Recently, Donizetti’s La fille du régiment in a telecast
York’s Met was a source of great joy. Natalie Dessay was the
clear star as Maria, her vocal acrobatics only matched by her
inexhaustible energy. It is perhaps unfair to pit stars such as
Dessay and Flórez against the lesser-known names on the present
offering. What Naxos is doing is something very different – offering
well-loved operas in live performances that we would not otherwise
be able to enjoy. There is no way the chorus and orchestra of
the Teatro Marrucino di Chieto can ever compete with their Met
counterparts. The recording is rather thin, too, which only serves
to accentuate Donizetti’s light scoring and which can present
it in less than the best light. Try the orchestral opening to
the finale of Act 1, where we are greeted with what amounts to
a badly recorded military band with added strings.
have also to consider language. At the Met, it was La fille
and was in French; this one is in the revised Italian version
by Calisto Bassi, first performed at La Scala in 1840. Initially,
it was this Italian version that was the more widely travelled,
but the piece does seem, to these ears at least, to be more
at home in French.
Lucia represents Donizetti at the heights of pathos,
Figlia/Fille fizzes as unstoppably as the finest champagne.
Dessay understood this, and effectively carried the show in
so doing. Maria Costanza Nocentini (whose teachers include Suzanne
Danco) has all the requisite equipment … even if her lower reaches
are rather obviously stretched by Donizetti’s passages down
there. What she lacks is the gritty backbone married with an
insatiable joie-de-vivre that Dessay so vividly conveyed.
She enjoys the sheer vocal exhilaration of the ‘Rataplan’ less
than Dessay. She, however, comes closer to Dessay’s excellent
sense of desolation towards the end of Act 1 and this serves
to balance the more outgoing side of the character.
Florentine tenor Giorgio Casciarri is the brave soul that takes
on the part of Tonio. Here lies the perilous sequence of top
C’s (“Qual destin!” in Italian) that slung fame at Pavarotti
at the Met and which were so memorably delivered by Floréz in
the Met telecast. Casciarri is no match for either. Strain is
evident, although in fairness it must have added to the occasion
rather than detracted, but he simply does not have the requisite
presence. The orchestra is particularly weak at this point,
only matched in weediness by the male choral passages soon afterwards.
In fact the choir is a major disappointment in this performance,
lacking in body and in tidy ensemble.
11th Regiment’s Sergeant, Sulpizio, is a bass role
taken here by Buenos Aires-born bass-baritone Luciano Armando
Miotto. His Act 1 scene with Maria goes well enough but his
voice is not of sufficient character to carry the part on disc
alone. Milijana Nikolic and the wonderfully-named Eugenio Leggiandri-Gallani
work well as a team in the second Act, both interacting well
with the ongoing chaos, the result being a triumph of ensemble.
This shorter second act is more successful than the first overall,
in fact. Donizetti is very close to English farce here, it strikes
me, and it is clear that fun was had by all. The act is well
paced by conductor Marzio Conti.
this is a live performance, microphone technique must have been
rather limited. For example, at track 7, around 10 seconds in,
the tenor is suddenly highlighted in amongst the texture for
no good reason. A fortepiano is used for the recitative, I believe,
to great effect. Worth having certainly, especially if you want
an Italian-language alternative to your Fille, but I
would hope no-one holds this as the only Fille/Figlia
in their collection.
see also Review