LABELS: Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: La fille mal gardée
WORKS: La fille mal gardée
PERFORMER: Marianela Nuñez, Carlos Acosta,
William Tuckett, Jonathan Howells; Royal Ballet; Royal Opera House Orchestra/Anthony Twiner; chor. Frederick Ashton (London, 2005)
Unless you happen to believe that only a home-grown Royal Ballet can be truly great, as does the ex-dancer whose lively BBC commentaries have been excised from these DVDs, then times have never been better for the company than under their gracious and ever-present director Monica Mason. The international greats here include vivacious Argentinian Marianela Nuñez, Cuban superstar Carlos Acosta, Romanian national heroine Alina Cojocaru and handsome Italian Federico Bonelli. Of the two signature ballets, La fille mal gardée is sheer perfection. Nuñez and Acosta are unsurpassable respectively in the feminine grace and masculine confidence of Ashton’s Lise and Colas, and their mimetic skills are delicious. For child audiences, the ballet has it all: a cock and hens, ribbon dances, clogs, a maypole and a thunderstorm, as well as the two funniest character roles, pantomime dame Widow Simone, charmingly taken by William Tuckett, and the hapless idiot Alain (the equally sympathetic Jonathan Howells). All the confidence and merriment mask some difficult steps both for the principals and the corps – Royal Ballet artists on top form – while Lanchbery’s seamless potpourri of early 19th-century opera and ballet, far more than just Hérold and conducted with spirit by Anthony Twiner, remains as peerless as Osbert Lancaster’s witty designs. David Nice