La fille du régiment, Opera by G. Donizetti
There was a time when Gaetano Donizetti’s works ruled supreme across various theatres in Paris. La fille du régiment was born during exactly this productive period. It was also the composer’s first work set to a French libretto, produced by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Jean-François Bayard. The premiere by the Opéra-Comique took place on 11 February 1840 at the Salle de la Bourse in Paris, and was nearly a flop, mostly owing to the lead tenor’s unstable pitch. However, Donizetti’s excellent score and the upbeat plot eventually turned La fille du régiment into a success that is now part of the regular catalogue. Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice puts up an exciting revival this season.
‘The Daughter of the Regiment’, which is the English translation of the opera’s title, focuses on the character of Marie, a beautiful young lady who was found on the frontlines as a baby and grew up as part of the 21st Regiment of the French Army, its leader Sergeant Sulpice acting as her father figure. During the Napoleonic Wars, she serves as the regiment’s canteen girl. A chance encounter with the Marquise of Berkenfield sheds unexpected light on Marie’s heritage. The surprise discovery also threatens to tear the young lady apart from her lover Tonio, a Tyrolean prisoner who has pledged allegiance to France in order to court favour with Sulpice and earn the regiment’s blessing to take Marie as his wife. Will the young man’s effort have been for nothing now that Marie is about to enter a new social class? And will the young woman who has only ever known the regimental life adapt to her newly found role?
La fille du régiment has the trappings of a melodrama, but the humour and dynamics of the storyline keep the performance enjoyable and light. Donizetti’s score also helps pep the opera up and includes some of his most exciting and challenging arias, such as the well-known ‘Ah! mes amis, quel jour de fête!’ that requires the lead tenor to hit no less than nine high C’s. With this and other exciting highlights, La fille du régiment is coming to Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice.