A classic of The Royal Ballet, La Fille mal gardée was an immediate hit with the British public. Choreographed by Frederick Ashton in 1960, it is a highly lyrical and technically demanding take on the simple tale of ‘love prevailing’ which underpins this charming story. It was created by French ballet master Jean Dauberval and was first danced in 1789. This 2015 revival is a ‘company triumph’ (Independent), with principals Natalia Osipova and Steven McRae creating terrific onstage chemistry and delivering outstanding solo performances – Osipova as a ‘perky and gamine Lise’ with ‘pin-drop precise’ phrasing (Guardian), and McRae an instantly likeable, playful Colas whose physical articulation is ‘particularly Ashtonian’ in quality (Daily Telegraph). They are joined by Philip Mosley as Widow Simone, who brings ‘music-hall gusto’ (Independent) to the famous clog dance of Act I.
Given its premiere by The Royal Ballet in 1965 with Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn dancing the title roles, Kenneth MacMillan's first full-evening ballet has become a signature work for the Company, enjoying great popularity around the world. From the outset, the production teems with life and colour as the townspeople, market traders and servants of the rival Montagues and Capulets go about their daily business in vibrant crowd scenes. But Romeo and Juliet take centre stage for those great pas de deux: the meeting in the ballroom, the balcony scene, the morning after the wedding and the final devastating tomb scene. Although The Royal Ballet has performed Romeo and Juliet over 400 times, each performance and pairing is subtly different and Lauren Cuthbertson and Federico Bonelli are utterly captivating in the title roles.
Another of John Barry's smouldering, moody thriller scores (Body Heat etc.), the kind of thing he does with a good deal of charm and edgy romanticism. Naturally for his legion of admirers this will be a most welcome treat, although to be entirely frank it is not one of his most distinctive soundtracks. While it hits all of the expected marks with the required poise and professionalism it also lacks freshness and at times sounds a little too much like recycled material (which with this composer admittedly always remains polished and likeable). Given these general musings and vague criticisms we are still left with a valuable addition to the wealth of John Barry work now available, something that is to be appreciated and I am certainly not complaining. (MWI)