Ashton's brilliant choreography, revived by Christopher Newton and Delibes' expressive music combine to make a charming evening out at the Royal Opera House or in your own home if viewed on the excellet Opus Arte DVD. This homage to the 19th-century French ballet style is a light hearted mythological story of a nymph captured by huntsman and restored by Eros to her true lover. It is an excuse for some inventive, romantic and dazzling decorative dances, both solos and handsomely crafted groups. Peter Farmer tastefully developed the original attractive Second Empire designs of Robin and Christopher Ironside to provide sumptuous sets and costumes.
Some may claim that none quite match Fonteyn's playful musicality when the ballet was created on her in 1952. But it is wrong to compare artists with each other, which is why dance awards are invidious. Today's dancers provide a technical brilliance with a satisfying emotional appeal.
In the complex title role Darcey Bussell, is persuasive as the proud nymph as well as tenderly showing the first awakenings of love. With her thrilling long extended legs, flirty, flying elevation and speedy articulate footwork she is still in her prime. She dances with perfect precision in the pizzicato divertissement and is ravishingly radiant in the pas de deux powerfully partnered by Roberto Bolle who also displays some soaring elevation as the shepherd Aminta. Mara Galeazzi has developed into an accomplished performer and shines as Diana with Martin Harvey providing a superb and mischievous Eros. It is gorgeous.