The Daughter of the Regiment
Clowes Memorial Hall
March 9 and 11
Gaetano Donizetti’s two-act La fille du régiment (The Daughter of the Regiment, 1840), with its thin, light-veined plot, is all about “bel canto”: beautiful singing. And, in last weekend’s second Indianapolis Opera production — of both this season and this opera — the singing was just excellent, the principals displaying some of the best voices our local company has given us in recent years.
First and foremost, soprano Georgia Jarman made her IO debut singing Marie, the displaced 20-year-old, raised by “the 21st” French regiment near a village in Tyrol: their collective “daughter.” Rich-voiced, strongly projecting and showing excellent pitch-centered control over a wide range — including the coloratura registers — Jarman dominated the short (two-hour and 20-minute) production … almost.
Scarcely behind her was baritone Rod Nelman as Sergeant Sulpice, head of the regiment, who treats her like his own daughter. Their frequent duets blended about as well as any two principals I can recall — not to mention Nelman’s solo work, which showed an evenly modulated consistency into his lower registers.
Then we had Judith Christin singing La Marquise de Berkenfeld, revealed first as Marie’s aunt, then her mother. In her grande-dame role, Christin ranged both up into the mezzo registers and much lower as a contralto, each direction with equally good vocal restraint. Christin’s speaking voice (in French comic-opera tradition, Regiment uses spoken recitatives) proved as interesting to listen to, especially in her lowest, almost male-timbred registers, evoking a droll, put-upon matron.
Veteran IO tenor Gran Wilson sang Tonio, a young Tyrolean and Marie’s love interest. Though his delivery was less controlled than those above, Wilson — who teaches at U of Maryland and Towson U — did manage with seeming ease his famous first-act aria, “Ah! mes amis, quel jour de fête!,” sometimes termed the tenor’s “Mt. Everest.” It reportedly contains nine high C’s (i.e., the C above middle C). I didn’t count them, but Wilson sang them right on pitch and with seemingly no more effort than his other pitches. Later, in Act 2, he landed on what I’m pretty sure was a high C-sharp, but only once.
Stage director Benjamin Spierman added some humor not present in Donizetti and his librettists’ original: When the Marquise convinces her niece/daughter that she should marry someone in her exalted station, and the intended groom’s mother brings in her German-named wedding guests, they are announced as, for example, Maria and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Von Trapp family and some residents “von Carmel.” Otherwise, the stage action was handled effectively, the female chorus singing especially well in the opening scene. IO conductor James Caraher nicely managed Donizetti’s light score with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra.
Before the overture, IO Executive Director John Pickett announced next season’s offerings: Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Puccini’s Tosca and Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman. No “Opera Center Stage” was mentioned as we had this season to replace the previously customary fourth opera production."