La Fille mal gardée

Choreography Frederick Ashton

Cast 08.02.2021

Musical Direction Paul Connelly
Komponist Ferdinand Hérold
Musical Arrangement John Lanchbery
Choreography Frederick Ashton
Scenery and Costume Design Osbert Lancaster
Supervisor Production and Lighting Design Jean-Pierre Gasquet
Staging Jean Christophe Lesage


Lise and Colas are in love. But Lise’s mother Simone has already chosen a husband for her daughter: Alain, the oafish son of a rich wine grower. As Simone watches over her daughter day and night, the young couple have to think hard to find ways of meeting each other.

Frederick Ashton, with his 1960 ballet about the »poorly guarded girl«, created a masterpiece in the style known as demi-caractère. Instead of an aristocratic dance world full of princes and princesses, he presents ordinary characters in a colourful narrative and visual style, combining elements of folk dance with the formal language of ballet: the highlights include artistic games with colourful ribbons as well as a clog dance and an extremely funny scene involving some hens and a cockerel.


Scene 1 – The Farmyard

The dawn of a busy day on the farm is heralded by the cock and his attendant hens. Lise, disappointed at not seeing Colas, leaves a ribbon tied in a lover’s knot, as a token of her devotion. He finds it and binds it to his staff. The lovers meet, but are interrupted by Simone, who sets her daughter a task churning butter. Colas, in hiding in the loft, joins her. The work is shared and then forgotten as they declare their love. The farm girls summon Lise to play, but her mind is elsewhere. Her suspicious and ever watchful mother catches hold of her and chastises her. Just then Thomas, the pompous and wealthy proprietor of a vineyard, arrives with his son Alain. Simone, aware of their mission, dismisses Lise and Thomas asks her hand for his son. When Lise returns, Alain coyly and clumsily shows off his paces. She is amused and a little shocked by his antics, but definitely not interested. They set off for the harvest.

Scene 2 – The Cornfield

It is harvest time, and after working in the fields the harvesters, led by Colas, relax in a joyful dance. Lise and Alain dance, but Colas intervenes, and the young girl makes it clear where her preference lies. One of the harvesters plays the flute to everybody’s general merriment and Alain thinks he will take a turn; but the harvesters mock him and he is rescued from their horseplay by his indignant father. The field is now left clear for the triumphant Colas, who dances with Lise. Simone joins in the merriment of the harvesters. Suddenly they are interrupted by a storm that drenches them, scattering them far and wide.


Interior of the Farmhouse

Mother and daughter, soaked by the storm, return to the farmhouse. They sit down to spin; work, thinks the mother, should keep Lise out of mischief. But she is overcome by sleep and Lise, who has seen Colas through the gate, tries to take the key from her. Simone awakes and, in order to remain watchful, plays the tambourine for Lise to dance. But the taps grow feebler, she begins to nod, and now she is fast asleep. Colas opens the top part of the farmhouse door and leans towards Lise. She runs joyfully into his arms. The knocking of the harvesters, coming for their pay, awakens Simone. Simone tells her daughter to get on with her chores as she leaves to give the harvesters a drink. Lise, thinking she is alone, dreams of the delights of married life. Colas cannot resist, and comes out from hiding. She is bashful at having been taken by surprise, but once again they declare their love, exchanging scarves as a token.

As Simone reappears, Lise hustles Colas into her bedroom. The ever-suspicious mother realises that the lovers have been meeting, and in her turn hustles Lise into the bedroom, locking the door. Alain and his father now arrive with a notary to complete the contract. When it has been signed, Simone hands Alain the bedroom key. After a moment of idiotic indecision, he opens the door and to everyone’s dismay Colas and Lise emerge. The lovers fall on their knees to ask Simone for forgiveness and a blessing. In spite of Thomas and Alain, she finally gives in amidst general rejoicing.