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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An everyday story of country folk, 1 July 2010
This review is from: La Fille Mal Gardée, [DVD] [2010] (DVD)
A fortnight before the storming of the Bastille in 1789 a new ballet was performed for the first time in Bordeaux. It was a simple story of a girl in a small village who wants to marry her sweetheart but her widowed mother wants her to marry the simple son of a rich local farmer. As you would expect, all ends happily.

The original music was largely made up from popular tunes of the day. Various bits were added and in 1818 the composer Ferdinand Hérold pulled the whole thing together, including original numbers which he composed. During the nineteenth century numbers were added: for example those who know their Rossini will recognise that the music accompanying the entrance of Lise (the heroine) is lifted straight from the first act of The Barber of Seville. There are also extracts from Donizetti. To complicate matters further one Johann Hertel composed a completely new score in 1864, and this was the one everyone used from the end of the nineteenth century till 1960.

In 1959 Frederick Ashton and John Lanchbery worked up a completely new version. The basis was Hérold's score, together with many of the later accretions. Lanchbery used only one number from the Hertel score: a dance in 4/4 which he recast in 12/4 as the well-known "Clog Dance". He also wrote some original music himself and adapted music from other composers.

The notes for this DVD record that the music is "By Hérold, freely adapted by John Lanchbery" but you will see that this is something of a simplification!

In my opinion Lanchbery has done a first-class job with the score. It all hangs together very convincingly and is full of delightful tunes.

As for the stage performance itself I found this, as a very occasional ballet spectator, to be wholly satisfying. I am not competent to pass judgement on the quality of the dancing but it seemed pretty good to me. In particular the characters are well drawn and the action is easy to follow, aided by plenty of close-ups where appropriate. The costumes and sets are traditional, and none the worse for that. The sound and picture quality are, as one would hope to get in a recent recording, of good quality.

There is much to enjoy in this performance of La Fille. Not very demanding fare, perhaps, but we all need high quality relaxation sometimes, and this DVD provides it in spades.

If, like me, you find the score irresistible do also seek out the CD of this charming music as well. It's available from Amazon (advert.) and I strongly recommend you to get the more expensive version which is coupled with "Ma'mselle Angot". It is excellent for helping the time to pass on long, tedious car journeys
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