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Donizetti fille 57943
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Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848)
La fille du régiment, opéra comique in two acts (1840)
Marie: Sara Blanch
Tonio: John Osborn
Sulpice: Paolo Bordogna
Marquise de Berkenfield: Adriana Bignagni Lesca
La Duchesse de Krakenthor: Cristina Bugatty
Hortensius: Haris Andrianos
Un caporal: Adolfo Corrado
Un paysan: Andrea Civetta
Chorus of Accademia Teatro Alla Scala/Salvo Sgrò
Donizetti Opera Orchestra/Michele Spotti
Luis Ernesto Doñas (stage direction)
rec. 2021, Teatro Donizetti, Bergamo, Italy
DYNAMIC 57943 Blu-ray [144]

This performance of La Fille du regiment at Donizetti Opera Festival, a co-production with Teatro Lírico Nacional de Cuba, relocates the opera from the Napoleonic Wars in the Austrian Tyrol to the revolution in Cuba. The 21st Regiment, collectively the adoptive father of the eponymous heroine Marie, belongs to the revolutionary army, and her lover Tonio is a local peasant. The frequent references to France in the text make sense here, because the actual name of the 21st Regiment is “La France”.

Angelo Sala’s set design is dominated – almost overwhelmed – by references to the pop-art work of Cuban painter and muralist Raúl Martínez. The soldiers are “armed” with brushes, still working on the colourful images. Maykel Martínez’s costumes are very colourful too, at least for the revolutionaries clad in canary yellow uniforms, bright red caps tucked under their epaullettes. The Marquise de Berkenfield, though, is Cuban aristocracy. She demands to retain her manor form revolutionary interference, and she is allied to the USA as shown by her stars-and-stripes costume (albeit black and white), and the setting that opens Act Two.

The opera is performed in Claudio Toscani’s new critical edition, played in its substantial entirety. This results in a performance time of around forty minutes longer than the familiar cut text. Some of that added length can be explained by the rewriting of the French spoken dialogue to fit the Cuban scenario – for which playwright Stefano Simone Pintor is credited – and by local interpolations like Marie’s bongo drumming lessons.

Stage director Luis Ernesto Doñas says in a booklet full of helpful background:

The critical edition is crucial, the uncut performance too. You will listen to pages that have never been performed, without cuts or adjustments. And as always happens, you discover that the opera in its entirety defines the dramaturgy and the characters much better, as in the first finale, when a passage by Marie that is usually cut, almost a minuet, anticipates the atmosphere of the Second Act.

This is echoed by conductor Michele Spotti. He points to the importance of small but telling stylistic opéra comique details, such as the use of speech within musical numbers, like that in the Act One duet for Marie and Tonio, with Tonio’s spoken commentary on Marie’s cantabile.

The text would matter little if the performance did not do it justice, but the cast is consistently excellent. Sara Blanch sings Marie with lovely tone, a lyrical long line and some brilliance. Her acting is on a par with her singing. John Osborn’s Tonio triumphs with the Bergamo audience. His voice seems a touch substantial for the role, but in the show-stopping Ah, mes amis! every high C is in place. The conductor indulges the first, though not the second, demand for an encore. Paolo Bordogna’s Sulpice is funny, engaging and warmly sung. Adriana Bignagni Lesca’s La Marquise de Berkenfield is also fine with her rich voice especially in its lower register, and she has a lot of fun with the part. More so than Cristina Bugatty’s Duchesse de Krakenthorp, almost played straight compared to the usual spoken-part silliness.

Spotti conducts the excellent Donizetti Opera Orchestra with finesse and, when required, great vigour. The Coro dell’Accademia Teatro alla Scala’s singing seems uninhibited by their Covid masks. An intriguing production in a very good performance indeed, and with a full musical text. Among alternatives, Laurent Pelly’s production for the Royal Opera House, laden with awards, will always have its adherents (review), but this issue would make a good supplement, not least for the uncut score.

Roy Westbrook

Other personnel
Ernesto López Maturell (percussion), Alessandro Zilioli (piano), Angelo Sala (set design), Maykel Martínez (costume design), Laura Domingo (choreography)

More details
Video format: NTSC
Aspect ratio 16:9
Region code: 0 (all regions)
Audio format: PCM STEREO 2.0 – DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio
Subtitles: Italian, English, French, German, Japanese, Korean
Booklet in Italian and English

Published: October 27, 2022

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