La Fille du Régiment: Vive la France, vive Les Hauts C!!!; Call Me Madam
|Fille du Régiment, photo @ Marty Sohl|
Donizetti's delightful comedy La Fille du Régiment made a much-welcome return to the Met last night. This was one of those evenings that was such a delightful performance overall that the flaws hardly mattered. The Met has assembled a wonderful cast for this revival, and Laurent Pelly's ubiquitous production remains as fresh and funny as ever. My first ever Fille was unforgettable -- Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Florez in the lead roles. I remember the pandemonium during that performance -- the screaming, shouting, and stomping. If this performance didn't quite have the same raucous energy it was still one that made you leave the theater grinning from ear to ear.
|Pretty Yende, photo @ Marty Sohl|
|Camarena as Tonio, photo @ Marty Sohl|
But still, for the sheer excitement his voice can bring when it enters the stratosphere, Camarena is amazing. The Met uploaded his encore of "Ah mes amis" to their website immediately:
|Blythe as the Marquise, photo @ Marty Sohl|
Veteran Alessandro Corbelli (Sulpice) is an opera treasure: a real Italian opera buffa expert who knows how to garner laughs not just with stage business but with musical timing. He is really wonderful and without his zany humor the evening would have been so much less charming. Watch the expression he makes at 0:26 of this video:
Kathleen Turner in the speaking role of Duchess of Krakenthorp garnered some chuckles for her deliberately awkward and labored French pronunciation but for a role that's supposed to really get the audience laughing she was surprisingly low-key. At times she had trouble projecting the dialogue, although the trademark husky voice is still there. I also got the feeling that many in the audience didn't even know who she was? I think this role works better if you have someone who can also do some brief singing, as the late great Montserrat Caballé did in this delightful 2007 performance from Vienna:
Conductor Enrique Mazzola was an accommodating conductor who followed Yende and Camarena, instead of pushing them to shake off their rhythmic slackness, and as a result certain sections like the Rataplan or the choral work for the "regiment" didn't have the militaristic speed and aggression that it needed. It also meant that the opera ran way over its projected running time -- Met website says 2 hours 35 minutes but the evening ran to almost three hours.
But quibbles aside this one of the best things the Met has put on this season. The eternal charm of Donizetti's music combined with an excellent cast makes this a must-see, either in the theater or live in HD on March 2.
And now, just because I can:
Florez's "Ah mes amis" in the performance I attended all those years ago:
And the incomparable Luciano Pavarotti:
|Cusack and company, photo @ Stephanie Berger|
|Worsham, Cusack, and Gotay|
The book has not aged well. Today the jokes seem dated and stale. This sort of mild, gentle, G-rated political satire tends to age poorly (there are too many jokes about Margaret Truman's singing getting Susan Kane-like reviews).
So why go see this Encores! presentation? In a word, Irving Berlin's amazing score. His music makes you want to dance in your seat. "It's a Lovely Day" is one of the best conditional love songs composed for the musical theater while "You're Just in Love" is one of the best Irving Berlin songs period. But there's not a single bad song in the entire musical. All the songs are earworms, from "Something to Dance About" to "They Like Ike" to "The Ocarina." And while you can hear these songs in the film and on recording, there is nothing like hearing them live and feeling the gentle lilt of these melodies wash over the audience. So go catch this before the weekend performances are over to hear Berlin's timeless music, chuckle at the dated jokes, and revel in the nostalgia of a political satire where one of the main jokes is whether a Republican could ever be elected president.