Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

"Daughter of the Regiment", Florentine Opera

Last Sunday, we we took in the second production in this season of the Florentine Opera of Milwaukee, "The Daughter of the Regiment," (La Fille du Regiment) by Gaetano Donizetti. This comic opera is one of Donizetti's extensive repetoire that is still regularly performed. (At one time, Donizetti had operas running at all the major Paris Opera houses simultaneously, much tot he disgust of some French composera and critics--). The very light plot of this charming story is set in the period of the Napoleonic Wars. Years ago, the members of the heroic and undefeated 21st Regiment of Grenadiers rescued an orphaned infant girl from a battlefield. They raised little Marie as their own child, such that she literally has hundreds of agressive, prtective, and heavily armed adoptive fathers. As the opera opens, Marie has grown to young womanhood and serves as one of the Regiments victuallers, which means she runs their mobile canteen. The Regiment is engaged in a campaign against the Austrians, and she and a Tyrolean lad, Tonio, have fallen in love. Tonio's encroachment is an outrage to the soldiers, who consider that no one but a Grenadier is good enough for their Marie. They are near to executing him as a "spy" when he saves his life and prospects of romance by enlisting in the regiment. However, fate intervenes when Marie, identifed by some documents she had with her when found, is claimed by her only living blood relation, the Marquise of Birkenfeld, and taken away to be "finished" as a noblewoman and have a proper marriage found for her. Tonio would follow her, but is marched off by the unhappy Grenadiers to serve out the terms of his enlistment. The second act opens two years later, with Marie still uncomfortable as a noble scion, longing for the free and merry life with the regiment, and engaged to be married into an old and inbred German ducal family. This, of course, is when the Regiment passes through, Tonio having risen to officer's rank though courage in battle--.

The singing in this production was very fine, with soprano Georgia Jarman and tenor Gran Wilson as Marie and Tonio well supported by the rest of the cast, chorus, and orchestra. The stage direction was rather uninspired in the first act, with most of the action being of the "come down front and center, stand there, and sing" type. This was almost overcompensated for in the second act, as the Marquise, her manservant, and the Duke and his family get quite a bit more frenetic. It had been a long time since we had seen this opera, and I had forgotten how demanding the part of Marie can be, since, in the first half of the second act, the singer has to shift gears from genuine sentimental singing, to a parody of "art song" to regimental ditties and back again. Jarman did it all, and very well indeed.
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