Wednesday, October 14, 2009

SFO: La Fille du Régiment

San Francisco Opera
The Daughter of the Regiment
La Fille du Régiment

Tue Oct 13 2009 8 pm

Marie: Diana Damrau
Tonio: Juan Diego Flórez
Sulpice: Bruno Praticò
The Marquise of Berkenfeld: Meredith Arwady
The Duchess of Krakenthorp: Sheila Nadler
Hortensius: Jake Gardner
Corporal: Kenneth Kellogg
Peasant: Chester Pidduck
Notary: Keith Perry

Conductor: Andriy Yurkevych
Director: Laurent Pelly

I'm glad I returned home in time for the opening night of La Fille du Régiment at SF Opera. I am new to this relentlessly good-humored opera, & I liked how it was presented, with an excellent cast of singers & actors, in a production crammed with silliness. The action takes place on a stage covered with giant maps, & Act I features piles of laundry & underwear on clothes lines.

Meredith Arwady was hilarious as the Marquise, & she used her powerful, chesty low notes to great comic effect. She's handy enough to accompany Ms. Damrau on the piano during the music lesson scene, &, as an added bonus, she interpolated a hearty rendition of love music from Samson & Delilah. Diana Damrau as Marie did laundry with great gusto in Act I & sang all the coloratura beautifully & with great agility. & she could do this even when being held aloft horizontally. I liked her singing most in some of the less flashy moments, however, such as her farewell to the soldiers at the end of the Act I, when she sustained long floating lines.

Dressed in Alpine garb of short pants & suspenders, Juan Diego Florez looked like a little boy in Act I. He has a light, pretty voice which is extremely even. He did not let us down, & sang the 9 high C's in Pour mon âme with absolute security, eliciting shouts of "Bis!" from a gentleman behind me. & as if this were not enough, Mr. Florez gave us yet another sustained high C in the 2nd act. It was all done with such seeming ease that I had the absurd impression that he could go even higher. He also had me clapping for his final entrance atop a MINI Cooper-like tank.

The staging is full of clever comic moments, often nicely integrated with the music. I laughed especially hard in Act II, which opens with a quartet of rather suspect housemaids dusting in time to a tedious minuet. The minuet is hilariously reprised later to accompany the entrance of the chorus as an army of doddering, elderly, near-sighted wedding guests. They looked a bit too much like an opera audience promenading to the bar at intermission.


Cindy Warner said...

This production got BEST DVD from BBC Music in April. Juan Diego with Natalie Dessay at Covent Garden. Same set and costumes.

One could see Natalie Dessay's talent as a ballerina with her agility and timing.

Axel Feldheim said...

It is a clever & entertaining production that fits the work well. I can easily imagine that Dessay is perfect for it. Fortunately, Damrau has been no slouch either, especially in the 2 sadder, more serious numbers.