'La Fille mal
May 23, 2003 -- Metropolitan
Opera House, New York
Frederick Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée, Alain, the childlike
son of Thomas, the vineyard owner, carries with him a beloved red umbrella.
It was a familiar sight in the Metropolitan Opera House, as New Yorkers
carried in their own colorful assortment of umbrellas, struggling in from
the endlessly rainy weather. During the onstage storm, Alain’s umbrella
catches the wind and sweeps him up, up and away. Similarly, Friday’s delightful
opening performance of La Fille male gardée, led by Angel Corella
and Xiomara Reyes, with Osbert Lancaster’s brightly colored sets and costumes,
swept the audience away from the gloomy New York weather into the humorous,
fanciful world of the lovers Lise and Colas.
American Ballet Theater’s version of La Fille mal gardée, staged
by Alexander Grant, Christopher Carr and Grant Coyle to Ferdinand Herold’s
music, begins with the droll dance of the chickens. The strutting, flapping
dance, performed with perfect timing and wittiness by Dartanion Reed and
his retinue of hens, provides a perfect entrance into the rural and gaily
innocent world where the ballet takes place. It’s a village, free of the
worries and complications of the modern world, where chickens and cocks
As the young lovers Lise and Colas, Xiomara Reyes and Angel Corella were
appropriately youthful, exhibiting a pleasant and believable connection.
With their shorter physiques and cheeky energy, they were believable as
young lovers, a realism often lost in productions cast with older, taller
dancers. The petite Reyes conveyed the youthful energy of Lise with her
quick precise footwork and spins, dashing across the stage to greet Colas
or to escape the wrath of her mother, the Widow Simone.
In Ashton’s ballets, the female character roles are often played by male
dancers in drag. The role of the Widow Simone is no exception, and American
Ballet Theatre ballet master Kirk Peterson, clad in voluminous green striped
dress, was suitably comic Widow Simone. Peterson brought a nice balance
to the role, his Widow Simone funny and overbearing, but still believable
as a caring, if overprotective mother. The mime was well done, with excellent
timing and wonderful facial expressions from Peterson and Reyes. In the
clog dance, Peterson hammed it up with deadpan humor, clopping away to
the rollicking tune, though the steps seemed to diverge from the music
The other farcical character, Alain was danced by the almost unrecognizable
Joaquin de Luz. Alain is an oddity, a little daft and most eccentric,
and even in this fictional world, he does not fit in. DeLuz made Alain
a delightful, but innocent eccentric, dancing with a very natural, off-balanced
zaniness. It was a well thought out characterization, the dancing powerful
with tricky jumps and gymnastic feats, yet performed with an endearing
innocence. This was an Alain who was eccentric, but pure of heart.
Angel Corella was a natural Colas, his youthful appearance and energetic,
eager dancing a perfect match for the role. With unerring comic timing,
and a mischievous grin, he snuck around the Widow Simone’s attempts to
keep Lise away from him. The ribbon dance in the first act was especially
well performed, Corella’s ribbon rippling in fluid arcs, Reyes jumping
nimbly back and forth. In the third act solo, Corella was particularly
impressive in beautifully controlled series of pirouettes that speeded
up and slowed down as the working leg switched back and forth from second
position to passé. Corella has always been a spectacular dancer, but as
he has matured, he has gained enormous control without sacrificing speed
Perhaps the most touching moment in the ballet, however, was when Colas
emerged from the pile of hay placed in the Widow Simone’s house. The slightly
goofy but mischievously eager expression on Corella’s face as his head
popped out from the pile and the expression of pleased surprise on Reyes’
face were perfect illustrations of the joy and spirit of young love. It
was a wonderfully danced and acted performance, a perfect way to escape
the damp weather, and an ideal break between the deeper, more emotionally
draining productions of HereAfter and Romeo and Juliet.
Brian Reeder was the Village Notary and Ethan Brown, Alain’s rich father.
Brad Field lit the production and David LaMarche conducted.
May 28, 2003 --
Metropolitan Opera House, New York
In the season’s final
performance of Frederick Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée, youth
and sparkling technique were in ample abundance. With Gillian Murphy and
Ethan Stiefel as Lise and Colas, and Herman Cornejo as the dimwitted Alain,
this comic ballet was given relaxed and lighthearted performance, packed
full of outstanding dancing.
Gillian Murphy was delightfully fresh-faced Lise, a perfect match for
Ethan Stiefel’s carefree, lanky Colas. From first sight, they had an easy
and deep connection, as strong when they were across the stage from each
other as when they were embracing. From this powerful connection came
an electric feeling that crackled when the two were onstage together.
These were lovers destined to be together, no matter what obstacles were
thrown in their path. Their ribbon dance was full of tenderness and humor,
with stunning dancing from Murphy. The ending had to be improvised when
Stiefel’s carefully tied knot failed to release, leaving the lovers with
a tangled loop of ribbon, but Stiefel and Murphy covered up well for the
now impossible choreography.
Victor Barbee’s caring and energetic Widow Simone was perfect opposite
youthful Murphy’s Lise. Outfitted in a rather daringly short skirted dress,
this Widow Simone was quite capable of keeping up with her “misbehaving”
daughter, though none-the-less exhausted by the end of the day. Barbee’s
acting was full of motion and well-timed comedy. His clog dance was especially
notable, with long slides, extra bounce and tap in the steps and facial
expressions that added even more humor to the moment. The final act swoon,
when Alain opens the bedroom door and the Widow Simone sees the lovers
in full embrace was delightfully funny, with much fussing and fretting,
and a quite a few glasses of wine.
As the slightly daft, but always entertaining Alain, Herman Cornejo was
outstanding. His more delicate and loose limbed characterization was perfect
against Stiefel’s relaxed, long limbed Colas. Cornejo, showing off his
huge leaps, amazing technique and comic timing, had just the right power
and style, so that he was the perfect idiot reflection of Stiefel. Both
men are from the place, but one the village idiot and one the the village
heartthrob-a study in opposites, with the best man winning. To see this
opposition of character so well illustrated in the dancing gave the otherwise
simple storyline some refreshing depth.
In both the first and second act pas de deuxs, Stiefel and Murphy demonstrated
their individual talents. Murphy danced with breezy speed, and showed
off her natural turning ability, whipping off dazzling multiple pirouettes.
Elegantly proportioned with sleekly long limbs, Stiefel has a very finished
quality to his dancing. This quality was apparent in the nicely controlled
landings to his high grand jetes, beautifully positioned leg in attitude
derriere and controlled, if not extra fast series of turns in second.
In the first act, he finished his solo with a series of quick turns in
fourth position that were well executed, though a slightly odd choice
of steps. The pirouettes that ended his second act solo seemed much more
in keeping with the rest of the choreography and were a much better demonstration
of his talents.
The corps danced with equal energy and gaiety, David Hallberg yet again
standing out for his exquisitely pointed feet and elegant style. Ormsby
Wilkins conducted, with Brad Fields responsible for the lighting and Osbert
Lancaster the set and costume design.
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