La fille mal gardée (The Wayward daughter). 1991 — Costume design

Costume design for the ballet by Ferdinand Hérold and John Lanchbery performed at the Polish State Opera of Wrocław.

Institutional sponsor: Panstwowa Opera we Wroclawiu

Location: Wrocław, Poland

© Photography: Adam Hawalej

The fille mal gardée is a classical ballet that was performed at the Wrocław Opera. The historical context in which this work was represented is very important, since the fall of the Berlin Wall was still recent and just two years earlier Poland had still been ruled by a communist system of government. These circumstances led to imagining an artistic direction rooted in renovation, inspired by the avant-garde, to instil a breath of fresh air in a very classical ballet piece, with music composed in the 19th century by Ferdinand Hérold and arranged by John Lanchbery.

The ballet takes place in a rural surrounding. A girl falls in love with a peasant, but her family wants an arranged marriage to the heir of a wealthy family. Unable to renounce her beloved, the girl is discovered in a hay loft, and repudiated by the wealthy family. However, after this insulting episode the girl manages to escape her fate and marries the man she loves. The costume design tries to explore this dichotomy between pretentious characters and those who possess greater naturalness and innocence, using very stylized elements. In the wedding scene, which concentrates the greatest amount of pretension and affectation, the bride wears an abstract costume, where the headdress and skirt are hemi-spheres. Her legs are covered with motley flowers that hinder her movement. The designs for the wardrobe of the mother of the groom and his two sisters, corseted flowers, follow similar criteria. It is all slightly ridiculous, forced. On the other hand, the rural characters come across as spontaneous and natural, which is reflected in their attire, including plant elements and lightweight fabrics, as if they had just been in a hay loft. After the wedding is cancelled, the characters are released their costumes and left in their simple white underclothes, freed from the strict rules and recovering naturality and freedom.

Wrocław Opera Website