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Donizetti - La Fille du Régiment
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Sensational Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez and acclaimed Italian soprano Patrizia Ciofi lead the cast in this sparkling performance of Donizetti's opera from the Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa, conducted by Riccardo Frizza.
Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment aims to please and it succeeds, with its catchy tunes, wildly difficult showpieces for the principles, and a simple, if also simplistic, narrative line. This 2005 live performance at Genoa's Teatro Carlo Felice features virtuoso singing by tenor Juan Diego Flórez as Tonio and soprano Patrizia Ciofi, as Marie, the "daughter" of the soldiers who have adopted her. Tonio's big Act I scene and aria, "Ah! mes amis," was a famous showpiece for Pavarotti and Flórez is in that league, nailing the aria's nine high Cs with an ease mere mortals reserve just for breathing. This is knock-'em-dead singing and the audience demands (and gets) an encore. Ciofi's Marie is well acted and sung with lyric beauty and coloratura fireworks. The chief supporting roles are done to a turn. Bass Nicola Ulivieri is a firm-voiced Sulpice, the sergeant who helps the lovers, while Francesca Franci is a wonderful Marquise, displaying subtle comic acting and a rich mezzo as Marie's "aunt" who has grand plans for her future. Conductor Riccardo Frizza leads the Genoa forces with stylish zest.
Stage director Emilio Sagi, has moved the action from Napoleonic times to a French village in the closing days of World War II, replacing the French regiment with victorious Yanks, which makes for some textual anomalies but none that impede enjoyment. This video version offers functional direction but it's often unflattering to the singers (especially Marie who's sometimes shot from above in lighting that shadows part of her face), and uses excessive close-ups and cuts to reaction shots that distract from the main events. Still, a don't-miss buffo opera brilliantly sung. --Dan Davis
- Backstage documentary
- A history of the Teatro Carlo Felice
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I too have reservations about Emilio Sagi's updating, only in that it makes no sense whatsoever in regards to the actual libretto. (Admittedly not an insignificant problem.) If Marie has been raised by the American army, why on Earth is she saluting the French when the regiment comes to her rescue in Act 2? And at what time during WWII were the Americans and French "enemies?" Pure nonsense. But when one can revel in the sublime voices of Juan Diego Florez and Patrizia Ciofi (who I found to be surprisingly comfortable with the comedy), why quibble? Everyone on stage, in the audience and in the pit is having a marvelous time, and I defy anyone watching at home not to have one as well.
The opera was originally set in Tyrol, during Napoleon's invasion. This production is updated and relocated to France in about 1945. Aside from the fact that the costumes and scenery are much less attractive in this setting (U. S. army uniforms were designed for utility, not style, and twentieth century nobles dressed far less elaborately than those of the Napoleonic era), the change of time and locale makes nonsense of much of the plot. It was perfectly reasonable for nineteenth century Tyroleans to fear Napoleon's soldiers, but why would French people of 1945 fear American soldiers and refer to them as "the enemy"? And how did an American regiment adopt a French orphan in the 1920's and take her with them when invading the continent twenty or so years later?
Libretto alterations intended to adapt the words to the changed circumstances cannot make sense of these things. Moving the setting forward by nearly one and one-half centuries still leaves it about sixty years in the past. Can such a change really make the drama more meaningful to today's audiences?
I believe that audiences respond to music drama according to the feelings of the characters and their responses to the situations in which they find themselves, not according to the clothes they wear or the technology they employ. Filmmakers have presented drama successfully in settings ranging from prehistoric to futuristic without any fear that the audience would be unable to identify with their characters. Why do opera producers and directors feel a need to tamper? Presenting a work as its creators intended need not limit the creativity of its producers. It is possible to illuminate a work without altering it.
Well, anyway... I think you'll enjoy this performance for what it is, even if you can't help thinking about what it might have been.