[Met Performance] CID:352500
New Production
La Fille du Régiment {89} Metropolitan Opera House: 04/21/2008., Sirius Broadcast live
Streamed at metopera.org

(Debuts: Laurent Pelly, Chantal Thomas, Joël Adam, Laura Scozzi, Agathe Mélinand, Donald Maxwell, Marian Seldes, Jack Wetherall

Metropolitan Opera House
April 21, 2008 Broadcast/Streamed

New Production


Marie.......................Natalie Dessay
Tonio.......................Juan Diego Flórez
Marquise of Berkenfield.....Felicity Palmer
Sergeant Sulpice............Alessandro Corbelli
Hortentius..................Donald Maxwell [Debut]
Duchesse of Krakentorp......Marian Seldes [Debut]
Peasant.....................David Frye
Corporal....................Roger Andrews
Notary......................Jack Wetherall [Debut]

Conductor...................Marco Armiliato

Production..................Laurent Pelly [Debut]
Set designer................Chantal Thomas [Debut]
Costume designer............Laurent Pelly [Debut]
Lighting designer...........Joël Adam [Debut]
Choreographer...............Laura Scozzi [Debut]
Associate Director..........Agathe Mélinand [Debut]
Dialogue....................Agathe Mélinand [Debut]

Juan Diego Flórez repeated "Pour mon âme" from "Ah! mes amis" in Act I

Production a gift of The Annenberg Foundation

La Fille du Régiment was a co-production with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and the Wiener Staatsoper, Vienna.

Broadcast live on Sirius Metropolitan Opera Radio
Streamed at metopera.org

La Fille du Régiment received eight performances this season

Production photos of La Fille du Régiment by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

Review of David J. Baker in the July 2008 issue of OPERA NEWS

Unveiling its buoyant new production of Donizetti's "La Fille du Régiment"(April 21), the Met offered one of those rare evenings in which everything clicks. Not even advance word from Covent Garden and the Vienna Staatsoper about this stellar coproduction (shared with both houses), nor any excerpts leaked on YouTube, could blunt the impact.

The [first] night made immediate headlines by breaking the Met's longstanding ban on solo encores, so Tonio's nine high Cs - the notes everyone waits for - blossomed into a full eighteen. Tenor Juan Diego Flórez nailed them with surgical exactitude and a nice punch - accentuated by the extreme shortness of the first C in each pair, with a brief but effective pause in between.

More to the point, Flórez sang everything with his usual suave energy and that apparent ease that provides an extra fillip. His dashing presence, whether in lederhosen or smart uniform, makes him an ideal foil for the explosively gifted Natalie Dessay, whose Marie has more than a touch of the gamine; imagine Raggedy Ann crossed with Buster Keaton.

French director Laurent Pelly and his irrepressible soprano star allow the heroine few feminine graces, a reminder of her barracks upbringing but also a source of extra comic business. The star even turns solo bows into comedic opportunities; and she contributed an unwritten "Merde!" to the spoken lines that achieved such an immediate, improvised quality.

When she is not hauling laundry or wielding her heavy iron, Dessay's Marie is either falling,
jumping, twirling a rifle or hovering on the verge of a fight. Where this "Fille" truly parts company with some other productions is in portraying Marie's more serious moments. "Il faut partir," her plaintive farewell to her suitor and the regiment, is also played for laughs, at least visually, with Marie still in her sleeveless undershirt and trousers dragging endless clotheslines across the stage.

Act II finds none of the character's rough edges smoothed over by life at the chateau, and the singing lesson - once Sutherland's delicious opportunity for self-parody, with no vocal holds barred - becomes a trill-free zone. With the Marquise (Felicity Palmer) at the piano, Dessay sings the elaborate number in arid, mechanical fashion, miming extreme gawkiness and discomfort. All this makes good dramatic sense, but vocally it is something of a letdown, considering this soprano's technical strengths.

Instead of bel canto vocal display and lavish ornamentation - either in the comic scenes or in the long cantilena phrases of her laments - Dessay seems intent on emotional grounding of every sung note. The slow music is phrased and colored delicately but with some forceful climaxes, while her fioriture often are timed to match frantic repeated gestures (like rubbing out a stain) for a highly comic impact.

Stepping onstage with Dessay and Flórez must be like going up against a child actor or animal - dangerous territory for most performers - but the other principals held up admirably. Palmer's fluttery Marquise of Berkenfield, well sung and vividly spoken, became a comic portrait of a woman struggling to control life's untidy events and always failing. Alessandro Corbelli inhabited the part of Sergeant Sulpice effortlessly and with robust warmth, and his sudden keyboard improvisation also earned a huge laugh.

In the speaking role of the Duchess of Krakenthorp, Marian Seldes brought flamboyant presence along with some withering one-liners in French and English. Her appearance amid a posse of hilariously fumbling octogenarians for the signing of the marriage contract is one of director Pelly's fine inventions. The "dance" of these guests, and the maids' dusting pantomime that opens Act II, are accompanied by the same fragile little waltz (Donizetti's "Entr'Acte") - two examples of this director's penchant for stage action that seems directly inspired by, and marvelously suited to, what the composer has written.

The tank that rolls on in the final scene, which may have been the main reason for updating this opera to World War I, typifies the production's broader gestures, its use of realistic objects for incongruous effect - such as the well-worked clotheslines or the uniforms and weapons. Skewed realism also typifies Chantal Thomas's backdrop, composed of large maps tilted and aligned to suggest an alpine horizon. Except for Marie's deliberately threadbare outfits, the costuming (also by Pelly) has an attractive period look.

Conductor Marco Armiliato had the score perfectly in hand, with a good balance between brio and expansiveness. The intricate, up-tempo trio "Tous les trois réunis," a piece admired by Hector
Berlioz after the work's 1840 Opéra Comique premiere, had an irresistible sparkle. Co-productions may seem to threaten opera with creeping global uniformity, but this number as performed by Dessay, Flórez and Corbelli showed that these extended runs can also allow singers to form a close-knit ensemble, with breathtaking effect.

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