Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s ‘La Fille du régiment’ returns to the Royal Opera House this March, for its third revival

Main Image: Juan Diego Flórez in La fille du régiment © Bill Cooper



Gaetano Donizetti

3, 15, 18 March at 7.30PM; 6 March at 7PM and 9 March at 3PM

Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s spirited, farcical opéra comique La Fille du régiment returns to the Royal Opera House this March, for its third revival. The production has also toured throughout Europe to great acclaim.

Abandoned on a battlefield at birth, the young heroine Marie grows up as the adopted daughter and mascot of the French regiment who found her. In love with Tonio, a young Tyrolean who once saved her life, Marie is torn between her sense of loyalty to her regiment and her desire to follow her heart. Matters are further complicated when the haughty Marquise of Berkenfield claims her as her long-lost niece, and takes her to her castle in order to make her into a ‘lady’. But Tonio is determined to get Marie back and to give her the happiness she deserves.

Laurent Pelly’s staging brings this work to life with a winning comedic combination of French farce and genuine pathos, which reveals Pelly’s love for Donizetti’s music and his innate talent for staging slapstick humour. Costume designs are also by Laurent Pelly, with vibrant, witty choreography by Laura Scozzi. Joël Adam’s lighting designs highlight Chantal Thomas’s inventive set, which uses enormous maps to evoke the Alpine, militaristic setting and creates a vivid sense of the daily life of the French soldiers in Act I, with mountains of laundry, and sacks of potatoes to peel for dinner; in contrast to the sterile, oak-panelled home of the Marquise in Act II. Despite the sparkling, light- hearted tone of the work, there is pathos and tender affection within the score, as in the heart-warming duet: ‘Quoi? vous m’aimez!’ for Marie and Tonio and Marie’s farewell lament to her regimental home: adding elements of emotional depth alongside the opera’s rousing and vigorous military choruses and comic ensembles.

Yves Abel conducts a score notorious for the technical demands it places upon its singers, most dauntingly the nine consecutive top Cs in the Act I tenor aria: ‘Ah! mes amis’. These challenges give the singers the perfect medium to express their considerable talents. Patrizia Ciofi, widely lauded for her outstanding interpretation of Marie, returns alongside Juan Diego Flórez, reprising his role as Tonio (with newcomer Frédéric Antoun taking on the role for two performances*), with Pietro Spagnoli singing Sergeant Sulpice and Ewa Podleś as the Marquise. This March sees a truly stellar addition to the cast as Kiri Te Kanawa reprises the usually non-singing role of the Duchesse de Crackenthorpe, adapted to include a chance for audiences to hear the acclaimed soprano as part of her international 70th birthday celebration tour.

*Frédéric Antoun sings the role of Tonio for the performances on 15 and 18 March.

An uproarious, engaging tale of hidden identities, conflicting loyalties and the triumph of true love, La Fille du régiment makes for a wonderfully uplifting evening of opera.

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