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ClassicsOnline Home » DONIZETTI: Figlia del reggimento (La) (The Daughter of the Regiment)
Inspired by the example and encouragement of Rossini, Donizetti moved to Paris, where he soon established himself with a series of operas that seemed likely, Berlioz thought, to oust French composers from their proper place. La fille du régiment was written for Paris, where it won and retained popularity. Donizetti revised the work for La Scala, Milan, as La figlia del reggimento, a light-hearted story of an orphan girl, adopted by a regiment, but finally finding her real mother and happiness with the young man she loves.
American Record Guide
By Göran Forsling
Earlier this year I reviewed another opera with the same conductor, chorus and orchestra, Rossini�s Il Turco in Italia (see review). I was positive then as to both playing and conducting. Though there was no mention of a live recording then, there was, as I wrote, �a generous amount of unwritten bumps and bangs� but no applause and no other signs of an audience. Here the back cover explicitly says �recorded live� but there are no bumps and bangs and no applause. Presumably the live recording has been tidied up through separate recording of final bars and other instances of distracting noises. There are no bangs (?) and not even a single little giggle during some of the hilarious buffa scenes. The theatre seems quite small with little reverberation and I would have liked more feeling of theatre, of being there. Maestro Conti however draws lively playing from his forces this time, too, and strikes the correct tone right from the beginning with a well paced reading of the overture. The opening, with the solo horn sounding almost like the first notes of An der sch�nen blauen Donau, tells us that this is open-air music � the scene is in the Swiss mountains. After this slow introduction things speed up and we soon hear a military theme, the 11th regiment marching, with a side-drum enhancing the martial atmosphere. Donizetti may sometimes have fallen back on routine writing but there are always nice melodic turns and even thrilling orchestration. La Figlia del Reggimento is no exception, rather this is one of his most charming pieces. Since it was first performed in Paris the original libretto was in French, but was soon translated into Italian; this is the version used here.
Compared to works like L�elisir d�amore, Lucia di Lammermoor and Don Pasquale there are fewer well-known numbers. That said, Tonio�s aria near the end of the first act (CD1 tr. 13) � the one with the nine high Cs that Pavarotti recorded so memorably at the beginning of his career � and Maria�s second act aria (CD2 tr. 6) should be immediately recognised. There is also a riveting trio a little later in that act (CD2 tr. 9) that shows Donizetti�s melodic genius in all its glory. To make up for the few pure arias there are quite a number of ensembles: duets, trios and even larger gatherings. There are also a number of recitatives, accompanied by a fortepiano. In a second act trio (CD2 tr. 4), to begin with, the singing is also accompanied by the piano.
On stage in a colourful and well directed production La Figlia del Reggimento can be a great success, provided the soprano and tenor are good looking and have good voices. That latter criterion is even more important in a sound recording. The two leading singers on this recording in the main fulfil their far from easy tasks with credit. Maria Costanza Nocentini in the title role is technically accomplished. After a somewhat hesitant start she grows into the role. She has a quick, quite prominent vibrato and the tone is rather acidulous, which makes her seem to lack warmth. I don�t know what she sounds like in the flesh � microphones can sometimes exaggerate certain features in a voice � but she is scheduled to be Violetta in Stockholm�s new Traviata, which will be premiered in January. Then I will be able to assess her even better. On this hearing she seems to be a good vocal actor but in the aforementioned trio (CD2 tr. 4) she manages to produce some really nasty off-pitch singing � intentionally of course. She has sung in many leading European opera houses for a good decade � and even in Japan. Born in Florence, like his soprano colleague, tenor Giorgio Casciarri�s career has been even more far-flung, including also the Metropolitan in New York. His is not the most ingratiating of lyric tenor voices, even though he can produce a mellifluous piano if he wants. He is, like his Maria, a bit hard of tone and the voice isn�t as easily produced as some of his present-day colleagues. He manages this testing role quite well however, including the notorious high Cs, but it has to be said that he gets through it more through hard work than with the almost casual elegance of Pavarotti. Some of the singing is strained and not all the Cs are hit plumb in the middle. As Sergeant Sulpizio, bass Luciano Miotto sports a rounded, sonorous voice and he is a lively and elegant singer, quite possibly the best in the whole cast. Eugenio Leggiadri-Gallani also has a fine deep voice and if this production is anything to go by, it is well provided with talented deep voices. The young Milijana Nikolic employs her fruity mezzo to good effect as La Marchesa.
Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848)
La Figlia del Reggimento (The Daughter of the Regiment)
Melodramma giocoso in Two Acts
French Libretto by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Jean-François-Alfred Bayard
Italian Libretto by Calisto Bassi
Maria, a vivandière - Maria Costanza Nocentini, soprano
Tonio, a young Tyrolean - Giorgio Casciarri, tenor
Sulpizio, a sergeant of the 11th regiment - Luciano Miotto, bass
La Marchesa de Berkenfeld - Milijana Nikolic, mezzo-soprano
Ortensio, major-domo of the Marchesa - Eugenio Leggiadri-Gallani, bass
Un Caporale (A Corporal) - Arturo Cauli, bass
La Duchessa (The Duchess of Crackentorp) - Giulia Martella
Un Paesano (A Peasant) - Franco Becconi
Un Notaio (A Notary) - Alessandro Pento
Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Marrucino di Chieti
Gaetano Donizetti was the leading composer of Italian opera in the short period between the early retirement of Rossini and death of Bellini and Verdi's first success with Nabucco in 1842. He was born in Bergamo in 1797 and had his early musical training there as a chorister under Simon Mayr at S Maria Maggiore. Through Mayr he received a very thorough musical training and was able to have his first opera, Zoraida di Granata, mounted in Rome in 1822. There followed a period in Naples, with operas for the Teatro Nuovo there and for the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. It was at the latter opera house that he established his international reputation in 1830 with the opera Anna Bolena, a success confirmed in Milan two years later with the comedy L'elisir d'amore. He continued to write for Naples and other Italian houses, but Paris offered a particularly attractive prospect, both in financial terms and as a matter of prestige. Four of his operas had already been staged at the Théâtre-Italien, when, in 1838, after some years of indirect negotiation, an agreement was reached, and in October Donizetti arrived in Paris with a contract for two new operas to be written for the Paris Opéra, with two earlier works, Roberto Devereux and L'elisir d'amore to be staged at the Théâtre-Italien. His Naples opera Poliuto, based on a play by Corneille, Polyeucte, had been banned by the censors, and this he revised, with a French text expanded by Eugène Scribe, as Les martyrs. Meanwhile he found time to adapt for a private theatre company, the Théâtre de la Renaissance, Lucia di Lammermoor, based on one of Sir Walter Scott's Waverley Novels. This was staged with outstanding success in August 1839. Les martyrs had its première in April 1840 and was well enough received, although it had only twenty performances. The second work commissioned for the Opéra, La favorite, was mounted there in December. In this fever of activity Donizetti had found time to write for the Opéra-Comique yet another work, La fille du régiment, staged there in February 1840. The new opera was a popular success, in spite of the criticism of Berlioz, who resented the ubiquity of Donizetti in Paris, suggesting that he seemed to have taken the place due to French composers in an invasion that allowed one composer to offer half a dozen or more operas in one year. Donizetti's aim was always, it seems, to be able to retire in comfort to Italy, emulating the example of Rossini, who had retired by the age of 38. There were further operas for Italian theatres, engagements in Vienna, and final works for Paris, Don Pasquale for the Théâtre-Italien and Dom Sébastien, roi de Portugal for the Opéra, both staged in 1843. Pressure of work brought a break-down in health, accentuated by an earlier syphilitic infection. Donizetti spent a period in an asylum near Paris, and was eventually taken home to Bergamo, where he died in 1848.
