La Fille du régiment – Opéra-Comique in two acts to a libretto by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges & Jean-François-Alfred Bayard [sung in French with English surtitles]
Marie – Patrizia Ciofi
Tonio – Colin Lee
La Marquise de Berkenfield – Ann Murray
Sulpice Pingot – Alan Opie
Hortensius – Donald Maxwell
Corporal – Jonathan Fisher
Peasant – Luke Price
Notary – Jean-Pierre Blanchard
La Duchesse de Crackentorp – Ann Widdecombe
Royal Opera Chorus
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Laurent Pelly – Original Director & Costume designs
Christian Räth – Revival director
Agathe Mélinand – Dialogue
Chantal Thomas – Set designs
Joël Adam – Lighting designs
Laura Scozzi – Original choreography
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London
Thursday, April 19, 2012
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Before the first night of Laurent Pelly's production of La Fille du régiment in January 2007 the opera had been absent from the stage of the Royal Opera House for forty years. Way back then the cast included Joan Sutherland as the boyish vivandière Marie and Luciano Pavarotti as the young Trolyean, Tonio. It took two-score years to resurrect this charming work, with the stellar line-up of Juan Diego Flórez and Natalie Dessay. They returned in May 2010, and for this current revival Colin Lee (who sang Tonio for a few performances in both the first run and subsequent revival) is joined by Italian soprano Patrizia Ciofi.
That first night in 2007 was electric: Laurent Pelly's production funny and fresh. This latest outing sparkles slightly less, but still provides plenty of fun. The staging continues to reward: so successful that it has toured the world, in addition to production partners of Vienna State Opera and Metropolitan Opera. The headline for this revival is the appearance of Ann Widdecombe in the non-singing part of La Duchesse de Crackentorp: she was amusing, managed to show off her 'Strictly' legs, had a few gags (including Cornish Pasties) and relished the Franglais hilarity of it all.
Patrizia Ciofi is very different from Dessay, and Sutherland. Ciofi's voice is smooth if perhaps lacking pin-point sureness and crystal clarity that can cut through an orchestra to fill a large opera house. She was best when exploring her character's torn loyalties – love for Tonio, or the 'daddies' (the regiment) – giving beautiful voice to moments of pathos. She also threw herself whole-heartedly into the demands of this romp: she oozed boyish charm and her diminutive self nevertheless dominated the stage.
Colin Lee is an experienced Tonio. His confidence in the part is palpable, charmingly so. His voice is bright and resists overdone force. Like Ciofi, he too was at his best with introspection: his request for Marie's hand in marriage – 'Pour me rapprocher de Marie' – captivated.
Sulpice felt a much bigger part than it probably is thanks to Alan Opie's excellent comic-timing. Supporting the humour is Ann Murray as La Marquise de Berkenfeld: she inhabited the haughty, desperate-social-climbing character to hilarious effect. So too Donald Maxwell's Hortensius, the Marquise's Major-Domo: one felt his long-suffering plight.
Yves Abel elicited a precise account of the music: the tender moments really shone. The Chorus enjoyed much boisterous excitement: not only was the singing crisp, but the demands of the choreography were executed with aplomb. A merry night at the opera!
- Further performances on 21 (matinee), 25 & 28 April, and 1, 7 & 10 May
- Box office: 020 7304 4000
- Royal Opera House