Venue: National Centre for the Performing Arts - Theatre
Dates: March 14-18, 2018
Gaetano Donizetti is one of the representative masters of Italian operatic style in the first half of the 19th century, along with Rossini and Bellini, considered the three giants of bel canto. La Fille du Régiment is the third produced by the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) after Donizetti’s L’elisir d’Amore and Don Pasquale.
La Fille du Régiment (The Daughter of the Regiment) is an opera in two acts. The first tells the life of the female protagonist Marie in the army, and the second, her life in a castle. The opera premiered on February 11th, 1840 at the Paris Opera, but its first performance in Italy on October 3rd, 1840 received harsh reviews and wasn’t taken seriously. Not until 1928 did the opera receive its due accolades with the Italian soprano, Toti Dal Monte, in the role of Marie. The storyline is light-hearted, humorous in tone, and accessible to popular audiences. The music is richly-expressive, the male and female lead vocal elements each having their own unique styles. The aria “Ah! Mes amis, quel jour de fête!” dubbed “dangerous ground” for tenors, demands a full nine successive high Cs within two minutes, leaving many tenors daunted by the task. It was in fact Pavarotti’s role in this very opera that had earned him the title, “King of the High C.”
Maestrini sets the story in the 1950s-60s, places witty remarks in the play to promote plot development, and adds many props, such as lifting a snowfield, polar bear, helicopter, sled and tent, as well as sufficient media images, to the play, making the entire comic opera so much more lively and as elegant as the traditional opera, not only in line with modern audience’s aesthetic tastes, but also extraordinarily pleasing to the eye and ear.
The orphan Marie, adopted by Sergeant Sulpice, and brought up in the army at an early age, is a bright, cheerful young girl, who loves singing. Everyone calls her the daughter of the regiment. She falls in love with Tonio, a young man who saved her from the edge of a cliff, and enlisted in the army on account of her. At the camp site, they share their true feelings for each another. When Marie hears that Tonio is to be executed as a spy, she pleads with the soldiers with all her might hoping to spare her lover. Just as the two had confessed their affections and has fallen under the spell of love, the Marquise of Berkenfield recognises Marie as her niece and decides to take her back to the family castle in Paris. When the soldiers arrive at the palace, Tonio has already been meritoriously promoted to serve as officer. Mary, Tonio and the Sergeant feel so happy to be reunited. Marie introduces Tonio to the Marquise, who announces that Marie is to marry the Duke of Crakentorp and Tonio must depart immediately. Unwilling to submit, Marie and Tonio hatch a plan to elope. Seeing no other alternative, the Marquise reveals the truth that Marie is actually the illegitimate child of her and her paramour. On discovering this, Marie is loathe to disobey her mother and remains obliged to sign the marriage contract. But the soldiers are fiercely opposed to the Marquise’s arrangements. Tonio storms in with the soldiers singing Au secours de notre fille, and shouting,“We won’t allow her to become a victim of this marriage.” Marie recounts her experiences growing up with the regiment. Ultimately, the Marquise acquiesces, accepts Tonio and the two lovers as a couple who deserve to be with each other.
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