La fille du régiment had an original libretto by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Jean- François-Alfred Bayard. The work was revised with an Italian translation by Calisto Bassi and performed at La Scala, Milan, in October 1840. The Italian version had wider contemporary international currency, with a number of leading singers of the time taking the part of Maria.
[CD 1 / Track 1] Sinfonia. The slow introduction to the Overture sets the scene in the mountains of the Swiss countryside. The Allegro makes use of Maria's patriotic Ciascun lo dice, the song of the 11th Regiment, as a second subject.
[1/2] Introduction. As the curtain rises, men watch for the enemy, while women kneel in prayer. To the right of the stage is a hut and to the left the first houses of a village. The Marchesa, feeling unwell, is seated at the side of the stage, supported by her major-domo, Ortensio. She fears the worst, but the men call for silence, while the women continue their prayers. Peasants announce that the enemy has left the mountains, and there is general rejoicing at the salvation of the country. Some peasants stay with the Marchesa and Ortensio, while others move away.
[1/3] Recitative. In a recitative the Marchesa seeks the men's support, fearing a ruse on the part of the enemy. She sends Ortensio away to investigate the situation and see whether it is safe for them to continue their journey. She goes into the hut.
[1/4] Entry of Sulpizio. Sulpizio, a sergeant in the 11th Regiment, exclaims on the long legs of these enemies, to run away, telling the villagers that now there is peace, and those who do not like it can go.
He sees Maria approaching, an honour and ornament to the regiment. She is proud of the regiment that has been for her father, family and parents. Without boasting, she will be a credit to them, with a soldier's heart. Maria, like Sulpizio, takes her sole pleasure in the sound of the drum that calls to battle and victory, and he is glad of the day when she first appeared among them.
[1/5] Duet. Maria tells of her upbringing and how she grew up among the soldiers, finally to be chosen vivandière to the regiment. They join together in celebration of the sound of the drum, she a vivandière, he a sergeant.
[1/6] Recitative. Sulpizio tells Maria that he must talk to her; she is now grown up and must think of marrying. He had seen her talking to a handsome young man, and she admits that the man was Swiss, polite and courteous, and one to whom she owes her life. She is about to explain, when they are disturbed by a commotion.
[1/7] Chorus and Scena. Soldiers bring Tonio in, to Maria's surprise. This is the young man, she tells Sulpizio. The soldiers have taken him for a spy and he must be put to death. Maria exclaims that this is the man who had saved her life, and the men let Tonio go. She explains how he had saved her from falling down a cliff at risk to his own life, and the soldiers accept him as a comrade. Sulpizio suggests a drink to their girl's rescuer, telling Maria that she must now take Switzerland as her country. Tonio interrupts, pledging loyalty to Savoy and to his new friends. The men ask Maria to sing them her song.
[1/8] Cavatina. Maria sings her famous regimental song in praise of the matchless Eleventh.
[1/9] The distant sound of a drum is heard, summoning the soldiers, urged on by Sulpizio. Maria would like to be left with Tonio, but Sulpizio hands him over to two grenadiers, who lead him away towards the mountain. The soldiers answer the call of the drum.
[1/10] Recitative and Duet. Maria had wanted to be with Tonio, but they have taken him away, after he had risked his life to see her again. Tonio re-appears, leaping from rock to rock. He tells her that the sergeant was shouting like a bear, but she interrupts, telling him that it is her father. He questions her further, and she tells him that they are all her father; the regiment is her adoptive father. That alters matters, Tonio tells her, and he declares his love for her. If she does not believe him, she must listen and decide. Tonio tells her how her image has haunted him day and night. Maria asks if that is all, but prepares to listen again, as he tells her how he will leave all his friends for her, unable to live without her. Soon she is persuaded to declare her love for him and they embrace.
