La Fille Mal Gardée
("The Unguarded Maiden"), perhaps the best-known work of composer Ferdinand Hérold, is here presented in a Royal Ballet production freely adapted, arranged and conducted by John Lanchbery. The unquestioned centre of attention is Royal Ballet superstar Lesley Collier who plays Lise, the beautiful farm girl whom her widowed mother (Brian Shaw) plans to marry to the eligible Alain (Garry Grant) despite Lise's love for young farmer Colas (Michael Coleman). This is a colourful pastoral romp with pause for tender and lyrical moments and plentiful opportunities for Collier to enchant her many admirers. Royal Ballet principal conductor Lanchbery--himself composer of the well-loved Tales of Beatrix Potter
(1971)--brings all his flair for this sort of carefree entertainment to play and the result is delightful. Filmed for BBC television at Covent Garden in January 1981, the witty, energetic and romantic choreography is by Frederick Ashton (his dancing chickens are hilarious, as is Shaw's "clog dance" in Act Two) and the stage design by Osbert Lancaster, whose legacy adds charm to a much more recent BBC Royal Ballet film of Coppélia
(2000). Hérold's score is filled with playfulness, melody and laughter, making this a very superior pantomime. --Gary S. Dalkin
On the DVD: Presented at the original 4:3 TV ratio, the focus is soft throughout and details lacking in long shots are reduced to a formless blur. The image looks washed-out, with colours missing any sparkle or depth. The live stereo sound is much better, being detailed, full, and free of the hiss one might expect from a TV soundtrack of this vintage. The disc offers one page of credits, a three-page synopsis and a web link. The drab black and white booklet repeats this information in more detail in various languages, but offers nothing on the performers, composer or conductor. --Gary S. Dalkin
A young girl attempts to marry a young farmer, rather than be forced by her mother into wedlock with the hopeless son of a rich vineyard owner. Performed by the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton, and designed by Osbert Lancaster.