122 of 127 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2008
It's hard to write about this Covent Garden production without comparing it to the Teatro Carlo Felice production from 2005 which is also on DVD and features Juan Diego Florez. (In fact, both productions are updated to one of our 20th Century "World Wars," this one to WWI, the Teatro Carlo Felice production to WWII.) So, I'll compare the two since some readers may just want to buy one of them. I gave the other five stars and this one four, but I wouldn't make the choice on that basis alone. If you want to see what played at The Met in the spring of 2008, or if Natalie Dessay is one of your favorite performers, this is the DVD to buy.
Juan Diego Florez sings spectacularly in both productions. In this production, he does not encore "Ah, mes amis," so you'll have to do with just nine of his thrillingly precise high C's. However, I think he's more relaxed at Covent Garden, having added two years to his onstage experience.
Patrizia Ciofi of the Teatro Carlo Felice production cannot compete with Natalie Dessay as a comic actress. Beverly Sills called the role of Marie, "Lucille Ball with high notes." That describes Dessay's performance perfectly. Her high notes are indeed the highlight of her singing and her comic antics are a delight to watch. As I wrote in my review of the Teatro Carlo Felice production, Ciofi is not a natural comedienne. But, in my opinion, Ciofi has the superior voice; it is fuller, more varied in tone and more textured. She creates a more operatic Marie.
The Teatro Carlo Felice production gives the relationship between Sulpice and the Marquise a flirtatious turn. It adds a lot to their otherwise rather dull roles (dull compared to other supporting roles in Donizetti comedies, such as Dr. Dulcamara and Giannetta in "L'Elisir d'Amore").
Finally, the Teatro Carlo Felice production comes with a second DVD devoted to behind-the-scenes material that is as good as it gets. (I describe it in detail in my review of the Teatro Carlo Felice production.)
There are several reasons you might prefer this production to the Teatro Carlo Felice of 2005 even though I think the other is of higher quality overall. First, the Covent Garden production is the same production and the same cast (except for the speaking role of the Duchess of Crackentorp) that played at The Met this spring and was shown in movie theaters around the world. So, if you want to see that Met production, this is the DVD to buy. (Of course, Covent Garden features a different chorus, orchestra, and conductor.) Secondly, if you love Natalie Dessay, I recommend this production over Teatro Carlo Felice.
I thought the Teatro Carlo Felice production had more to offer: the encored "Ah, mes amis," the superior singing of Patrizia Ciofi, the delightful relationship that develops between Sulpice and the Marquise, and finally, that bonus DVD. You can't go wrong with either production.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on May 30, 2008
For those of you that saw this production with the Metropolitan Opera: Live in HD, this is the same show. Natalie Dessay's impecable comedic timing and sparkling coloratura, Juan Diego Florez's brilliant high C's, and Laurent Pelly's genius staging all make this the best version of this opera available on DVD (only the Sutherland/Pavarotti version surpasses on CD).
However, this taping does not match the performance given at the Met on April 26, 2008. Dessay was not in as good of condition (I assume) at Coven Garden, and thus a great deal of her vocal ornamentation heard at the Met is not present on this DVD. Nonetheless, she remains a wonderful singing actress, even if the vocal embelishments aren't quite what they were in New York.
It also seems that this production had a chance to iron out some minor flaws after touring in London and Vienna. If you did not see the production in New York, this will not affect you. I just felt the production was funnier, the singer's were more relaxed in their roles, and things just seemed to run smoother overall at the Met.
My last little complaint was that the lighting seems to be dimmer at Covent Garden. I don't know what it is, but a few scenes seemed lost in the shadows.
Don't get me wrong, this is a wonderful DVD that shouldn't be missed. My complaints are small. While the Met's production earned 5/5 stars, this one might earn 4.9/5. I highly recommend this DVD.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2008
It's clear from all the 5-star reviews that there is no danger that anyone will be wondering if this production is worth considering - it clearly is. But I am still keen to make a crucial argument in favor of Ms Dessay's brilliant performance. It seems to me that we - our generation - will be seen in any account of the history of opera, as the first to see productions which - as a general rule, rather than as a rare event - have taken into account the importance of great acting. Opera is, after, indisputably a dramatic art. Millions of dollars and euros and pounds and rubles would not be spent on staging it if it were not. Concert performances have their place, and audio-only recordings enable us to "produce" the operas we love in "the theatre of the mind," with the advantage, on occasion, of having a cast which includes the very best singers of the age; but there is nothing to compare with a production, in an opera house, in which the performances on stage make us believe in the *truth* of what we are witnessing. And our generation sees many more productions than any of its predecessors did in which the singers are also actors who are able, both through how they look and how they act, to make it easy to suspend out disbelief, even make us forget about the central anomaly - that the people in front of us sing rather than speak. We can BELIEVE IN what we see, and thus enjoy it to the full.