[1/11] Recitative. Sulpizio returns and sees his escaped prisoner Tonio and Maria embracing. Tonio takes refuge behind Maria, but declares himself Maria's betrothed. Sulpizio, however, makes it clear that Maria can only marry a member of the regiment. Tonio asks what would happen if he joined the regiment, but Sulpizio refuses to contemplate it. He draws his sabre, and Tonio runs away, assuring Maria that they will soon meet again. Sulpizio turns, only to find that Maria too has made off. At this point Ortensio appears, with the Marchesa. He addresses the sergeant, deferentially, as captain, to be corrected by Sulpizio, who silences him, as the Marchesa steps forward. She wishes to continue her journey, but finds the way full of soldiery; she needs to travel on to her nearby castle of Berkenfield. Sulpizio is startled to hear the name, which he recalls as the home of a captain, Roberto. The Marchesa tells him that Roberto was married secretly to her sister, who bore him a daughter, Maria. Sulpizio realises at once that this must be their Maria, the pearl of the regiment, and reveals a letter that he has been carrying, written before the battle in which Roberto had died, committing the child, with a servant now dead, to their care. The Marchesa asks whether the girl has been well brought up, and Sulpizio assures her that Maria has the best of manners. At this point Maria herself appears, with a military oath, belying Sulpizio's assertion. He tells her that her family is not with the regiment but with the Marchesa, who greets her as her niece. Maria is about to faint, but pulls herself together, with an oath. Sulpizio tells her that her military life is over, and shows her Roberto's letter. She at first refuses to go and then breaks down in tears, while the Marchesa orders the horses to be made ready. The corporal sees Tonio approaching, now wearing the cockade of a French soldier.
[1/12] Chorus. There is the sound of drums and the soldiers run in, with their corporal. They celebrate war, victory and pillage.
[1/13] Finale I. Tonio greets the soldiers as his friends, telling them he returns only for love, determined to be a hero. The soldiers think him mad, but he assures them that he is in love with Maria and therefore seeks the consent of her fathers. The soldiers hesitate, but eventually give their agreement.
[1/14] Sulpizio comes in and Tonio runs to him, telling him that he has the consent of the soldiers. Sulpizio, however, has something else to tell him; an aunt has turned up and is going to take Maria away with her. The soldiers and Tonio are amazed, and Maria laments her necessary departure. The soldiers are sad and Tonio pleads with Maria to stay.
[1/15] If Maria goes, Tonio says he must go too. Sulpizio reminds him that he cannot do that, now he has enlisted. Maria is tearful at her parting with Tonio and with her friends in the regiment, of whom she takes leave, while the Marchesa urges her to hurry and Ortensio announces that the carriage is ready. The soldiers curse the Marchesa, and, at the sound of the drum, range themselves in two ranks, presenting arms to Maria, as she passes among them, drying her eyes, and with particular sorrow as she parts with Sulpizio. Tonio takes the cockade from his cap and throws it on the ground, in desperation.
[2/1] Introduction. The scene is a reception room in the castle of Berckenfield three months later. Musicians play a Tyrolean dance.
[2/2] Recitative. Ortensio is dealing with the legal papers for the marriage, and the duke and his mother will soon be there for the festivities. He goes out to see to matters. Sulpizio stands uneasily, wounded in battle, but trying to make light of his injuries, and pitying Maria, for four hours being taught to dance the minuet after all the freedom of life with the regiment. He is joined by Maria, who cannot put up with any more; he tells her to be patient. She asks about his wound and hopes he will not have to rejoin the regiment soon. He promises to stay to see how things turn out. Maria is tired of the formalities in which she is now embroiled, and wants Tonio, not barons or dukes; she is sad that Tonio enlisted for her, but he tells her they were both wounded and will find it difficult to rejoin the regiment. Sulpizio exclaims at the appearance of Maria's aunt, bringing with her an old-fashioned romance for the girl to sing.
