Theater Reviews

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The massive environs of the Metropolitan Opera House are not exactly helpful to light comic opera, but it doesn’t matter a bit with this effervescent and beautifully sung new staging of Donizetti’s “La Fille du Regiment.” Featuring the superstar pairing of Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Florez, this production — previously seen in London and Vienna — is the smash hit of the Met’s stellar season.

Directed with flair and high comic style by Laurent Polly, the evening features Dessay in the title role of Marie, the orphan who has been adopted by a French army unit (the setting for this 1840 work has been updated to World War I) and Florez as Tonio, the Tyrolean peasant with whom she is in love. Unfortunately for the couple, Marie has been promised in marriage by her supposed aunt, the Marquise of Berkenfield (Felicity Palmer), to a wealthy older gentleman.

Dessay, who recently scored a triumph at the house with her devastating portrayal of “Lucia di Lammermoor,” again proves that she is as brilliant a physical actress as she is a singer. Her performance here is infused with enough hilarious slapstick to recall Lucille Ball, which makes her renditions of such gorgeous arias as “Il faut partir” all the more powerful.

Florez, in the role that made Luciano Pavarotti a sensation when he performed it at the Met in 1972, scores a similar sensation. His performance of the “Pour mo name” aria, with its notorious series of nine high C’s, literally stopped the show, as he acknowledged the seemingly endless wave of “Bravos” with a silent, dramatic pose.

Adding greatly to the evening’s fun was the high-spirited choreography of Laura Scozzi and such sight gags as when Tonio shows up in a tank to reclaim his love. The supporting roles were beautifully handled, with Palmer’s Marquise and Alessandro Corbelli’s Sulpice particular standouts. And veteran stage actress Marian Seldes delivered a priceless, non-singing, largely French-speaking cameo as a surly duchess.

VENUE: Metropolitan Opera, New York City (Through May 16)

Presented by the Metropolitan Opera
CAST: Mari: Natalie Dessay; Tonio: Juan Diego Florez; Marquise of Berkenfield: Felicity Palmer; Sulpice: Alessandro Corbelli; Hortensius: Donald Maxwell; Duchess of Krakenthorp: Marian Seldes.
BY Gaetano Donizetti.
LIBRETTO BY Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Jean-Francois-Alfred Bayard.
DIRECTOR/COSTUME DESIGNER: Laurent Pelly.
CHOREOGRAPHER: Laura Scozzi;.
SET DESIGNER: Chantal Thomas.
LIGHTING DESIGNER: Joel Adam.
CONDUCTOR: Marco Armiliato.

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