Gaetano Donizetti may have achieved immortality with his comic operas "Don
Pasquale" and "L'Elisir d'amore," and won a lasting place in the hearts of
coloratura sopranos everywhere with "Maria Stuarda" and "Lucia di
Lammermoor," but for sheer entertainment, his "La Fille du Régiment" can't
be beat. Especially when it's served in such a saucy, light-footed way by
director Laurent Pelly in this coproduction of the Vienna State Opera,
London's Covent Garden and New York's Metropolitan Opera.
The plot revolves around Marie, the "daughter of the regiment," who was
found on the battlefield as a baby and raised by the soldiers as their
daughter. She falls in love with the young Tyrolean Tonio, who joins the
regiment in order to be near her. When the Marquise de Birkenfeld hears
about Marie, she claims that she is her long-lost niece, whom she will turn
into a lady... Her plans backfire, of course, as Marie will never abandon
her Tonio and most certainly never become a lady!
French soprano Natalie Dessay, not only a dazzling singer but also a
gifted actress, effortlessly sweeps her castmates along in this turbulent
buffo delight of an opera. "She laughed, mugged, cried and danced through
her part ... And she sang. Oh, how she sang," gushed George Jahn
(Associated Press). Her partner is Juan Diego Flórez, one of the leading
young tenors of our time. Clad in lederhosen, he cheerfully seduces Marie -
and the audience - with his voice and his looks. And he effectively brings
down the house with his jauntily tossed-off aria "Pour mon âme" and its
nine high Cs.
Baritone Carlos Álvarez gives an unforgettably comical account of Sergeant
Sulpice, who watches over Marie and would much rather have her marry a
Duke than a Tyrolean peasant. But perhaps the most uproarious moment in
the performance is the scene-stealing appearance of the grandiose
Montserrat Caballé as the Duchess of Krakenthorp, a non-singing cameo role
that she speaks multilingually, partly improvised, and with irresistible
charm. And, to the delight of all, she sings the Swiss yodeling song
"S'Schätzeli," one of her favorite recital encores. Yves Abel leads the
Vienna State Opera Orchestra in this rousing interpretation of a work that
holds its own with Donizetti's beloved warhorses!