The ballet tells the story of Lise, the only daughter of the widow Simone. She wants to marry her off to Alain, the son of a wealthy landowner. However, Lise is in love with the young farmer Colas. Although Simone does her best to keep her daughter and Colas apart, the lovers find their way to be together, and Simone is forced to accept her daughter’s choice.
La Fille mal gardée is one of the most vibrant and joyous works of the English choreographer Frederick Ashton, which premiered at the Royal Ballet of London in 1960. The notable French choreographer Jean Dauberval's 1789 work served as a source of inspiration for Ashton’s ballet, with Louis Joseph Ferdinand Hérold’s score, arranged by John Lanchbery. This gleeful story of pastoral love continues to delight admirers of the refined art of ballet all around the world.
The performances of the Work are given by persmission of Bossey & Hawkes Music Publishers Limited on behalf of Oxford University Press.
The day begins with a dance of the chickens and the cockerel.
The beautiful Lise is waiting for her beloved Colas, despite her mother Simone prohibiting her to meet with this poor peasant. As a token of her feelings towards him, Lise leaves Colas a sign – a ribbon with a knot tied into it. Colas arrives and rejoices over Lise's present. The practical Simone puts Lise to work, making her churn some butter. Colas waits meanwhile, hiding in the attic. As soon as Simone leaves, he goes to help Lise.
Her girlfriends invite Lise to come out and have some fun, but Simone grows suspicious that her daughter wants to meet with Colas. The rich landowner Thomas arrives with his son, Alain, who is set to marry Lise. But Alain's attempts to show his affection towards the girl are rather clumsy. Lise is surprised at this odd spectacle, finding it hard to display any genuine interest in her suitor. Together they depart to oversee the harvesting.
After a long day at work on the field, the reapers are resting, with Cola in the forefront. They all dance, including Lise and Alain, though Colas interrupts them. It's obvious which of the two suitors the girl prefers. To amuse the others, one of the reapers starts playing the flute, and Alain decides to give it a go as well. However, his performance is far from enjoyable. The young peasants tease Alain, to his father’s dismay. The party is enriched by Simone's favourite dance in wooden clogs. But the celebration is cut short by a powerful storm which scatters the guests.
Mother and daughter return home completely soaked. Work is an excellent distraction, Simone thinks to herself, making Lise spin some wool. However, the cautious mother, who has locked the door just to be safe, succumbs to sleep. Sensing Colas’ arrival, Lise attempts to steal the key off her mother. Simone wakes up. To maintain her alertness, she invites Lise to dance. But soon enough, she is overcome by sleep again. Colas takes advantage of the situation, desperate to do whatever it takes just to be near his beloved Lise.
The sleeping mother is awakened by the reapers who have arrived to collect their pay. Simone follows them, locking the door behind her. Thinking that she's finally alone, Lise daydreams about her future as a married wife. Suddenly, Colas appears, having managed to hide himself behind the sheaves the reapers had brought along with them. At first, Lise is very confused. However, moments later the two youths are exchanging their handkerchiefs as a sign of their undying love towards each other.
Upon hearing Simone return, Lise manages to hide Colas in her room. The mother suspects that her daughter is still dreaming of meeting Colas, so she locks Lise in her room, without realising that Colas is there with her.
Alain and his father arrive with the notary to sign a marriage contract. As soon as it's signed, Simone hands Alain the key to Lise's room. Hesitating, he finally opens the door. Colas and Lise exit the room, falling to their knees in front of Simone, begging for her forgiveness and blessing. The mother is forced to give into her daughter's desire to marry Colas. The two lovers and all their friends rejoice.