Donizetti : La Fille du RegimentNew York, Met, 2011 (Audio)
Director: Ybes Abel
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Donizetti knew how to make himself beloved. For his first French opera, “La Fille du Régiment,” he composed a shamelessly jingoistic ode to France, a work so ingratiating that for years it was performed in Paris on Bastille Day.
The story of an abandoned infant girl who has been found and raised to tomboyish young adulthood by a group of French soldiers, “La Fille” tosses a love plot into a tuneful patriotic confection so inconsequential that it makes Donizetti’s other great comedy, “L’Elisir d’Amore,” seem like “Götterdämmerung.” “La Fille” is light and bubbly. It is also, as amply demonstrated in a revival that opened on Monday evening at the Metropolitan Opera, totally delightful.
The previous Met outings of Laurent Pelly’s production featured star singers: first Natalie Dessay, then Diana Damrau, both opposite Juan Diego Flórez. The new run takes a different tack, perhaps testing whether “La Fille,” after decades as a repertory side note, has become the kind of staple that can bring in audiences without big names.
The Met is putting real muscle into the career of the young, rising soprano Nino Machaidze, who made her company debut this year as Gilda in Verdi’s “Rigoletto.” As Marie, Donizetti’s daughter of the regiment, she was a winning, earthy presence, throwing herself gamely into the dauntingly physical production.
Although Ms. Machaidze’s voice was bright and flexible, there was an edge to her tone, especially as the notes got higher. She shaped some slower, more lyrical moments with sensitivity; in others she had difficulty navigating between extremes of volume, making the voice seem either to vanish or to blare out suddenly. But by force of personality, and with a role of irresistible charm, she convinced you to enjoy her, despite reservations.
Lawrence Brownlee, playing her hapless suitor, Tonio, with sweet sincerity, has for years now been the tenor that major opera companies hire if they can’t get Mr. Flórez. But at this point I’d rather listen to Mr. Brownlee’s smooth, rounded voice and elegant phrasing than to Mr. Flórez’s increasingly pinched, nasal sound. Tonio’s aria “Ah, mes amis” famously features nine high C’s, and Mr. Brownlee’s were tight but there; his C sharp later on was even better.
The conductor Yves Abel kept things moving crisply. Maurizio Muraro was a resonant, funny Sulpice; Ann Murray deliciously pointed the Marquise de Berkenfield’s dialogue. As the Duchess of Krakenthorp, a role often lent to legendary divas, the great soprano Kiri Te Kanawa simmered with righteous indignation, interpolating an aria from Puccini’s “Edgar” for good measure.
When Peter Gelb took over the Met in 2006, there were worries about the company’s artistic direction. This was the man, after all, who had made the “Titanic” soundtrack a crossover classical blockbuster. Many feared that the house aesthetic would go Broadway, more “Jersey Boys” than Janacek.
Mr. Pelly’s brightly stylized “Fille,” with its Alps formed by enormous old maps, seemed the slick, cute harbinger of a Disneyfied Met when it was first seen here in 2008. But a few years later this entertainingly professional production more closely resembles an actual Broadway show than does the inept work of the various Tony winners Mr. Gelb has since engaged.
(Edited from the New York Times)