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Donizetti: La Fille du Régiment
Donizetti's two-act Opéra Comique, recorded at the Teatro Alla Scala, Milan 1996

Ewa Podles, Bruno Praticó, Paul Austin Kelly, Mariella Devia. Edoardo Borioli Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro alla Scala/Donato Renzetti

TDK - DVOPLFDR Subtitles in E, G, F, I, S

Composed to commission, and according to the Paris conventions for sentimental comic opera, La Fille du Régiment was written quickly in 1839 and well received by the Opéra Comique audience, though controversially amongst critics who were not keen for an Italian to triumph in France (Berlioz was hostile, resenting the Italian invasion).

It held its own until the First World War and Marie's Salut à la France became an alternative secret national anthem. Back in Italy, recitatives replaced the spoken dialogue and the location moved to Switzerland. However, as convincingly demonstrated earlier this month with Mignon in London, the Opéra Comique version of La Fille du Régiment is the more durable, and here it is, given to the Milanese in French!

It is helpful to have regard to this background; the main premise (multiple parentage by an entire regiment) is worthy of Gilbert at his most inventive. It is pursued at every opportunity until a contrived happy ending in the Marquise de Berckenfeld's establishment, where a disastrous marriage is narrowly averted.

The stage business is very funny (and yes, the La Scala chorus can act given proper direction!) and Marialla Devia, whether dressed as a soldier or reluctantly as a putative aristocrat, is a delight as Marie - a favourite part of Sutherland's [Gala GL100713, also from Milan]. Eva Podles as the Marquise enters into all the fun, her fruity contralto a great asset.

This is a very successful DVD which we enjoyed even more at second viewing. A good one for the festive season soon upon us.

© Peter Grahame Woolf