Sunday, February 20, 2011

Adapting Donizetti’s adopted Daughter of the Regiment at the Lyric Opera

No one dies, or maybe someone does over the hills and far way from this Alpine wonderland gently invaded by Napoleon’s boys. Two people fall in love, Marie and Tonio. Tonio catches Marie when she almost falls over a cliff while picking flowers. Or so they both say. Marie’s regimental step-Dad, played by John Stephens, is the regimental sergeant. Lots of uniforms, rifles, surprises, colors, high notes and fun.

This takes place back when western war was a bit less hellish, when soldiers in attractive uniforms marched in straight lines, and regiments had attractive daughters. Actually, this is a fun Donizetti dreamworld.

So, have some fun with this one.

The Lyric Opera gives us this in English. Ryan Victor Robertson gives us a clear High-C-laced Cupid-clipped Tonio who gets it real bad for Marie played by Nellie Reimer. Reimer makes this all the more fun and bright with her bright voice and buoyant acting. Joyce Castle gives a hilarious interpretation of the Marquise of Berkenfield that breaks any ice you may have in your harbor of operaphobia, that “gee wiz I’m not sure that stuff’s for me” hesitation blues for steering clear of the Lyric.

Look for the cook of the regiment, sung by Kansas City’s own Ben Gulley. In fact, note Ben’s name for future reference, or better yet see Ben and then you can say in the future, “I saw Ben back when…”. Look for Hortensius, played by baritone and wonderful local actor, Robert Gibby Brand. I recently saw him in One Flea Spare at the MET. And be there to give baritone Brad Walker one of his debut performance applauses. You’ll be able to say you saw Field Marshal Brad back when he was a corporal in the Regiment.

This is enjoyable opera for first tasters and veterans of seasonal campaigns. This is an opera, which in recent history gave more people a sweet sip of Pavarotti by way of Tonio thanks to Dame Joan Sutherland as Marie by way of their first-pairing at La Scala in 1972. This opera endures for many reasons but I think one reason is because it’s fun and funny. Come for the high C’s, sure, but let yourself laugh. Come for the light-hearted score that you may be whistle upon exiting on Central.

Elaine Ismert took some awesome images at rehearsal last week…have fun.

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