Sunday, December 18, 2011

Metropolitan Opera – Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment. December 15, 2011.

Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center – Family Circle C220 ($37.50).

Story.  Marie, an abandoned infant, is adopted and raised by the soldiers of the 21st regiment.  She falls in love with the Tyrolean Tonio, who, though an enemy, saved her life.  Tonio looks for Marie but is captured instead.  His life is spared after Marie pleads for his life.  Their plan to get married is rejected by the soldiers as Marie must marry a soldier from the 21st regiment.  Tonio decides to join the regiment so they can get married.  Meanwhile, the Marquise of Berkenfield, who abandoned Marie out of shame because she was born out of wedlock, claims Marie to be her niece and brings her back to the Berkenfield Castle.  The Marquise also arranges Marie to marry Scipion.  Marie initially objects, but relents after she finds out that the Marquise is actually her mother.  The soldiers storm in but Marie remains obedient to her mother’s wishes; however, after Marie sings of her debt to the soldiers, the Marquise gives her permission to marry Tonio.

Conductor – Yves Abel; Marie – Nino Machaidze, Tonio – Lawrence Brownlee, Sulpice – Maurizio Muranro, Hortensius – James Courtney, The Marquise of Berkenfield – Ann Murray.

I must say at the outset I didn’t prepare for this opera at all.  All I know was that it is a comedic opera written by Donizetti.  Whether it was the lack of sleep the last few nights, or it was concert overload (five so far in December, and two more to go, for a total of eight), I just felt very tired at the beginning and had trouble staying awake after the rather pleasant overture.

Yet the show held for me several surprises …

My first surprise was Marie.  From where I was sitting, even with binoculars, I couldn’t get a good look at her, so I thought she was a middle-aged singer trying to pass herself off as a young lady.  Searching the internet during intermission corrected that misconception: she is from the Republic of Georgia, and is another of those who quickly rose to prominence a few years ago.  To have a Met debut at age 28 (as Gilda earlier this year) is certainly no small feat.  She could certainly sing, be it a soft passage or a high note.  Since she is supposed to be a tom-boy (being raised by a bunch of soldiers, after all), she tends to jump on people every now and then.  She is not small, and it was a bit worrisome when she jumped on the slightly built Tonio (sung by Brownlee).

We saw Brownlee as Rinaldo opposite Renee Fleming in Armida (April 2010).  He was quite good then, but I thought a bit on the nervous side which I attributed to being young and singing with a renowned soprano, and “predicted” that he would improve.  He certainly did very well tonight, and perhaps singing with a younger soprano helped.  His voice was a bit weak at times, though he had no trouble hitting the nine high Cs.

When the royally regaled Duchess of Krakenthorp came out at the beginning of Act 2, there was a huge applause from the audience.  I couldn’t understand why.  Then I said to Anne the Duchess looked a bit like Joan Sutherland; Anne reminded me that Sutherland is dead.  The Playbill solved the mystery: it was Kiri Te Kawana.  She had some dialog, but did no singing.  We heard her in Carnegie Hall a while back and wondered what she would be like at her prime.  [On Saturday I drove around town with the radio tuned to WQXR.  They were broadcasting Madama Butterfly, but during the intermission were interviewing Te Kawana, who shed some additional (but not much) light on her cameo appearance.  I thought she said there was a small singing part, but I certainly didn’t catch it.]

Yet another surprise was that the opera is in French.  I don’t speak French or Italian, but at least could tell the two languages apart.  Evidently French was the original, but there are versions in German, Italian, and English.  In my opinion most operas sound better in Italian, but with its many love songs, it works quite well in this case.  From this opera, I couldn’t tell if Donizetti was a Francophile or he was making fun of them.  A patriotic French song closed the opera, and a banner with a cartoon rooster (Chanticler) was lowered as a backdrop, which puzzles Anne and me greatly.

The Program Notes also mentioned that Berlioz was a music critic then and panned the opera as being too "sugary" given all the tunes in it.  I say "the more the merrier."

The script (or is it the director) calls for a fair amount of comedic actions.  Marie’s ponytails, the maids cleaning at the beginning of Act 2, and the tank that Tonio drove in to save Marie, are examples of this.  Many in the audience appreciated them, but I haven’t been turned into a great fan of the genre yet, and physical comedy doesn’t appeal to me.

Most of the arias were done well, with the appropriate amount of dramatic effect.  The trio (by Tonio, Marie, and Sulpice) calls for rapid notes and was a bit disappointing.

Today being a gridlock alert day, we decided to drive in early.  What was a 10-minute wait at Lincoln Tunnel when we got started turned into a much longer wait.  We had wanted to spend some time at the Museum of Biblical Art on Broadway but decided we wouldn’t have enough time.  So we took a stroll down to Columbus Circle and then to Carnegie Hall, having dinner at Lili’s 57 across the street.  We also waited for about 10 minutes inside the Time Warner Building for the “Light Show” which turned out to be a great disappointment.

The concert was not well attended.  Chao Ming went to the box office to buy one more ticket and got “upgraded” to Prime Orchestra (all the way from Family Circle).  We did take them back to their car parked in South River, so it was about 12:30 am when we got home.

Here is the link to the New York Times review.

1 comment:

la fille du regiment tickets said...

I must say at the outset I didn’t prepare for this opus at all. All I be familiar with was that it is a comedic opus printed by Donizetti