Donizetti’s familial, romantic French comedy has its fourth revival in Laurent Pelly’s fabulous production at the Royal Opera House.

The opera is about Marie, who was abandoned and raised by the French regiment who found her. She falls in love with Tonio, who isn’t a member of the regiment, after promising that she would only marry a member of their rank – and the drama only increases from there, with long lost relatives finding Marie and trying to take her away from the company.

Laurent Pelly (who also does the costume design) is a phenomenal director, his L’elisir d’amore, also in the ROH repertoire is frothy, summer brilliance and his ‘regiment’ is just the same. What makes this a must-see in my opinion, is the direction. There are so many small nuances – the acting, the facial expressions – which turn this opera from great to phenomenal. Every detail is considered, every flick of the eyebrow, an opening of the mouth all make a difference.

The performances are anchored in the three leads. Sabine Devieilhe as Marie has extraordinary talent. Her acting (comedic and serious) and singing were fantastic; in particular, her aria at the end of Act 1, Il faut partir, was just stunning, colour-filled and very emotional.

Javier Camarena as Tonio is delightful, from his always smiling and happy acting to his strong singing ability. Singing Ah! mes amis, quel jour de fête once is difficult enough but doing an encore is the way legends are made. His tank riding skills are pretty good too!

Pietro Spagnoli as Sulpice, one of Marie’s ‘daddy’s’ in the regiment is king of comic relief; his facial expressions alone had me smiling broadly or laughing in hysterics, and his voice is strong, measured and wonderful.

The chorus have a lot to do in this production and they are brilliant at it, not just the singing but the acting and comic relief too. Enkelejda Shkoza, as the Marquise of Berkenfield, and Donald Maxwell, as her man-servant Hortensius, are both very talented singers. Maxwell in particular is hysterical.

Pelly’s production is genuinely, absolutely perfect for this opera. La Fille du régiment is summery, frothy comedic fun, and this production is unashamedly of the same spirit.

La Fille du regiment is on at the Royal Opera House from 8–20 July 2019. For more information, visit the Royal Opera House.

Words by Stuart Martin.

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