This was as close to perfect a playing of this most delightful of ballets as I could have wished for. In fact, it was perhaps one of the happiest and most fulfilling times I have had at the Royal Opera House, for ballet, or for opera.
The planets aligned: Marianela Núñez radiating joy, beguiling through her acting, captivating with her dancing, and triumphant in the various pas des deux, Carlos Acosta assured, charmingly bumpkinous. Gary Avis a joy, and young James Hay charming despite playing a buffoon, the corps effervescent, and the orchestra tootling with brio. I didn’t even mind the hens.
Perhaps a more “English” ballet doesn’t exist on this Earth? Indeed, I doubt anything like Ashton’s rural idyll did, it’s all bucolic myth, and the story and setting a consequence of Ashton’s nostalgia d’antan. And yet, it works. “Fille” plays to the heart with a joie de vivre that’s timeless. The setting a background of innocence, beguiling, so that we may be beguiled by romance.
And with Marianela Núñez dancing, how beguiling! As Lise, she lights up the stage. As my tweet said:
This Lise was a bored village girl, happily in love with her sweetheart, and pitch perfect in characterisation. In interaction with Acosta, magical. This was more than chemistry, it was reality, played before us. I gather that they are firm friends in real life, this came through onstage. Nunez’s smile didn’t leave her face the entire night, the better for being unfeigned, real, born from joy. In her dancing, she tackled the Ashton steps with ease and familiarity. Delight burst from each quick step. Her Lise sparkled.
Acosta’s “bottle” solo was given fully, complete with those “wow the Bolshoi” leaps from crouching down. His characterisation as a naive lovestruck yokel was lovely, his reaction to the reproach for not praying to the sun in the storm scene very cute indeed. The love the pair shared was evident. binoculars revealed true delight from both. When seated on the hay pile, just before their pas, Nunez’s shoulders came up and her eyes smiled in a “shall we?” moment, and then they danced. This wasn’t quite acting, it was love at the steps, the music, and the evening.
Gary Avis impressed once more, in the comedy role of the vineyard owner Thomas. James Hay was well characterised in the slightly thankless role of Alain. Late replacement Yasmine Naghdi was all trademark smiles as one of Lise’s very lovely friends, who all performed ribbon duties flawlessly.
Alastair Marriot‘s clog dance was quite a slapstick affair, and his entire characterisation more pantomime dame than loving mother, but he did a cool “clog slide” at the applause for his solo, and that wins brownie points from me.
Ribbons, peasant dances, maypoles, Peregrine the pony doing tricks, a morris dance, intimations of birds twittering from the orchestra, and bubbling Beethovenian brooks. Whichever village this was, take me there and leave me ,and let me alone to lose myself in bucolic bliss.