> Gaetano Donizetti - La Figlia Del Reggimento [CF]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Gaetano DONIZETTI (1842-1912)
La Figlia Del Reggimento

Sung in Italian
First performance 11 February 1840, Paris
Maria - Lina Pagliughi (soprano)
La Marchesa di Berckenfield - Risa Corsi (mezzo soprano)
Tonio - Cesare Valletti (tenor)
Sulpizio - Sesto Bruscantini (bass)
Ortensio - Eraldo Coda (bass)
Orchestra Lirica e Coro di Milano della RAI
Mario Rossi (conductor)
Recorded in Milan on 27 August, 1950
WARNER FONIT 8573 87493-2 2CDs [91.49] Superbudget


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Donizetti’s opera has had a chequered history. Its first performance at the Paris Opéra-Comique was indifferently received but completely the reverse at subsequent ones. It had only spasmodic revivals thereafter, such as in 1928 with Toti dal Monte, then in the 1950 with the soprano featured here, Pagliughi, who committed it to disc with Cetra, then Sutherland made the role her own to give the opera a higher profile. There are cuts to some of the secco recitatives on this recording, which were only added later for Italian performances anyway, but neither is there any spoken dialogue as in the original French version. The opera is a simple comedy despite, or indeed because of its unlikely plot. Maria has been entrusted by her dying father to Sulpizio, a sergeant in a regiment assigned to a Swiss village. She and Tonio are in love and he enlists to be near her. Recognised by the Countess of Berckenfield (a Swiss Beaconsfield perhaps?) as her niece, she colludes with her guardian to remove Maria from her surroundings to receive an education suitable for her true position and in preparation for a more propitious marriage (to the equally unlikely named Duke of Krakenthorp). Of course she resists and in desperation the Countess turns to Sulpizio for help, at the same time revealing Maria to be not her niece but her daughter. Even that fails and Maria is married to Tonio, by now promoted to an officer.

The music is full of gay melody, plenty of opportunity for vocal pyrotechnics, its style reminiscent of L’elisir d’amore by the same composer but with debts to Boieldieu, Auber, Adam, and of course Rossini. It in turn influenced both Offenbach and Johann Strauss (there’s hints of Fledermaus - ‘Mein Herr Marquis’ - in the first act ensemble with Maria and chorus ‘Egli è là’). Pagliughi’s coloratura shines though her feel for comedy is somewhat straight-laced in delivery. Valletti has the lightness of vocal touch to match her, while Bruscantini is well on the road of his wonderful career as a buffo bass and as dependable as ever. His diction is the best of the lot. Corsi as the Countess characterises it all in the manner of Marcellina in Figaro, while Rossi directs an enthusiastic if not always accurately pitched RAI orchestra and chorus - plenty of military moments such as side-drums, trumpet calls and ‘Rataplan, rataplan’ male choruses add to the colourful style of this charming opera.

Christopher Fifield

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