Friends, Colas’ Friends, Village Notary, Notary’s Clerk, and Villagers, harvesters, grooms, etc.

Ashton’s bucolic ballet, La Fille mal gardée, set in his beloved, springtime, English countryside, 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.

The operatically, theatrical Roman Zhurbin was Lise’s mother, Widow Simone, on both the 24th and 25th, in the man/woman role, so popular in ballet, in which certain humorous, old, or evil female characters are played by men. Men can lift the female dancers and be larger than life, filling the stage, especially stuffed with padding and bustles, to create a matronly, campy act. And, campy it was. The Soloists, Mr. Zhurbin and Craig Salstein are often paired in witty ballets (at ABT they’re the stepsisters in Ashton’s Cinderella), and, on both the 24th and 25th Mr. Salstein was impeccable as Alain. He was adorably awkward, fumbling, bumbling, and falling, the wealthy heir that Widow Simone had eyed for her farmhouse daughter, Lise. The costumed, campy role of the farmhouse Cockerel, on both evenings, was Alexei Agoudine, dashing about in chicken bobs and hops.

As Colas and Lise, on the 24th, Isabella Boylston and Jeffrey Cirio were well matched for physicality, energy, and youthfulness. Their various ribbon dances, one with Colas imitating a horse and cart, and one with Lise spinning en pointe, in place, holding several ribbons of a maypole, were stunning. Their mimed romanticism was endearing and engaging. Mr. Cirio, a recently hired new Soloist, seemed thrilled in this lead story ballet role, and he exuded muscularity and magnetism throughout. As Lise, Ms. Boylston found herself in numerous comic confrontations with her mother, Widow Simone, and her dance banter and oversized gestures, sneaking a kiss with Colas, entertained the audience, including children, immensely. As Simone, Mr. Zhurbin would smooth his hair, bonnet, skirt, and bodice in witty repetitions. This was a streamlined ensemble.

On the 25th, as Lise and Colas, Misty Copeland was partnered by the ever-virtuosic Herman Cornejo. Theirs was a more mesmerizing set of antics, with some dance fireworks, as expected, but the Boylston-Cirio duo led on chemistry. On cue, Mr. Cornejo executed his dynamic leaps, spins, mid-air athletics, and so on, but he seemed more paternal than romantic, in this case. Nevertheless, the air was electrified, and the audience was vocally enthused. Ms. Copeland and Mr. Cornejo bounded up the interior farmhouse steps like lightning, when they hid from Simone and the entourage of Alain and his “prosperous vineyard owner” father, Thomas (Thomas Forster on the 24th and Daniel Mantei on the 25th). Their dances were more seasoned, where the Boylston-Cirio dances were more spontaneous.

The Corps, as Hens, Friends, Villagers, etc., was jubilant. On both nights, Duncan Lyle as the Notary caught my eye. And, on the 24th, Patrick Frenette as a Villager, Devon Teuscher as one of Lise’s friends, and on the 25th, Luciana Paris as one of Lise’s friends and Zhong-Jing Fang as a Villager, were all particularly outstanding. Ashton’s choreography has innumerable stunning surprises, like two thunder and lightning storm sequences, in which the Company dances on an angle across the stage, as if thrown by a gusty squall, and like a clog dance in wooden shoes. Ferdinand Hérold’s music is vivaciously orchestral, with tubas, chimes, flutes, and other pastoral ornamentations, mimicking the farm animals and the weather. On both nights, Maestros Wilkins and Barker kept the tempo both lyrical and scintillating. Jean Dauberval’s “scenario” includes the outdoor farmyard, the outdoor cornfield, and the indoor farmhouse. This is a fantastic ballet for family and school performances, with its pervasive and comical mime. Kudos to Ashton, and kudos to all.

Isabella Boylston and Jeffrey Cirio
in "La Fille mal gardée"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Misty Copeland and Herman Cornejo
in "La Fille mal gardée"
Courtesy of MIRA

Roman Zhurbin in "La Fille mal gardée"
Courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at