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I didn't file this a year ago when I bought the dvd because I assumed Amazon would be flooded with reviews, given the magnificence of the performance and popularity of the opera. But I see nobody else has yet offered their opinion so I thought I'd better get my two cents in, because it now faces very stiff competition from the new Dessay/Florez version.
All-round, it is one of my favourite opera dvds. Yes, the plot is scatty but it's also great fun, the singing on this version is out of this world, acting is good to excellent, and I love Frizza's conducting. Above all, it has that indefinable quality, the feel of a great occasion captured on the wing. The Teatro Carlo Felice di Genova audience goes appropriately nuts at the right moments, forcing an encore out of Florez after "Mes amis". He duly pings off the nine high Cs a second time without breaking sweat. As if not to be outdone, Ciofi responds with a beautifully moving "Il faut partir", giving the audience another reason to voice its amazement. And so it goes on, through the entire opera. Singing just doesn't get any better than this. Nicola Ulivieri as Sulpice and a sexy Francesca Franci as La Marquise de Berkenfield provide strong support, though Ulivieri's French is rather unique. The action is updated to WW2, which works without being obtrusive. There is a whole disc of very worthwhile extras.
Reviews of the new Dessay version from Covent Garden get to hair-splitting differences between it and this one. General consensus seems to be that singing is marginally better in Genova, acting has the edge at Covent Garden. Even without seeing it I can believe that Dessay is in a class of her own. She is surely the best actress in opera today. I'll probably end up buying that version too. But I urge people not to overlook this dvd both as a performance and as a record of a memorable occasion.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
An outstanding La fille du RégimentOct. 11 2006
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Let me say it at once: This is a sensational opera DVD. One of the very best I have seen lately!!
The opera takes place around the year 1815, when the French occupied the Tyrol area. The Director Emilio Sagi transferred the action to a small village in France in the final days of World War II. This transformation seems very successful to me. The staged is designed in Act I and II as a large family-run bar. The sets are beautiful and rich in details. In Act III our heroine Marie's aunt, the Duchess tries to arrange Marie's marriage to La marquise de Berkenfield son. So in Act III we are in the Duchess home, which is designed elegantly, but is not overloaded.
The orchestra plays splendidly for the Italian conductor Riccardo Frizza. The two leading roles are Marie and her beloved Tonio. Marie is sung here by one of the best lyric Italian sopranos of today, Patrizia Ciofi. The voice is beautiful and with amazing floating high notes. She is very slim so it amazes me from where all this volume of sound is coming... but it is not only about the perfect voice production. Her singing is refined, full of nuance and emotion. She is an outstanding actress too. The audience responds with prolonged and loud applauses after her three arias, and even in the middle of a musical piece, sometimes the audience cannot wait and those amazing high notes are followed with loud applauses.
On her side, a superstar tenor: the Peruvian Juan Diego Flórez. What an amazing singer. He delivers his first great and very famous aria Ah! mes amis brilliantly. This aria is notorious in that it includes nine high Cs!. The audience goes crazy after the aria, so as encore, Flórez sings it once more!! The delicate third Act aria is done in an exquisite and very moving way. The audience goes crazier...
Other members of the cast are very good. I liked especially the Duchess of Francesca Franci. This is not an especially pleasant mezzo voice, but she uses it effectively and creates a real figure. As this is an Italian production, French diction of some of the singers is not perfect (mainly Nicola Ulivieri as Suplice), but Ciofi and Flórez sing and speak very good French.
Technical quality - picture and sound is first rate. I cannot recommend this DVD highly enough. It presents singing of rare quality, at least on DVD...
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
A production that marches its way to perfectionOct. 25 2006
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La Fille du Regiment has too many "rata-tat-tat" marching choruses for it to be my favorite Donizetti comedy, but it has some magnificent bel canto pieces (like "Il faut partir") and some great comic moments (like the music lesson in Act II that requires the soprano playing Marie to purposefully sing off-key). This production succeeds on all levels.
