January 2007 brought an ‘operatic coupling made in heaven’ (Financial Times) to London’s Royal Opera House when Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Flórez took on the roles of Marie and Tonio in Donizetti’s comic opera La Fille du régiment.
‘The Royal Opera’s new staging... will probably go down in history as one of the company’s great achievements,’ said The Guardian. ‘Laurent Pelly’s production casts Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Flórez as Marie and Tonio. Neither, one suspects, could ever be bettered. Dessay, in particular, gives the performance of a lifetime. A remarkable theatrical animal, she acts as well as she sings... Vocally, [Flórez] is immaculate, with the nine top Cs of his big ariaRead more perfectly placed.’ (Famously, the following month, Flórez’s prowess brought a break with a venerable tradition: he was obliged to encore the showpiece at La Scala, Milan. No singer had been permitted to repeat an aria at the leading Italian house since 1933!)
La Fille du régiment has a distinguished history at Covent Garden. The 1960s brought virtuosos in a very different mould in the principal roles, Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti. In 2007 there were standing ovations for Dessay and Flórez. As The Times said: ‘I have never seen a singer invest quite so much manic comic energy into a role as Dessay does, and certainly not while tossing out some of the most fiendish coloratura in the repertoire... Simply mesmerising.’
The production, described as ‘champagne for the soul’ by The Independent, travelled to Vienna in April 2007, and is scheduled for the New York Met in April/May 2008, when it will also be broadcast internationally in HDTV. Laurent Pelly is one of today’s wittiest operatic directors, and has worked extensively with Natalie Dessay; the production combines touching storybook charm with a mordant sense of the absurd. The sets, the work of Pelly’s regular collaborator Chantal Thomas, present the landscape of the Tyrol as three-dimensional maps, while Pelly himself designed the eclectic costumes.
The cast includes Italy’s indispensable buffo baritone, Alessandro Corbelli, formidable mezzo Felicity Palmer and, in the speaking role of the Duchesse de Crackentorp, the comedienne Dawn French, who provides some excruciating ‘franglais’. The opera is conducted with ‘great elegance and charm’ (The Guardian) by Bruno Campanella, one of today’s leading bel canto specialists.
Picture Format: Color, NTSC DVD9 / Sound Format: LPCM Stereo Dolby 5.1 Surround DTS 5.1 Surround
Region Code: 0 (worldwide)
Language: French, English
Subtitles: English French German Italian Spanish
R E V I E W:
Dessay and Flórez wear the regimental crowns – but as for the clowns…
Although performers and audiences always relish it, La fille du regiment has never been allowed quite the critical “respectability” enjoyed by Donizetti’s other two famous comic operas, L’elisir d’amore and Don Pasquale. However, Laurent Pelly’s 2006 staging for Covent Garden (subsequently seen in Vienna and New York) was greeted with almost universal rapture. The BBC telecast, directed by Robin Lough, now makes a lively, sometimes too lively, DVD production. The problem is that a lot of the comic business when seen in close-up seems very broad indeed. Moments such as the entrance of the Duchesse de Crackentorp as mimed and mugged by Dawn French, amusing enough to see once, might become tedious on repeated viewing. Similarly the scene in which Natalie Dessay as Marie struggles to read the letter that proves her noble birth is rather drawn out.
Chantal Thomas’s sets, in Act 1 using a surrealist motif of enlarged maps, and then for Act 2 a panelled salon, provide a fine setting for the comic antics of Dessay and Alessandro Corbelli as Sulpice. Dessay has something of the manner of the great Giulietta Masina in Fellini’s La Strada and Nights of Cabiria. She is such a natural clown, and it is wonderful to behold the way she uses little bits of the coloratura to illustrate comic points. In Act 1 she irons the regimental long-johns, and in the lesson scene of Act 2 her attempts at dancing, hampered by her elegant party dress, are both touching and funny.
Juan Diego Flórez has made the role of Tonio so much his own that he too uses voice and physique to great effect, falling flat on his back during the duet “Vous m’aimez” (this is his second appearance in it on DVD – the first is on Decca). As always, he negotiates the repeated high Cs in “Pour mon âme” with apparent nonchalance. Perhaps Donizetti’s masterstroke is the finale of Act 1, growing out of Marie’s “Il faut partir”. Here Dessay is picked up and carried offstage, still singing, by the Hortensius of Donald Maxwell. Felicity Palmer makes the Marquise quite vehement and passionate.
Bruno Campanella conducts the Royal Opera forces with a delicate understanding of all the requirements of Donizetti’s often exquisite instrumental detail. Nothing will ever replace the classic Sutherland-Pavarotti-Bonynge Decca set of this opera, which at times seems to anticipate the world of Offenbach and Strauss without ever letting go of its bel canto origins. This is a fine alternative, though I can anticipate using the fast-forward over some of the excessive clowning.
La fille du régimentby Gaetano Donizetti Performer:
Felicity Palmer (Soprano),
Juan Diego Flórez (Tenor),
Donald Maxwell (Baritone),
Natalie Dessay (Soprano),
Alessandro Corbelli (Baritone),
Dawn French ()
Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1840; Italy Date of Recording: 2007 Venue: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden Language: French
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
Great fun well sung and acted.February 11, 2014By Stephen Marmer (Los Angeles, CA)See All My Reviews"I had the pleasure of seeing this production live at the Met some years ago. Juan Diego Florez is absolutely spectacular, singing the high notes as no singer on the scene today can. Natalie Dessay is adorable and has the perfect combination of acting and singing that you could ask for. If you like Donizetti or any of the comic operas, you will surely enjoy this one."Report Abuse
Beautful recordingNovember 22, 2012By Jeanne A B. (Emerson, NJ)See All My Reviews"When I received this DVD I had to play it immediately...what a treasure it is. The recording is top-notch..love the sub titles even though I knew the story. This DVD is agreat buy!"Report Abuse