Briefish comments on La fille du regiment (ROH, 18 March 2014)
- Marie: Patrizia Ciofi
- Tonio: Frederic Antoun
- La Marquise de Berkenfeld: Ewa Podles
- Sulpice Pingot: Pietro Spagnoli
- Hortensius: Donald Maxwell
- La Duchesse de Crakentorp: Kiri Te Kanawa
Conductor: Yves Abel | Chorus & Orchestra of the ROH
This Spring ROH has re-run their very successful 2007 Laurent Pelly production with good reason: it rocks1. 18 March was the last night of this third run and even now it played to a full house and countless curtain calls.
I read the production has in time become a caricature of itself. I don’t know, I haven’t finished the original video yet (see below). I’m also aware ROH regulars have been moaning not La fille again! but that’s like complaining about Die Fledermaus. The opera itself is a sing-along turkey with some proto-feminism and lyricism thrown in for good measure. I think it’s conceived to embrace gimmicks.
I had only seen Ciofi on DVD in Lucia and I was partly unfamiliar with La fille (I gave in and watched about 45min of this very production with Dessay the other day, got that I liked it and left the rest as a surprise for the live night). I laughed so hard I cried. I know I’m easily amused – especially by physical humour – so this was a production for me. Ciofi took about 15min to warm up2 but after that it was a smooth sailing coloratura-fest. Had I known there was so much coloratura – and so much coloratura piss take – in this opera I’d have paid attention earlier. I’m not sure what I was thinking. It’s belcanto, after all.
The main draws were, of course, the big names in it. Being rather young and having come to the opera fold very late, I missed seeing these past greats like Dame Kiri or even Podles (who’s not exactly a past great but not in her prime). Luckily I had seen JDF last year in La donna del lago, so I didn’t miss him too much3. I was in fact curious about Antoun, because it’s always good to have a reliable alternative to a big name. He did very well, although he doesn’t have that je ne sais quoi, but then few have, which is why they are superstars.
It’s true that the Duchesse’s part is rather meh but all Dame Kiri needed to do was show up and people clapped like they do at the Met when a big name as much as sneezes. She just had to act like a diva, humour was optional. I didn’t think her attempts at it were as stilted as others have said. She sung that extra Puccini bit from Edgar which was too obscure for this Puccini ignorant. It was all right, more for the fun of saying you heard Dame Kiri sing on stage than anything. I like her, like most everyone else, as the Countess and Die Marschallin, but I’m not familiar with her body of work beyond that.
Who I really wanted to see was Ewa Podles, even though nobody interpolated Venti, turbini for her anywhere. That would’ve been a hoot, eh? I was happy to see she has such a knack for comedy. Her part is hilarious and she went to town with it. She had precious little to sing but it was lovely to hear those low notes live.
Pietro Spagnioli was both amusing and touching as Sulpice, the Sergeant with a strong father instinct.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable outing, with extra points for Ciofi’s energy. I haven’t seen other productions so I don’t know how else La fille could be done, but a singer needs a hell of a lot of stamina to be so active and sing so much coloratura at the same time – as she and Dessay have done in this production. I thought she projected very well and I admired her command of coloratura.
- The good thing with these revived productions is if you have a restricted view seat (this time it really was) you can then watch the video to see the angles you missed. ↩
- I read she had been ill before this run so that probably explains it and some acidity in her topmost notes. The acidity came and went. ↩
- I like him and I appreciate his artistry but I’m not his biggest fan, so I don’t feel compelled to see him every time he’s in the house. ↩