ALBUM TITLE: Donizetti
WORKS: La fille du régiment
PERFORMER: Mariella Devia, Paul Austin Kelly, Ewa Podles, Bruno Praticò, Edoardo Borioli, Nicolas Revenq; La Scala Chorus & Orchestra/Donato Renzetti; dir. Filippo Crivelli (Milan, 1996)
CATALOGUE NO: DV-OPLFDR
Written for the Opéra-Comique in Paris, Donizetti’s 1840 comedy became better known outside France during the 19th century in the composer’s own Italian reworking, but it’s the original that is performed in this 1996 La Scala production. It’s the tale of an orphan girl, adopted by the entire 21st regiment of the French army, whose love for the simple Tyrolean lad Tonio is sidelined when she’s discovered to be the relative (daughter, we later learn) of a Marchioness. All is happily resolved by the curtain, and along the way we’ve had some entrancing music in Donizetti’s best comic-romantic vein.
Filippo Crivelli’s production places the action in sets and costumes (designer Franco Zeffirelli) redolent of a children’s picture book or a toy theatre. It hits exactly the right note of unreality, because the opera is practically a self-parody. As Marie, the regimental favourite, Mariella Devia is spirited and vocally secure, though she lacks sparkle. Paul Austin Kelly’s Tonio comes up with a respectable set of nine top Cs for his famous showpiece aria. Bruno Praticò bounces through the role of Sergeant Sulpice with irresistible warmth and personality. Ewa Podles has great fun with the snobbish Marquise and is vocally unimpeachable. The (spoken) role of the even more snobbish Duchess of Crackentorp is done as a drag act by Edoardo Borioli, which might be taking things a bit too far.
But overall, it’s an enjoyable account, conducted with verve and precision by Donato Renzetti. George Hall