Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Pittsburgh Opera Closes Season with "Daughter of the Regiment"

 
The 21st regiment (Pittsburgh Opera Chorus and Supernumeraries) comes looking for their "daughter," Marie (Lisette Oropesa) and are happily reunited for a short time. Photo Credit: David Bachman

 Pittsburgh Opera concludes its 76th season with a colorful, charming production of Donizetti’s comic opera DAUGHTER OF THE REGIMENT (La fille du régiment). On stage May 2, 5, 8, and 10, and sung in English, DAUGHTER OF THE REGIMENT brings a bit of whimsy and plenty of vocal fireworks to the Benedum Center. Star tenor Lawrence Brownlee, as Tonio, brings nine incredible high Cs in the famous aria "Ah, mes, amis (Ah, my friends)," and Lisette Oropesa as Marie, has plenty of high notes of her own.
    Despite a "barely averted disaster" of an opening night in February 1840 at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, the opera soon found its footing, and quickly became a favorite, due in no small part to the spectacular singing required of both lead roles.

    Youngstown native Lawrence Brownlee debuts with Pittsburgh Opera in the role of Tonio, as
Lawrence Brownlee and Lisette Oropesa in "Daughter of the Regiment" Credit: David Bachman
arguably the most in-demand of bel canto tenors, having recently given standout performances as Almaviva/Il barbiere di Siviglia (broadcast on PBS’s Great Performances) and Arturo/I Puritani at The Metropolitan Opera, and Lindoro/L’Italiana in Algeri at Houston Grand Opera.
    Lisette Oropesa, who dazzled Pittsburgh audiences as Konstanze in The Abduction from the Seraglio (2012) with her rendition of "Martern alle arten," returns as Marie, fresh from highly-praised performances at New Orleans Opera (Susanna/Le nozze di Figaro) and The Metropolitan Opera (Sophie/Werther). An avid runner, Ms. Oropesa will run 26.2 miles in the Pittsburgh Marathon the day after opening night.

DAUGHTER OF THE REGIMENT calls for a skilled supporting cast, and the lineup is stellar, including Joyce Castle in her Pittsburgh debut as the Marquise of Berkenfeld, WQED-FM’s Anna Singer (The Grapes of Wrath, 2008) as the Duchess of Krakenthorp, Kevin Glavin (La bohème, 2014) as the old soldier Sulpice, Resident Artist Phillip Gay (Carmen, 2015) as Hortensius, and Dimitrie Lazich (La bohème, 2014) as the Corporal. Director and Choreographer Seán Curran debuts at Pittsburgh Opera as well.

A Hally Ending Credit: David Bachman

Three facts about DAUGHTER OF THE REGIMENT
     The opera has historically been performed in multiple languages. Soon after its initial success in Paris, Donizetti adapted the original French version as La figlia del reggimento to fit the tastes of the Italian public; the English version was first heard in London in 1847. Pittsburgh Opera will perform the English version.
     The tenor aria "Ah, mes amis" has been called the "Mount Everest" for tenors.
It features nine high Cs and comes comparatively early in the opera, giving the singer less time to warm up his voice. It’s also the aria that made Luciano Pavarotti a star.
       W. S. Gilbert, of Gilbert & Sullivan fame, wrote a burlesque adaptation of the opera, La Vivandière, in 1867.

The story, in brief

On their way to Austria, the Marquise of Berkenfeld and her butler, Hortensius, pause in their journey because the French army is blocking their way. When the marquise hears that the French troops have retreated, Hortensius asks Sulpice, sergeant of the 21st regiment, to let the marquise continue on her way. Sulpice is joined by Marie, "daughter" of the regiment, who was adopted by the army as an orphan. When Sulpice questions her about a young man she has been seen with, she explains that he is a Tyrolean who once saved her life. Troops of the 21st arrive with a prisoner: this same Tyrolean, Tonio, who says he is looking for Marie. She steps in to save him, and while he toasts his new friends, Marie sings the regimental song. Tonio is ordered to follow the soldiers, but he escapes and returns to declare his love to Marie. Marie tells Tonio that she can only marry a soldier from the 21st.

The Marquise of Berkenfeld asks Sulpice to escort her back to her castle. When he hears the name Berkenfeld, Sulpice remembers a letter he found near the young Marie when she was adopted. The marquise admits that she knew the girl’s father, and that Marie is the long-lost daughter of her sister. Shocked by the girl’s rough manners, the marquise is determined to take Marie to her castle and to give her a proper education. Tonio has enlisted so that he can marry Marie, but she has to leave both her regiment and the man she loves to live with the marquise.

The marquise has arranged a marriage between Marie and Scipion, nephew of the Duchess of Krakenthorp. Sulpice has joined the marquise at the Berkenfeld castle, recovering from an injury and supposedly helping her with her plans. The marquise gives Marie a singing lesson, accompanying her at the piano. Encouraged by Sulpice, Marie slips in phrases of the regimental song, and the marquise loses her temper. Left alone, Marie thinks about the meaninglessness of money and position. She hears soldiers marching in the distance and is delighted when the whole regiment files in. Tonio, Marie, and Sulpice are reunited. Tonio asks for Marie’s hand, but the marquise declares her niece is engaged to another man, and dismisses Tonio. Alone with Sulpice, the marquise confesses the truth: Marie is her own illegitimate daughter whom she abandoned, fearing social disgrace.

Hortensius announces the arrival of the wedding party, headed by the Duchess of Krakenthorp. Marie refuses to leave her room, but when Sulpice tells her that the marquise is her mother, the surprised girl declares that she cannot go against her mother’s wishes, and agrees to marry a man that she does not love. As she is about to sign the marriage contract, the soldiers of the regiment, led by Tonio, storm in to rescue their "daughter." The noble guests are horrified to learn that Marie was a "mascot," but they change their opinion when she describes her upbringing, telling them that she can never repay the debt she owes the soldiers. The marquise is so moved that she gives her daughter permission to marry Tonio. Everyone joins in a final "Salut à la France."

    Tickets to DAUGHTER OF THE REGIMENT start at $12, with all performances at the Benedum Center, 7th Street and Penn Avenue, in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District. For additional information, videos, photos, cast biographies, and the full story of DAUGHTER OF THE REGIMENT, visit www.pittsburghopera.org. To purchase tickets, call 412-456-6666 or visit www.pittsburghopera.org.


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