The director cleverly sets the action in a French village in the final days of World War II, after the Germans have withdrawn. Marie is the daughter of an American army captain who has died, resulting in her being "adopted" by the entire regiment. Tonio is a young French villager whose love for Marie leads him to join the American ranks. The updated setting works well. The relationships among the characters feel even more authentic than in the opera's original Tyrolean setting, and the Act I and Act II sets invoke the historical period well - Act I taking place in a bar in the French village and Act II in the chateau of the Marquise who is determined to turn tomboy Marie into a refined woman.
Usually the soprano playing Marie (the fille du regiment) is the star of the show, but in this production, Patrizia Ciofi must share those honors with Juan Diego Florez who plays Tonio. Florez must be the best lyric tenor around today. His "Ah! mes amis" is worth the price of the DVD alone. He hits each of its famous nine high-C's with such precision, ease, and punch that I almost came out of my seat nine times! And then nine turns to 18 as he encores the piece. (And if 18 isn't enough for you, Florez performs excerpts from "Ah! mes amis" on the bonus DVD, treating us to his own commentary on each note prior to our seeing him sing it.)
Patrizia Ciofi has a beautiful lyric soprano voice that is incredibly strong given her slight build. She sings with precise attention to phrasing and just floats those high notes. Her voice blends well with Florez's, making their duets a delight. My only difficulty with Ciofi is that she lacks a certain ease onstage (this is true in the other performances I've seen her in: La Traviata and Lucie de Lammermoor). There may be nothing she can do about it, but I'm always aware of how hard she's working at singing (I can see it in her facial contortions). In a comic opera, this effort sometimes detracts from the comedy. Beverly Sills famously called the role of Marie, "Lucille Ball with high notes." There's no Lucille Ball in Ciofi's performance simply because she isn't relaxed enough to project that kind of screwball comedy. That said, Ciofi demonstrates that this opera need not rely on slapstick; using her dramatic abilities, Ciofi gets us to focus less on the comedy and more on Marie's relationship to the other characters: to her surrogate father (Sulpice), to her newfound "aunt" (the Marquise), and, of course, to her lover, Tonio. Ciofi offers stunning renditions of Marie's slow, poignant arias and is justly rewarded by the audience for her expressive, nuanced singing. Francesca Franci does a fine job as the Marquise, making her into a flesh and blood character. Nicola Ulivieri, with his full-bodied bass voice, sings and acts the part of Sulpice convincingly.
And then, as icing on the cake, there's that bonus DVD with several special features. One of them, "Backstage with La Fille" is brilliant. In it, the director takes 14 scenes from the opera and shows each one in rehearsal and then cuts to the scene in performance. It's instructive and fun. For example, we see Ciofi and Florez, in street clothes, rehearsing one of their Act I duets when the conductor suddenly stops the music and says something like, "Wait, wait. The orchestra is playing at one tempo, Patrizia is singing at another, and Juan Diego at yet another. Can we all please perform at the same speed?" Then the scene cuts to the performance where, of course, the orchestra and the two players perform the piece to perfection. There's another great rehearsal moment when, first Florez, and then Ciofi each sing their final note terribly off key; the two of them turn and give each other a priceless look, like they've just smelled rotten eggs.
This is a DVD (two DVD's actually) to treasure.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A Lively Staging of a Beloved OperaMay 7 2007
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LA FILLE DU REGIMENT, with its lighthearted music and vocal fireworks, is a favorite that has spurts of being staged due more to a dearth of singers who can perform the roles than anything else. In the 1960's and 70's, Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti wowed audiences the world over and recorded what is considered by many to be the definitive recording of the work. Today, the popular and gifted light tenor Juan Diego Florez has made the role of Tonio his own, and this DVD has captured Florez' vocal abilities and stage presence well. Likewise Patrizia Ciofi is a compelling Marie. Neither Florez nor Ciofi match the Sutherland/Pavarotti pairing, but both are more vocally suited for the roles. Ideally the role of Tonio should be performed by a tenor with a lighter voice than Pavarotti's (even though he's great in the role and his fuller voice, especially at the time he recorded it, is phenomenal), and casting Florez is nearly perfect, reminding listeners of Alfredo Kraus). Ciofi is likewise at home in her performance, at least vocally.
