The Daughter of the Regiment
Comic Opera in 2 Acts | Composer: Gaetano Donizetti
Librettists: Jules Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges & Jean-Francois-Alfred Bayard
Performance Version: Lo Kingman
Runtime: 2 hrs 20 mins, with one 20-min intermission.
Language: Italian | Surtitle: Chinese / English
A Note from the Director
With this Musica Viva production of The Daughter of the Regiment, I finally fulfill my wish to present to the Hong Kong audience the three great comedies of Gaetano Donizetti. My first production of The Elixir of Love and Don Pasquale, many years ago, also took place in the City Hall, up to now still the venue with the best acoustics in the city.
I believe that opera is musically most effective if sung in the language originally set by the composer. I also believe that comedies are theatrically most effective if interpreted in a language to which the audience can immediately respond. Donizetti originally composed this opera for the Opera Comique of Paris with pages of French dialogues. He later created an Italian version with long recitatives. I find the French version artistically more satisfying.
In order to generate more immediate response from our audience, I have chosen to exercise some degree of poetic licence by altering slightly the historical context, the geographical reference and the background of certain characters in order to make it natural and logical for the dialogues to be spoken in English. All this is done without changing a single note in the music.
By inventing a humorous pantomime in the Overture to substitute for a good deal of the dialogues, I have been able to speed up the action considerably. I hope you will enjoy it.
This symphonic curtain-raiser introduces a number of main themes of the opera. Director Lo King-man has devised an ingenious scenic narrative which informs the audience how the baby Marie is abandoned near the army camp; how she is brought up by an entire regiment sharing the responsibility as her fathers; and how they elect her to be their vivandiere, overseer of supplies, cook and canteen girl.
This unique episode of great fun is created solely for this Musica Viva production, entirely made in Hong Kong.
Brought up by the soldiers of the 21st Regiment of the French Army and adopted by them as their ‘daughter’, the vivandiere Marie confesses to Sergeant Sulpice that she is much taken with a young forester from the region of Aosta, Tonio, who saved her life when she nearly fell off a precipice. The attraction is mutual, for Tonia has been lurking around the encampment hoping to talk to Marie. Seized as a spy, the young fellow is claimed by Marie as her personal prisoner, and in their ensuing duet they express their true feelings for one another. Hoping to marry Marie, Tonia is surprised to learn that her future husband must be a member of the Regiment, tidings that cause him promptly to enlist. The Regiment celebrates his decision, calling on Marie to sing the regimental song.
The Marchioness of Berkenfield (La Marquise), stranded in the village because of the war, learns from Sulpice that a certain Captain Robert had been a member of this very regiment. On the strength of this information, she claims to be Marie’s aunt and insists on removing the girl from what in her eyes a very unsuitable environment. Now in uniform, Tonia has come to claim his bride, but Marie is forced to leave by the Marchioness’ intervention. The Regiment bid her a sad farewell.
At the Marchioness’ summer residence, a chateau in the Alpine region, Marie is bored by lessons in dancing and in singing silly archaic romances, her reluctance strengthened by the presence of Sulpice, whom the Marchioness has invited for a visit. Longing for her freedom and harassed by her aunt’s insistence on respectability and that she marries a duke she does not know, Marie is overjoyed when the 21st Regiment arrives at the chateau.
Tonio, who has been promoted on the battlefield, pleads with the Marchioness for Marie’s hand but is refused. During the reception to announce Marie’s engagement to the duke, the Marchioness suffers a change of heart and confesses to the startled company that Marie is in fact her own illegitimate daughter. The guests are further scandalized by the knowledge that Marie was the Regiment’s canteen girl.
The Marchioness finally consents to Marie’s marriage to Tonio. Amid general rejoicing, the opera ends with a patriotic chorus, Salut a la France.
₍₁₎ 29/1, 8PM | ₍₂₎ 30/1, 3PM | ₍₃₎ 30/1, 8PM | ₍₄₎ 31/1, 8PM
La Fille du Regiment (The Daughter of the Regiment)
The first and most successful French opera by Gaetano Donizetti, created for the Opera Comique of Paris, La Fille du Regiment is entering its 170th year of undiminished popularity. In 1950, the Opera Comique celebrated the I 000th performance of this opera at that house alone. In fact, the frequency and number of performances of this delightful work have been increasing significantly world-wide since the 1970s, when a wave of brand new productions started to attract complete full houses on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
The first crest of this high wave appeared from the Royal Opera at Covent Garden, London, with Dame Joan Sutherland partnering the young Luciano Pavarotti. The tenor brought the house down with his delivery of nine successive high-Cs in a short cabaletta of one minute’s duration. Pavarotti repeated this feat at La Scala Milan with Mirella Freni in the title role, and again at the Metropolitan Opera of New York with Joan Sutherland. The complete stereo recording of this work conferred the universal acclaim on Pavarotti as ‘the King of High-Cs’.
In 1985, the Paris Opera National Theatre mounted a new production starring June Anderson and Alfredo Kraus. The purity of style, elegant interpretation and amazing agility in the highest voice range of both artists generated white-heat enthusiasm.
The first decade of the 21st century saw at least two distinguished opera houses creating interesting modernized productions. The Carlo Felice Theatre of Genova in 2005 presented a new version with Patrizia Ciofi in the title role; and the Royal Opera at Covent Garden offered theirs in 2007 starring Natalie Dessay. On both occasions the top bel canto tenor of today, Juan Diego Florez, attracted endless applause.
Actually, the coloratura soprano lead role, Marie, is technically and dramatically even more demanding; has far more music with sustained high notes above the high-C to sing. Some of her florid passages and cadenzas can justly claim a place among the most brilliant bel canto music ever written. Her colourful, vivacious and fun-loving character imposes additional demands on any artist undertaking this role.