For once, here’s a DVD that lives up to the hype surrounding it in almost every way. Donizetti’s opra comique, The Daughter of the Regiment, comes to Covent Garden in a new production in January, and this DVD provides a useful taster not only of the opera itself but also the Tonio of Peruvian tenor, Juan Diego Flrez.
If he’s in the same astounding vocal form in January, the performances will be a knock-out don’t hesitate to buy your tickets straight away. Although he seems a slight figure on the stage, Flrez’s voice fills the Teatro Carlo Felice, Genoa with ease in this recording. It’s an emotionally giving performance, and he throws plenty of energy into it too.
Tonio is the role which Pavarotti famously sang opposite Joan Sutherland in Covent Garden performances and in a brilliant recording, and it’s the reason he was given the nickname King of the high Cs’. The aria Ah! Mes amis contains nine high Cs, which Pavarotti famously dispatched with ease. So the question is, how does Flrez cope?
Well, it suffices to say that the audience is so enamoured of his performance that they won’t allow the performance to continue, and in an act of impeccable showmanship, Flrez turns around and does the whole thing again as an encore. What’s more, the sound is beautiful, with the Cs being incorporated into nice, smooth phrases. Elsewhere, Flrez shows a velvet tone in more subtle solo passages, and his duets with Marie the daughter of the title are exquisite.
That’s largely because she’s played by soprano Patrizia Ciofi, who is every bit as pitch-perfect as Flrez. She almost steals the show from him, in fact, because the role of Marie is considerably longer and arguably more psychologically complex than that of Tonio.
Ciofi gives one of the most dazzling live performances of any role in any opera currently available on DVD. She runs the gamut of emotions, from heartbroken to overjoyed. Similarly, her vocal prowess is such that the coloratura arias are astoundingly dexterous, whilst the more lyrical and sustained items are beautifully paced and immaculately intoned.
Emilio Sagi‘s production updates the action of the opera from the Napoleonic wars to the Second World War, and it’s mostly successful, though it takes a while to sort out the nationalities of the characters. Traditionalists need not fear, though: Julio Galn‘s designs are handsome, particularly the large salon in Act II that looks out onto a pretty garden. It’s a silly opera in many ways, but the realities of war are present in the background, and the updating is an active agent in this.
The other singers are all excellent, especially Francesca Franci‘s glamorous but comical Marquise and Dario Benini‘s expressive Hortensius. Riccardo Frizza‘s conducting is admirably precise, keeping a nice flow with quick tempi that never undermine the singers’ ability to fit the notes in. I found the special features on a bonus DVD totally irrelevant, but no matter: this is essential viewing.