Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Daughter of the Regiment

Donizetti’s The Daughter of the Regiment is a lovely bit of fluff which, although I saw it a few weeks ago, I’ve saved for my last OTSL review because it was so much fun.

It is a comedy.  Tomboy Marie was found as a baby on a battlefield and was adopted by an entire regiment of French soldiers.  All of these fathers pose a problem for the young man, Tonio, who wants to marry her.  Eventually he joins the Regiment to prove his worth.  But in the meantime Marie’s “Aunt” finds her and takes her away to be trained as a lady and to marry a Duke.  Fortunately, the “Aunt” turns out to be Marie’s mother and so, as a bastard, she isn’t eligible for the Duke and gets to marry Tonio.  Simple plot, lots of high notes to hit.  The part of Tonio made Luciano Pavarotti famous because of an aria that contains a whole lotta high “C”s. 

Rene Barbera hit all the “C”s effortlessly.  Ashley Emerson’s Marie was perky and, although I might have wished for her voice to be slightly stronger, she sang well.  She was a good actress and made a very believable Marie.  Dale Travis, who played her principal “father”, was a delight and he was a good actor too and his scenes with Emerson were delightful.  Dorothy Byrne, as the “aunt” was a good comic actress.  Her lower notes were a little bit lost but it didn’t matter.

One of the highlights of the evening was the return of Sylvia McNair to the OTSL stage playing the Duchess of Crackentorp, whose role was expanded from a few moments of comedy to include a musical number.  McNair, who no longer does opera, was delightful and the audience loved it.   She had a few nice moments interacting with conductor John McDaniel in the pit.

McDaniel did a great job and no one would have known this was the first opera he has conducted if we hadn’t been told by numerous newspaper articles.  He kept things moving at a nice clip and kept the orchestra from overwhelming the singers. There wasn’t a moment in the performance where the orchestra and the singers weren’t as one.   Full disclosure requires me to say that I know McDaniel, a native St. Louisan, from long ago but that isn’t influencing me when I say that I hope they have him back for another opera (if he wants to take time off from Broadway, of course).

The costumes were colorful and the scenery was fun.  There was lots of movement and the scene where Marie is supposed to be learning the ballet is hilarious. 

All in all, it was a wonderful night at the opera.  My group agreed that it was the most enjoyable opera of this season.  I was not able to see Peleus and Melisande so I can’t compare it to that, but it certainly beats The Death of Klinghoffer and Don Giovanni for entertainment value. 

Here’s the link to OTSL’s video preview and again, I have no idea why they don’t make them able to be embedded. (And again, I can’t get it to play correctly on any of my computers).