That said, it strikes me that we are especially fortunate to be living when Natalie Dessay is at the pinnacle of her art. In this instance she is able to demonstrate that she is a brilliant comedienne. For heaven's sake, LA FILLE DU REGIMENT is not the operatic equivalent of a fragile piece of porcelain; it is a jeu d'esprit which has its tongue in its cheek throughout. And Marie is a tomboy who has every right to think of herself as a drudge, and it is this (I think perfectly appropriate) version of Marie that Dessay chooses to embody. (I do not have any inside information about the respective contributions of actor and director, I simply believe, after seeing N.D. in numerous different roles, in every one of which she is stunningly convincing, that the uniqueness of her Marie is largely her own creation.)
In almost every instance, in my experience, I would say that if I was watching a play rather than an opera and Ms Dessay performed as "only" an actor, I would be similarly engaged by the quality of her performance. And would applaud as I do when I watch her in opera - from the gut. She is, I believe, an actor of genius, perhaps the one great virtuoso of her generation. I feel sad about anyone who does not love this little shrimp of a sutler, as she does her work and grumbles about it at the same time, who is ready, literally, to jump into the arms of the rather stiff Tyrolean she has found, who is utterly bewildered (but not fazed) by the letter in which she learns who she is. It is a stunningly fine piece of acting, AND, miraculously, she can sing bel canto as well as anyone singing today - and better than almost everyone else. And Strauss, and Mozart, and Ravel and Offenbach and... and...
This DVD is one very happy event, in my opinion, one that delivers an hour and a half of high-spirited comedy performed close to perfection. I've been watching a recording taken off the broadcast of the same production from the Vienna State Opera, in which there is also the sublime pleasure of Montserrat Caballé's appearance as the Duchess. Heavenly! And how lovely it is to see how thrilled Dessay is in her presence.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2009
I just viewed my new purchase of "La Fille du Régiment." Every singer was superb in this performance. Just to listen to Flórez sing the nine high Cs in "Ah! mes amis," was a delight. It was pure perfection, and what a voice! One thing that surprised me was the DVD that I received from Amazon had a format of 16:9, not 1.33:1 as it was described at Amazon. If I had known that I would have bought it a long time ago. Along with "La Fille" I also bought the Met performance of "La Bohème." It was also an amazing performance with all the magnificent staging that the Metropolitan is famous for. The DVD also included the back stage activity that went on during the intermission. Quite interesting to watch. These 2 operas are quite stunning. I recommend them.
57 of 77 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2008
I can see that my judgment of this newest version of "Fille du Regiment' places me in a distinct minority among reviewers here. Perhaps I missed those overriding virtues so many have seen in it, but for my money the performance, except in one area, was about as enjoyable as a root canal. Despite its own absurdities of shifted time setting and even more irrational military alliances, the Ciofi/Florez version, I'd argue, has more to offer grown-up opera lovers than this childish cartoon, a compendium of the excesses and cliches of allegedly "cutting-edge" Regie theater.
First of all, as several others have noticed, there is a marked ugliness distinguishing the sets; indeed, they are eyesores from the opening curtain to the finish, but a necessity for Eurotrash productions ever on guard against the seductiveness of beauty.
Next, all of the characters onstage, principals and choristers, are kept frenetically "busy," on the apparent assumption that the audience is largely composed of Attention Deficit Disorder sufferers. Thus we ascend from an unconvincing chorus line of dancing, pitchfork carrying peasants to a heroine who manically irons, does Chaplin like salutes, and turns cartwheels, and to a hero who late in the action even enters driving a tank onto the stage. As directed here, the usually brilliant singing actress Dessay made me nostalgic for the bad old days of stand and deliver singing, the days when one would no more look at an opera star than stare at a radio. The temptation was strong to shout out to her, "Don't do anything for a change! Just stand there!" Not only did a straining after "too much cute" blemish her performance throughout, but she or her director seemed clueless even to recognize when the show was over. Therefore, during the curtain calls, she repeated certain of her earlier "stage business" maneuvers accompanied by shrieks and parrot-like squawks. Happily, the other principal, the hero sung by Florez, chose or was allowed here to maintain his natural grace and dignity. In my view, the principals were to a person crude caricatures of the more richly comic figures they are in the libretto, and their reconception here is a testimony to the vulgarity of the director. I won't speculate about what the ecstatic reception they were accorded may say about the nascent barbarism of the audience.
