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Donizetti, The Daughter of the Regiment: (New Production Premiere in English) Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra of Swansea City Opera, Philip Sunderland (conductor) Queens Theatre, Barnstaple, UK 03.11.2006 (BK)

 

 

Production

Director: Andrew Gallacher
Set Design: Gary McCann
Costume Design: Gabriella Ingram
Lighting Designer: Mark Satchell
Musical Director: Philip Sunderland

Cast

Marie, ‘Daughter of the Regiment’ : Christina Haldane
Sulpice, Sergeant of French Grenadiers:Brendan Wheatley
Tonio, a Tyrolese peasant in love with Marie: Brendan McBride
Marquise De Birkenfeld:Jeanette Ager
Hortensio, Steward to the Marquise: Aris Nadirian
Corporal:Damian Carter

 


What better way to set Donizetti's comedy than with dolls and model soldiers on a toy theatre stage? The simple sets and matching costumes in this production suit the silly story perfectly and the orchestra and cast serve up ninety minutes of good-hearted fun. Even double-dyed operaphobes could warm to this easily.

Swansea City Opera formed in 2004 with financial help from the City & County of Swansea and incorporates the former Opera Box Limited, a smaller but well-accredited touring company started in 1989. They have
played 91 venues so far with Mozart, Rossini and Bizet and this new Donizetti has 31 outings between now and next March. They'll be in Buxton and Spalding as well as rural Wales on this tour and they're certainly worth hunting out, not least for the energy of their singing.

 

 

 

 

I turned up with misgivings, I confess. There's an aria with nine top Cs in this opera and I've heard famous tenors fluff more than a few of them. There's the soprano part too that Sutherland used to sing and you need a proper buffo for Sergeant Sulpice. He can certainly be light-hearted, can Signor Donizetti, but that doesn't mean he writes easy music. This is bel canto after all.

 

 

 

I needn't have worried. The score is handled deftly by Philip Sunderland's twenty five piece orchestra, the direction is pacey and unfussy and there's some very fine singing indeed. Despite a cold (judging by his speaking voice) Brendan McBride managed Tonio's high Cs effortlessly, Jeanette Ager's rich and powerful mezzo made her an excellent Marquise and Brendan Wheatley (the company's Artistic Director) did buffo-ing like he was born to it. He looks the part too and seems as amiable as they come.

 

Christina Haldane, apparently undaunted by the fact that Marie used to be one of Adelina Patti's favourite roles -the company is closely associated with Patti's former home Craig y Nos Castle in the Swansea valley - played the heroine with great warmth and humour.The only carp about her singing on this showing is that it seems to lack much subtlety, with the result that there is sometimes a feeling of relentlessness about it. Her coloratura, however, is strong and she is very well worth hearing.

 

The extremely small chorus (this is a touring company after all) made the most of their opportunity to play an entire regiment and should be commended for both their singing and acting. All in all this was a very enjoyable evening, worthy of a second visit.

 

 

 

 

Bill Kenny

 


Swansea City Opera's Tour Schedule is Here

 



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Contributors: Marc Bridle (North American Editor), Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling, Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, Jean Martin, John Leeman, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)