Looking Back: La Fille du régiment at the Teatro Regio di Torino

Donizetti – La Fille du régiment.

Marie – Giuliana Gianfaldoni
Tonio – John Osborn
Sulpice – Simone Alberghini
La Marquise de Berkenfield – Manuela Custer
La Duchesse de Crackentorp – Arturo Brachetti
Hortensius – Guillaume Andrieux

Coro Teatro Regio Torino, Orchestra Teatro Regio Torino / Evelino Pidò.
Stage director – Barbe & Doucet.

Teatro Regio, Turin, Italy.  Saturday, May 21st, 2023.

This year, the Teatro Regio Torino is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of its magnificent theatre on Piazza Castello.  This new production of La Fille du régiment is a coproduction with the Venetian theatre, La Fenice, and was confided to the directorial duo of Barbe and Doucet.  The house engaged a mainly Italian cast under the direction of the experienced conductor, Evelino Pidò.

Photo: © Andrea Macchia

Barbe and Doucet’s staging opens with a movie that accompanies the overture.  This shows an elderly lady, visited by what seem to be her children and grandchildren.  As the camera pans around her room, we see memorabilia from her life on the mantelpiece – a medal, a photo, some pearls, as well as some drugs.  The curtain rises to show a set with the contents of the mantelpiece increased in size to the height of the proscenium, while the PVC costumes of the chorus make them look like porcelain figurines that have come to life.  It seems that Barbe and Doucet were intending us to see an aged Marie looking back on her life.  Yet other than the opening movie, and a shot of the elderly lady at the closing curtain with some of the nursing home residents joining the wedding party, this theme of reflections on life feels underexplored.  Instead, it feels like an idea explored briefly and then discarded, not to be explored further.  That isn’t to say that the setting isn’t evocative, it just felt a bit half-baked.

Photo: © Andrea Macchia

That said, Barbe and Doucet give us real, flesh and blood characters in the personenregie, today revived by Florence Bas.  Diction wasn’t always clear in the sung numbers – it was rather frustrating to be hearing an opera in one’s mother tongue and having to refer to the surtitles.  In the dialogue, however, it was much clearer.  It did sound, though, that some cast members could have benefitted from some further coaching in sung French diction. 

Photo: © Andrea Macchia

Musically, there was a lot that gave a great deal of pleasure – although there was one big reservation.  And that was Pidò’s conducting.  His account of the overture was certainly vigorous.  Otherwise, his reading lacked a sense of rhythmic dynamism, that ideal Donizettian combination of long lines superimposed over a forward-pulsating rhythmic base.  Instead, Pidò gave us lilting grace.  It was pleasant enough, but it also dragged significantly.  ‘Il faut partir’ just ground to a halt, although Giuliana Gianfaldoni’s Marie sustained it well.  The tempo choices also meant that the evening seemed to fizzle to a close, rather than giving us an instrumental and vocal narrative that had an inexorable sense of leading to a happy conclusion.  Simply put, it felt that Pidò drove the entire evening with the parking brake on.  He did obtain some superb playing from the excellent Regio orchestra – the strings were impeccably tuned throughout and the clarinets were particularly piquant. 

Photo: © Andrea Macchia

Gianfaldoni was a delectable Marie.  Her soprano has a deliciously tart edge, with glamorous sheen, and she pulled out some electrifying acuti.  Her sung French diction needs a bit of work, however,  She sustained Pidò’s’s soporific tempi well and in her big Act 2 scene, ‘Par le rang et par l’opulence’, she sang with real poise, sustaining long pianissimo phrases high up in the voice with ease and demonstrating excellent breath control.  Most definitely a name to watch in this repertoire.

Photo: © Andrea Macchia

John Osborn electrified the audience with his ‘Pour mon âme’, adding additional high Cs and embellishing the line so it went even higher.  The response from the audience was overwhelming – cries of ‘bravo’ and ‘bis’, to which Osborn duly obliged.  He seemed genuinely moved by the roar of joyful acclaim from the audience, but it was most certainly justified – he was exhilarating.  If only he had had some more dynamic support from the pit.  Osborn sustained the long lines of ‘Pour me rapprocher de Marie’ with musicality, although there was a tendency for some dryness to enter the tone in places.  His diction was always clear.

Photo: © Andrea Macchia

Simone Alberghini sang Sulpice in a warm and resonant baritone, the words always clear.  The registers have parted company in Manuela Custer’s mezzo, who sang her music with a generous chestiness.  I can’t say I understood much of what she sang, but surprisingly her delivery of the spoken dialogue was very clear.  Guillaume Andrieux was an energetic Hortensius, throwing himself (literally) into the stage business and singing his music in a compact and firm baritone.  The role of the Duchesse de Crakentorp was taken by renowned Torinese quick-change artist Arturo Brachetti, who impressed with three instantaneous – and very glamorous – costume changes.  Brachetti also provided a musical number.  It did feel that, combined with Pidò’s tempi, that his intervention went on slightly too long, but the audience absolutely loved it.  The remaining roles reflected the excellent quality of the house, while Andrea Secchi’s chorus sang with commitment and unity of approach. 

Photo: © Andrea Macchia

There was a lot to enjoy in today’s Fille.  The singing was consistently excellent, even if the words weren’t always clear, and the orchestral playing was superb.  Barbe and Doucet’s staging was engaging and made for a suitable framework for the action – although the intriguing idea it opened with didn’t feel fully explored.  The conducting did feel like a drag on the evening, keeping it earthbound when it could have soared.  The audience reaction was extremely generous for the entire cast. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.