Why then the three stars? The lead singers who'd be worth listening to if they were singing the telephone book are the answer. Though I, too, noticed Dessay's tendency toward "too much pressure" on some fortissimo top notes, giving them a scream-like quality, she is a soprano of prodigious coloratura gifts. When she sang softly, and her director, save for making her pull a ridiculous clothes line about the stage, let her be, she sang a particularly beautiful "Il faut partir." Similarly, Florez, freed for several minutes from directorial "busyness," was allowed to sing another wonderful "Ah! mes amis." In these moments, the opera came alive, though they were at odds with the gross overall vision and tendency of the production. Donizetti, Ciofi and Florez - and opera viewers - were better served in the earlier Teatro Carlo Felice revival.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2008
I puchased this DVD to hear Juan Diego Florez, I was not disappointed but also fell in love with Natalie Dessay and the entire cast. An extremely entertaining program.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 1, 2011
I agree with Stanley Nemeth's review - the hyperactive stage business becomes exhausting. As other reviewers have noted this actually spoils what I suspect could have been vocally a near perfect performance. In the opera house the effect was not nearly so irritating -I saw the 2010 Covent Garden version-as it is on DVD, where the closeups intensify the clowning.
But the main problem I think was that Dessay's characterisation of Marie, dramatically effective though it was, came at the expense of her vocal technique. Screaming and squawking may have been in character as conceived by Pelly, but I don't think it has any place in bel canto. Tragic opera can accommodate a few sobs by the dying, and laughs which are cascading arpeggios are standard in comic opera- though not in the score- but actually distorting the music is over the top. We had to wait almost halfway through the opera to hear some beautiful phrasing from Dessay, and a much richer tone in 'Il faut partir' though even there her pianissimi were sometimes inaudible. Florez was his usual confident self, and Campanella's direction elegant.
It's a great pity that Pelly couldnt allow Dessay some vocal respite, or let Donizetti's score speak for itself.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2012
After reading all these reviews I too am in the minority. I have seen about 130 operas but must admit this is not in my top 100. To be fair to the opera I should probably watch it again. First the sets were horrible and Eurotrash like. I found Natalie's frenetic behavior annoying...cuteness to the point of ugliness. And I found the entire score unmemorable. I wish I had the Sill's performance to compare it to. I just did not enjoy the opera comedy. I always pictured Jeanette MacDonald in this role, someone with a little more elegance who could win the adoration of an entire regiment. Lucille Ball on uppers is just not fun in an opera. But I will give it another try. She must have really bothered me since Florez did not stand out in this opera like he has in so many others I own.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2008
I was not a big fan of Donizetti's operas til now. I used to find them kind of shallow, music and plot-wise. However, this version of La fille du Regiment from Covent Garden proved me completely wrong. A great stage production can make a big difference in the way you perceive an opera, and this is a perfect example of that. The other JDF's DVD of this same opera (Genova) falls short compared with this delicious Covent Garden version. Dessay is the big star of the show, she is simply fantastic. Great actress and great singer. JDF is always good but he is completely overshadowed here by the energetic and amazing Dessay. However, the most important thing is that this La Fille du Regiment acquires a different dimension under the stage direction of Laurent Pelly. Bravo for Covent Garden that has put together, in the last few years, amazing productions of beloved traditional operas like this one and le Nozze di Figaro (with Erwin Schrott), with a modern twist that is not Eurotrash but neither those old fashioned and boring MET productions lacking of imagination.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 16, 2008
This is the first opera I have ever bought on DVD, and because it has been such a joyful experience, it won't be the last. I watched twice with my 3 daughters (10, 12 and 14 years old) and we were glued to the screen the whole time.
It is set during WWI. A baby girl has been raised from infancy by a French regiment. She falls in love with Tonio, a civilian, but she has promised to marry a member of the regiment. And, of course, her long-lost mother reappears to bring her home. So - will the 2 lovers ever be allowed to unite ?
The plot is light as fluff. It is a Comic Opera, so anyone expecting a serious spectacle is watching the wrong thing. One of the background sets is ugly, but utilitarian - and are we watching this to admire sets or the singing of Dessay and Florez ?
Dessay and Florez sing their hearts out in this - notably the 9 high Cs in "Ah! mes amis". It is an absolute joy to listen to, and it's funny, to boot ! Dawn French has only a speaking role but is unforgettable as the irascible Duchess. Pop this in the DVD, sit back, and enjoy - even your kids will like it (and might even break out in song once in a while later).