La Fille Du Regiment is not my favourite of Donizetti's operas, but it has a lot of charm and has great music, the best known(and justifiably) being Ah Mes Ami. Of the 6 productions I've seen, this, two Natalie Dessay productions(one from ROH and one from the Met), Joan Sutherland's, Beverly Sills' and Patrizia Ciofi's, this one from La Scala is my least favourite. But that doesn't make it bad, far from it.
What were the things I wasn't so impressed with? For me, what really let this production down was the stage direction. It has its moments like Chacun Le Sait and the lesson scene, but a lot shows little flair for natural comedy. It just feels very perfunctory and while the performers generally did what they could with what they had it lacked that extra sparkle. There are some good ideas that don't come off very well, especially the idea to have a male Duchess in drag. The dancing lesson was interesting though.
I was also very mixed on the performance of Mariella Devia. I do like her, she has a stunning voice and her technique has great accuracy. And she does sing beautifully here, very clean technically and bright in sound. Maybe she is rather heavy in the role, Marie is a very light role and Devia is known for heavier roles like Lucia, Anna Bolena, Lucrezia Borgia and Maria Stuarda. It was her acting where I had more of an issue actually, she has her moments like in Chacun Le Sait, but there are other scenes, including Salud A La France, where she is rather wooden and detached from everybody else. I understand that Marie is a more different role to what she is used to doing, but I could tell that light comedy, unlike Dessay and Sills, was not her strong suit.
Of the supporting roles, Bruno Pratico's Sulpice was also disappointing, especially after seeing Alessandro Corbelli do it so well. He certainly has a well-projected and resonant voice, but he lacks personality, which much of the blame lies with the stage director I think.
However, I did love the look of the production. The costumes and sets are very colourful, and I liked that the soldiers were reminiscent of toy soldiers and that some of the interiors were like those you'd find in a pop-up book. Looking up who was responsible for the production values, I was not surprised that it was Franco Zeffirelli, his production quality has never been short of sumptuous in my eyes. The video directing and picture quality do nothing to detract from this handsomeness.
Musically, it is excellent as well. The orchestra play with lots of style, and the male chorus in particular are wonderfully robust. Donato Renzetti's conducting has finesse and charm. The fact that the production is in French also helps, it has a more different feel than being in another language, perhaps sweeter and full of lyricism, unmistakably French in its style really.
La Figlia De Reggimento(1996) has some bright spots in the cast too. I liked Paul Austin Kelly very much as Tonio. He is charming and attractive, and his stylish phrasing and ringing tenor voice makes it a winning vocal performance as well. He sails through with no major problems Ah Mes Ami, Florez for ROH and Met and Pavarotti on record may have the more effortless high Cs but Kelly still does a good job with them. The best performance belongs to Ewa Podles, of the 6 productions she is my personal favourite Marquise. Her presence is really riveting, full of vitality and of the cast she is the most natural when it comes to the comedy. And her voice is very unique, a very deep contralto that is always steady and with a wide range, she even encompasses 3 octaves in the lesson scene in like 4 seconds.
Overall, worth a look but didn't entirely win me over. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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