La fille du régiment. Donizetti. Viena

A memorable performance

by Moore Parker

Donizetti: La fille du régiment

Vienna State Opera

1 November 2013

Laurent Pelly’s transatlantic La fille du régiment (a co-production between London, Vienna and New York) has seen a number of casts across the globe, albeit with Juan Diego Flórez remaining true to Tonio – possibly his signature role with it’s showcase series of high Cs.

In this Vienna revival, no less than three Marie’s were scheduled before the curtain rose on the first performance – the honour ultimately falling to the Costa Rican soprano and State Opera ensemble member, Iride Martinez. Pelly’s direction requires a Marie of physical agility and size to be deftly lifted by the company of soldiers and to pair aptly with Flórez.

Martinez proves an ideal choice not only in these aspects, but in her captivating combination of effervescence, charm and vocal skill. While the voice is of minimal size for the role, this Marie makes you care – not least in her heart-rendering «Il faut partir,» of unusually slow tempo and ending with a finely-spun cadenza on a plaintive thread of tone. A definite triumph, with solo curtain calls to equal those of her star colleagues.

Flórez returns with his inimitable Tonio, still boyish in presence and thrilling the house with his immaculate 9 top Cs in «Ah! Mes amis.» Isolated boos pervaded the ovation, which seemed to spur on the fans with their bravo calls, ultimately resulting in Flórez encoring the aria’s cabaletta – quite as secure and thrilling as in the first round.

Carlos Alvarez and Aura Twaroska make a well-matched Sulpice and Marquise de Berkenfield – she, a touch more youthful and appealing than some of the jaded battle-axes who risk caricature in the role, and with Alvarez ideal in deportment and exemplary in vocal finesse and style.

Kiri te Kanawa brings a special glamour to the Duchesse de Crakentorp, her entrance met by applause and followed by a nostalgic rendering of Puccini’s «O flor del giorno» (Edgar), with isolated moments hinting at the luscious glory of decades past.

In the pit, Bruno Campanella presided over a sparkling reading which evidently inspired his forces both in and above the pit in this rather memorable performance.

Text © Moore Parker

Photo © Wiener Staatsoper / Michael Pöhn