This bright, sparkling comedy follows Marie, a feisty young girl raised by a regiment of French soldiers high in the Alps. Peppered with exhilarating arias, astonishing high notes and outrageous fun, Marie rappels between her patriotic loyalty to her “dear brothers” and the expectations of “polite” society. Coloratura soprano Susannah Biller stars as the title role for Donizetti’s whimsical and hilarious romp.
“Biller’s voice is light, sweet, and gorgeous” – San Francisco Classical Voice
Illustration courtesy of Emiliano Ponzi
Daughter of the Regiment
In the Tyrolean mountains, the Marquise of Berkenfield and her butler, Hortensius, are stopped on their journey to Austria because they have found the French army blocking their way. Hortensius asks Sulpice, the sergeant of the French army, to allow them to pass, and he agrees. Joining Sulpice is Marie, a pretty young woman who was adopted by the 11th regiment when she was found as an orphaned baby on the battlefield. She is considered the mascot of the regiment and feels that all of the soldiers are her fathers.
When Sulpice asks Marie about the young man she has been seen with, she explains that although he is Swiss and therefore the enemy, he once saved her life by preventing her from falling over a precipice. Troops of the regiment arrive with this same young man, Tonio, who claims that he was looking for Marie. The soldiers believe he is a spy, but Marie steps in to save him. When Tonio discovers that Marie can only marry a soldier of the 11th regiment, he immediately enlists.
The Marquise of Berkenfield asks Sulpice for an escort to return to her castle. Hearing the name Berkenfield, Sulpice remembers papers that were left with Marie when they found her as a baby. He questions the Marquise about it, and they soon discover that Marie is the long-lost daughter of the Marquise’s sister. Shocked by Marie’s rough manners, the Marquise decides that Marie must come with her to live at her castle and receive training to be a lady. Marie sadly bids farewell to the ‘fathers’ that raised her and the man she loves as she goes with the Marquise.
Marie is living at the Berkenfield castle with the marquise and Sulpice who is recovering from an injury. The Marquise gives Marie a singing lesson while she accompanies at the piano, but Marie, encouraged by Sulpice, slips in phrases of the regimental song which causes the marquise to lose her temper. Marie is left alone to contemplate the meaninglessness of wealth and position when she hears soldiers in the distance and is surprised to see the entire regiment file into the hall. Tonio asks for Marie’s hand in marriage but the marquise declares that Marie is engaged to Scipion, the nephew of the Duchess of Krakenthorp. Alone with Sulpice, the marquise confesses that Marie is her own illegitimate daughter whom she abandoned for fear of social disgrace.
When the wedding party arrives, Marie refuses to leave her room, but when Sulpice tells Marie that the marquise is her mother, she feels she cannot go against her mother’s wishes and agrees to marry Scipion. However, the soldiers of her regiment, led by Tonio, come to rescue her before she can sign the marriage contract. Marie sings fondly of her upbringing with the regiment and the debt she owes them for raising her, and the marquise is so touched that she agrees to let Marie marry Tonio.
|Stage Director||John de los Santos|
|Sargeant Sulpice||Stefano de Peppo|
Gaetano Donizetti was born November 29, 1797 in Bergamo, Italy. He, Bellini and Rossini were the three great masters of the opera style known as bel canto. Bel canto operas had set numbers of separate arias and ensembles that featured particularly florid vocal writing designed to show off the human voice to maximum effect. These works demanded great virtuosity from the singers and served as star vehicles for leading operatic performers. Donizetti dominated the Italian opera scene during the years between Bellini’s death and Verdi’s rise to fame after Nabucco.
Donizetti’s musical talents were apparent at an early age, and he was admitted to the Lezioni Caritatevoli school on full scholarship when he was nine years old. The school was founded by Simon Mayr, who had a significant influence upon Donizetti’s musical development and helped the young composer launch his professional career. Mayr sent Donizetti to Padre Stanislao Mattei, the teacher of Rossini, for further compositional instruction. Mayr also partially paid for the lessons with Mattei and arranged for Bartolomeo Merelli to write the librettos for Donizetti’s early stage works.
Between 1817 and 1821, Donizetti received several commissions from Paolo Zanca. His first staged opera was Enrico di Borgogna in 1818. He wrote several other works during this period, including chamber and church music as well as opera. It was the success of his fourth opera, Zoraide di Grenata, that caught the attention of Domenico Barbaia, the most important theater manager of his time. Barbaia offered Donizetti a contract. The young composer accepted it and moved to Naples, which was Barbaia’s primary business location. For the next eight years Donizetti wrote works for Rome and Milan as well as Naples, with mixed success. It was not until 1830, with the performances of Anna Bolena in Milan, that Donizetti achieved international fame.
Donizetti was a prolific composer, writing both comic and serious operas as well as solo vocal music. Throughout his career he battled with the powerful Italian censors to put his works on stage. Two of his best-known comedies, L’elisir d’amore (1832) and Don Pasquale (1843), are considered masterpieces of comic opera and continue to hold their places in the standard performing repertoire. Perhaps his most famous serious opera is Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), although Anna Bolena has enjoyed considerable success in this century through the efforts of such artists as Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland.
As Donizetti’s fame grew, he was able to accept a variety of engagements writing operas for Paris as well as the famous opera houses of Italy. He relocated to Paris in 1838. It was there that he composed La fille du régiment in 1840, which is still frequently performed. Donizetti was also appointed music director for the Italian opera season at the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna, a position secured for him by Mirelli, the librettist for his early works.
Donizetti was a friendly and sincere man, supportive of fellow composers and other artists, and loyal to his long-time mentor Mayr. Unfortunately, he endured great tragedy in his personal life. Donizetti had met his wife Virginia Vasselli while he was in Rome in the 1820′s and married her in 1828. They had three children, none of whom survived. His parents died in the mid-1830s. A year after his parents’ death, his wife succumbed to a cholera epidemic. Donizetti himself suffered from cerebro-spinal syphilis. Symptoms of his illness became evident as early as 1843; by 1845 his condition deteriorated to the point that he was institutionalized for almost a year and a half. His friend from Vienna, Baron Lannoy, interceded with Donizetti’s nephew to have the composer moved to a Paris apartment where he could be cared for and receive visitors. Verdi came to see him there and was deeply saddened by his colleague’s condition. Friends in Bergamo finally arranged for Donizetti to be brought back to his home town, where he stayed at Baroness Scotti’s palace until his death in 1848.
Donizetti was reputed to have great facility and could compose very quickly. His favorite librettist was Salvadore Cammarano, with whom he first collaborated on Lucia di Lammermoor. Donizetti often assisted in writing the librettos for his operas. He completed 65 operas during his career; L’elisir d’amore, Don Pasquale, and Lucia di Lammermoor are generally considered the outstanding examples of his work. His compositional style proved influential for future Italian opera composers, most notably Verdi.