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Gaetano Donizetti: La Fille du régiment

4.6 out of 5 stars 109 customer reviews

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Product Description

In January 2007, superstar soprano Natalie Dessay, joined on stage by acclaimed tenor Juan Diego Florez dazzled British audiences in Laurent Pelly's new production of Donizetti's "LA FILLE DU REGIMENT". The perfectly staged & cast production became the operatic event of the year, receiving rave press reviews & rapturous audience ovations.

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This DVD version of Donizetti’s comic opera zooms right to the top of any list of essential videos for opera fans. It may not be the composer’s best work, but given a top-notch production with world class singing actors, it brings vocal thrills and an abundance of laughs, a combination that’s hard to beat. The stars are Juan Diego Flórez and Natalie Dessay, both unbeatable in bel canto roles, and both in top form here. Flórez’s mellifluous tenor is flexible enough to make child's play of the terrifying (to other tenors) nine high C’s in Ah! mes amis," and supple enough to make his tender love arias moving. Dessay is equally comfortable in the stratospheric coloratura passages and poignant in such heart-tugging set-pieces as her farewell to her regimental "fathers" and her misery as the victim of the Marquise’s well-meaning attempts to teach her to be an aristocratic lady. She’s also a terrific comic actress. In her first appearance she’s doing the regiment’s laundry, and her antics with the iron and the ironing board while singing elaborately difficult coloratura passages induce belly laughs. But then, so do her comic acting in many other scenes, such as her Act II entry in a silk dress and full petticoat, her walk a wonderful parody of a "lady’s" heel-to-toe gait. That moment alone is worth the price of admission. Lesser roles too, are done to perfection. Felicity Palmer, a long-time Covent Garden favorite, is a delicious Marquise de Berkenfield, and Donald Maxwell, is her apt partner as Hortensius, her servant. Sergeant Sulpice, the heroine’s protector, is well-sung and acted by Alessandro Corbelli, and Dawn French almost steals the show as the overbearing Duchess. Conductor Bruno Campanella leads a spirited performance, enhanced by the fine playing by the Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House. Laurent Pelly’s stage direction is wonderful for its comic touches and Chantal Thomas’ simple but effective sets add to the delights. The video direction efficiently serves the staging, focusing on the action and the singers without adding extraneous shots that detract from the musical flow. All of which makes this DVD a can't-miss for opera fans. --Dan Davis La Fille du regiment is in 16:9 ratio. Sound options include PCM Stereo, Dolby 5.1 Surround and DTS 5.1 Surround. Subtitles include English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Natalie Dessay, Juan Diego Florez, Felicity Palmer, Alessandro Corbelli, Bruno Campanella
  • Directors: Laurent Pelly, Robin Lough
  • Writers: Gaetano Donizetti, Jean-François-Alfred Bayard
  • Format: Multiple Formats, NTSC, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS 5.1), English (PCM Stereo), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (DTS 5.1), French (PCM Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Virgin Classics
  • DVD Release Date: April 15, 2008
  • Run Time: 132 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0013V33DG
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,579 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Gaetano Donizetti: La Fille du régiment" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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").
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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.
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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.
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Of Donizetti’s three comic operas, namely “L’Elisir d’Amore,” “Don Pasquale” and “La Fille du Regiment,” the latter is probably the least sophisticated. It is also I would think the most difficult to present and produce. The heroine Marie needs to possess the ability to sing at the coloratura soprano level and also have significant comic acting ability to make this somewhat silly role even vaguely credible. Additionally, the principal tenor, as Tonio (Marie’s suitor), should preferably be youthful in appearance. More importantly, he must have the ability to toss off nine high C's in the notoriously difficult aria “Ah! mes amis.” It is for these reasons that one rarely sees “La Fille” performed nowadays.

This production of “La Fille du Regiment” from the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden succeeds because Natalie Dessay fulfills the vocal and acting requirements for the role of Marie and Juan Diego Florez is a youthful, winsome and delightful Tonio who makes the difficult role look like a piece of cake. Whatever one might think of the merits or lack of merits of this opera, I doubt that there are any other singers alive today who could do a better job in this opera than Ms. Dessay and Mr. Florez.

It is difficult to watch this DVD to its conclusion and not end with a smile on one’s face. It is true that Ms. Dessay’s interpretation of Marie is somewhat over the top. At times I did not know whether I was watching Edith Piaf singing opera or Olympia the mechanical doll from “Les Contes d’Hoffman.” Also, I did not think she attained the vocal excellence of Joan Sutherland in this role. However, she sang beautifully.
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