Opera Scotland

Fille du Régiment La Fille du Régiment; The Daughter of the Regiment

Gaetano Donizetti (born Bergamo, 29 November 1797; died Bergamo, 8 April 1848)

Jean François Alfred Bayard and Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges.


First performance: Paris (Opéra-Comique), 11 February 1840.
First UK performance: London (Her Majesty’s Theatre, Haymarket), 27 May 1847.
First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (Theatre Royal), 2 October 1848.
Scottish Opera première: N/A.

Donizetti’s comic opera, performed in Paris to a French text, was one of a tiny number of works which kept his reputation alive during the century after his death. In Britain it may even have been his most popular work. The title role requires a soprano of great character, and the star American Zélie de Lussan was very successful in Britain in the late 19th century. A number of star singers have been attracted to the role in recent years, including Joan Sutherland, Beverly Sills, June Anderson, Edita Gruberová and Natalie Dessay. The role of Tonio was less prominent, and early press reports rarely mention the succession of high Cs featured in his first act aria. However, recent exponents such as Luciano Pavarotti, Alfredo Kraus and Juan Diego Flórez have transformed the role into a starring vehicle.

Main Characters
Marquise de Birkenfeld (mezzo-soprano)
Hortensio, steward to the Marquise (bass)
Marie, a foundling, the “Daughter of the Regiment” (soprano)
Tonio, a Tyrolean peasant (tenor)
Sulpice, sergeant of Grenadiers (baritone)
Duchesse de Crakentorp (spoken)

Plot Summary
The opera is set in 1815 in the Swiss Tyrol. The area is suffering from the effects of the war, and the Marquise and her steward have been caught up in the chaos. A unit of French Grenadiers arrives, celebrating their latest victory, among them Sergeant Sulpice, and Marie, their mascot, who has lived with the soldiers since she was found as a child. Marie has fallen for an unknown young man who saved her life. This goes against the view of the soldiers that she should eventually marry one of them. Tonio, her young rescuer, is brought in, accused of spying, since he has been lurking round the camp. Marie identifies him, thus saving him from further punishment, and when Tonio hears that she can only marry one of the regiment he enlists at once, to the great enthusiasm of his new messmates. The Marquise now desires safe conduct, and Sulpice recognises her name as one associated with papers he has kept which were found with the infant Marie. The Marquise, on inspecting the papers, identifies Marie as her niece, and takes her away to convert her into a lady.

Later on, at the castle where Marie is being re-educated, prior to making a suitable marriage, Sulpice arrives to recover from wounds, and Marie is immediately immersed in memories of regimental life. The regiment arrives in force, including Tonio, whose valour has resulted in his rapid promotion. It now emerges that Marie is in fact the Marquise’s daughter, and when the Marquise realises how happy Marie is among her military friends, she relents and allows the marriage to Tonio to go ahead.

The Cast

Duchesse de Krakentorp
 a maid (Babette)
 steward to the Marquise (Bruno)
Madame Duval
 a foundling
Marquise de Birkenfeld
Mdlle Beaupré
 a sergeant of Grenadiers
 a Tyrolean peasant

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