Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of La Fille mal gardée. It was last on stage 27 September—22 October 2016 as part of the Autumn 2016/17 season.
Lise is the only daughter of Widow Simone. Lise loves Colas, a young farmer – but her mother has far more ambitious plans, and is determined that Lise marry Alain, the son of a wealthy landowner.
Alain seems as uninterested in marrying Lise as Lise is Alain. Simone persists on making the match until eventually her good nature gets the better of her, and she gives Lise and Colas her blessing.
Frederick Ashton’s final full-length ballet La Fille mal gardée (The Wayward Daughter) is one of his most joyous creations, inspired by his love for the Suffolk countryside. It is based on a 1789 French ballet originally created by Jean Dauberval; John Lanchbery created the music for Ashton’s ballet from Ferdinand Hérold’s 1828 score. La Fille mal gardée was a resounding success on its premiere in 1960 and has remained a firm favourite in The Royal Ballet’s repertory.
The ballet displays some of Ashton’s most virtuoso choreography, most strikingly in the series of energetic pas de deux that express the youthful passion of Lise and Colas. The ballet is also laced with exuberant good humour, in a whirl of dancing chickens, grouchy guardians and one very unwilling suitor. Ashton affectionately incorporated elements of national folk dance into his choreography, from a Lancashire clog dance to a maypole dance, making La Fille mal gardée – despite its title – emphatically English. Osbert Lancaster’s colourful designs heighten the production’s delightful pastoral wit.
Frederick Ashton created more than one hundred works during his lifetime (1904–88). For further information, please visit www.frederickashton.org.uk.
News and features
13 February 2017
We've scoured the repertory in search of the most romantic ballets for Valentine's Day.
7 October 2016
Cartoonist Osbert Lancaster's designs for Frederick Ashton’s bucolic masterpiece have drawn criticism over the years – but they play an important part in the ballet’s larger-than-life charm.
28 September 2016
The Royal Ballet 2016/17 Season opens with the founding choreographer’s joyful ballet.
20 September 2016
Much more than a charming set-piece with some snazzy shoes, Ashton’s delightful Lancastrian clog dance draws on traditions that are both English and international.
19 August 2016
Planning your next holiday? Tour opera and ballet settings to experience the locations that inspired composers and choreographers.
The Poetry of Ashton: Variety and originality in the work of The Royal Ballet’s Founder Choreographer30 November 2015
The ballets of Frederick Ashton share an astounding breadth of imagination.
La Fille mal gardée (English: The Wayward Daughter, literal translation: "The Poorly Guarded Girl" and also known as The Girl Who Needed Watching) is a comic ballet presented in two acts, inspired by Pierre-Antoine Baudouin's 1789 painting, La réprimande/Une jeune fille querellée par sa mère. The ballet was originally choreographed by the Ballet Master Jean Dauberval to a pastiche of music based on fifty-five popular French airs. The ballet was premiered on 1 July 1789 at the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux in Bordeaux, France under the title Le ballet de la paille, ou Il n'est qu'un pas du mal au bien (The Ballet of Straw, or There is Only One Step from Bad to Good). La Fille mal gardée is one of the oldest and most important works in the modern ballet repertory, having been kept alive throughout its long performance history by way of many revivals. The work has undergone many changes of title and has had no fewer than six scores, some of which were adaptations of older music. Today La Fille mal gardée is normally presented in one of two different versions: many ballet companies feature productions which are derived from Alexander Gorsky's version to the music of Peter Ludwig Hertel, originally staged for the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow in 1903. Gorsky's version was almost entirely based on Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov's 1885 staging for the Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg. The Petipa/Ivanov staging was itself based on Paul Taglioni's version to the music of Peter Ludwig Hertel, originally staged in 1864 for the Court Opera Ballet of the Königliches Opernhaus in Berlin. Modern audiences are perhaps most familiar with the production staged by Frederick Ashton for the Royal Ballet in 1960. The appealing simplicity and the naïve familiarity of the action of La Fille mal gardée have lent it a popularity that has established it in the repertory of many ballet companies all over the world.