If this were a recording, it would probably be a five star disc. However, it's a DVD, so the visual has to be taken into account too. For some reason, Teatro Carlo Fenice decided to update the story from late 18th/early 19th century France to World War II with the Americans and French at war with each other, not exactly historically accurate. The problem I had with the updating is that it doesn't match the story itself. An orphan girl being adopted by an army regiment that views the girl as a daughter and never in a sexual way, is not the most believable story, unless it happens at a time when we can naively imagine such a story. The Marquise "adopting" Marie and trying to refine her also seems more plausible in an earlier day. Instead, the updating seems out of place and antics seemed silly in an updated staging whereas setting it back to its original setting makes it a bit more believable. Though the staging at times could be distracting, but never so distracting that it took away from the wonderful performances. Keep in mind too, the cameras would have picked up facial expression that would have been missed by the audience at Fenice, so the distractions of the DVD were probably not all that much of a problem for the live audience.
The audience must have overlooked the staging problems. Everything from a musical perspective was enthusiastically received. Florez did an encore of Tonio's nine High c's in "A Mes Ami" and hit all the notes in both performances. Musically it was a great night of theater and it's certain to be a DVD that will be popular for years to come.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
First-rate singing, but...Oct. 19 2006
Robert G. Vanstryland
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Musically, this is an excellent presentation, with beautiful and characterful singing by soprano Patrizia Ciofi as Marie and tenor Juan Diego Florez as Tonio. Florez is spectacular in the famous aria "O mes amis" with its nine top C's. The chorus and the supporting singers are excellent. So why only four stars?
The opera was originally set in Tyrol, during Napoleon's invasion. This production is updated and relocated to France in about 1945. Aside from the fact that the costumes and scenery are much less attractive in this setting (U. S. army uniforms were designed for utility, not style, and twentieth century nobles dressed far less elaborately than those of the Napoleonic era), the change of time and locale makes nonsense of much of the plot. It was perfectly reasonable for nineteenth century Tyroleans to fear Napoleon's soldiers, but why would French people of 1945 fear American soldiers and refer to them as "the enemy"? And how did an American regiment adopt a French orphan in the 1920's and take her with them when invading the continent twenty or so years later?
Libretto alterations intended to adapt the words to the changed circumstances cannot make sense of these things. Moving the setting forward by nearly one and one-half centuries still leaves it about sixty years in the past. Can such a change really make the drama more meaningful to today's audiences?
I believe that audiences respond to music drama according to the feelings of the characters and their responses to the situations in which they find themselves, not according to the clothes they wear or the technology they employ. Filmmakers have presented drama successfully in settings ranging from prehistoric to futuristic without any fear that the audience would be unable to identify with their characters. Why do opera producers and directors feel a need to tamper? Presenting a work as its creators intended need not limit the creativity of its producers. It is possible to illuminate a work without altering it.
Well, anyway... I think you'll enjoy this performance for what it is, even if you can't help thinking about what it might have been.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Un exemple fantastique!Nov. 1 2006
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This is what opera on DVD should be: A beautifully sung and lovingly directed production, splendidly packaged (with a bonus DVD yet)...and at a very affordable price.
I too have reservations about Emilio Sagi's updating, only in that it makes no sense whatsoever in regards to the actual libretto. (Admittedly not an insignificant problem.) If Marie has been raised by the American army, why on Earth is she saluting the French when the regiment comes to her rescue in Act 2? And at what time during WWII were the Americans and French "enemies?" Pure nonsense. But when one can revel in the sublime voices of Juan Diego Florez and Patrizia Ciofi (who I found to be surprisingly comfortable with the comedy), why quibble? Everyone on stage, in the audience and in the pit is having a marvelous time, and I defy anyone watching at home not to have one as well.