La Fille mal gardée (English: The Wayward Daughter) was the creation of Jean Dauberval, one of the greatest choreographers of his day. He trained under the influential Noverre, and is further distinguished as the teacher of Charles Didelot, known today as “The Father of Russian Ballet”.
Legend has it that Dauberval found his inspiration for La Fille mal gardée while in a Bordeaux print shop, where he viewed an engraving of Pierre-Antoine Baudouin’s painting Le reprimande/Une jeune fille querellée par sa mère. The painting showed a girl in tears with her clothes disarrayed being berated by an old woman (presumably her mother) in a hay barn, while her lover can be seen in the background scurrying up the stairs to the safety of the loft. Allegedly this quaint work of art amused Dauberval so much that he immediately set out to craft a suitable scenario for a ballet.
The ballet was first presented at the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux in Bordeaux, France on 1 July 1789. Dauberval’s wife,la danseuse Marie-Madeleine Crespé (known to history as Mme. Théodore) created the role of Lison (or Lise, as the character is known in modern versions), the danseur Eugène Hus created the role of Colin (or Colas, as the character is known in modern versions), and Francois Le Riche created the role of the Widow Ragotte (now known as Simone in modern versions).
The ballet’s original title was Le ballet de la paille, ou Il n’est qu’un pas du mal au bien (“The Ballet of the Straw, or There is Only One Step from Bad to Good”). The work met with public success, and proved to be Dauberval’s most popular and enduring work.
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