[2/3] Scena. The Marchesa brings in the song she has been looking for, in her effort to teach Maria, 'Venus descends', and temper rises, adds Sulpizio. The song tells how Venus descends through the dark night to find her lover, with music by Caffariello. The Marchesa tells her to begin, and starts to play the accompaniment on the keyboard.
[2/4] Terzetto. Maria begins her song, obviously counting the beats, and hating it. Sulpizio whispers to her that their regimental song is much better, and they burst into 'Rataplan! Rataplan'. The Marchesa makes her start again, which she does, unwillingly, making the worst of it. Sulpizio would rather hear drums, and they break again into their soldiers' song. The Marchesa indignantly leaves them, and Maria retires into her own room.
[2/5] Recitative. Sulpizio is about to go, when he meets the major-domo, Ortensio, who tells him there is a military person below, with gold epaulettes. Sulpizio rushes away, followed by Ortensio, upset by the commotion in the castle, as if it were a barracks.
[2/6] Scena and Aria. Maria sees no way out; in spite of riches she cannot change her heart and must hide her feelings. Amid jewels and fine clothes she finds no solace. At this moment she hears the sound of a soldiers' march, with drums and trumpets, to her delight. The soldiers see her, and share her pleasure.
[2/7] Recitative. They are joined by Sulpizio and Tonio. Sulpizio greets his friends and Maria looks for Tonio and runs to him. Sulpizio suggests a drink, and all agree; in case her aunt returns, they can hide themselves in the park.
[2/8] Scena. Sulpizio calls out for Ortensio to bring them wine, which he is reluctant to do, but the soldiers threaten to take matters into their own hands and take him away.
[2/9] Terzetto. Sulpizio, Tonio and Maria are left together, happy in one another's company once more.
[2/10] Recitative. They are interrupted by the Marchesa, who, seeing an officer, asks Sulpizio what is happening. Maria tells her that this is Tonio who had saved her from certain death and is now her beloved. The Marchesa tells Tonio to be quiet, as Maria is to marry the Duke of Crackentorp. Sulpizio corrects her; since Tonio is now an officer a new marriage contract is needed. The Marchesa tells Tonio to be gone and he leaves in indignation, assuring them that Maria shall be his wife. The Marchesa then tells Maria to stop crying and go to her room. She has Sulpizio close the door and when they are both seated explains to him that Maria must marry as arranged; she has a secret to impart and gives Sulpizio a letter to read. This he slowly goes through, learning that the writer, the Marchesa, strictly educated and unused to the world, had been captivated by a young officer and eloped with him; from the union came a daughter, and the young man had been obliged to save himself from the enemy, with the girl, after which there had been no more news of him nor of the child; now the hand of heaven has brought her back her daughter, a fact she must keep secret. Almost in tears the Marchesa throws herself down at Sulpizio's feet. She begs Sulpizio to persuade Maria to marry the Duke and to keep her secret. He goes out, while she awaits the result.
[2/11] A Tyrolean dance is heard, a sign of the arrival of the Duchess, and the Marchesa welcomes the notary.
[2/12] Recitative. The guests have arrived and the Duchess excuses the absence of her son, who is at the court. The Marchesa is agitated, aware of Maria's continued refusal to marry the Duke, in spite of Sulpizio's alleged attempts at persuasion; he tells her, however, that Maria would surely obey her mother. The notary declares that he has received the Duke's deed of proxy and only needs the signature of the bride.
[2/13] Finale II. Maria comes in, now aware that the Marchesa is her mother, a fact that the latter had rather keep secret. Maria is about to sign the marriage contract when there is a sudden sound and Tonio enters, leading a group of soldiers of the regiment, ready to defend their beloved daughter and vivandière, and abduct her. The Duchess is appalled at this revelation of Maria's former occupation.
[2/14] The Marchesa, however, repents of her opposition, ready to sacrifice her pride and allow Maria and Tonio to marry, and all ends happily.
The Italian libretto can be found at http://www.naxos.com/libretti/lafiglia.htm
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