When the world is full of woes, watching a comedic opera, albeit one with some quirky plot twists, is a welcome escape. Donizetti’s The Daughter of the Regiment, which can be seen several times this November at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, is a wonderful way to be transported to musical dreamland. This production stars an accomplished and lively cast, and this is the first time Daughter is being staged in Chicago.
This comic opera has long been known for its brave lead female role of Marie, as well as for Tonio’s challenging song [“Ah Mes Amis!”] which features several high C’s. More recently the cherished female non-singing role of the Duchess of Krakenthorp was played by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Washington National Opera.
Originally titled La fille du regiment, and composed by Gaetano Donizetii, Marie is a feisty young woman who has only known one family, her multiple “fathers” of a regiment that found her and raised her. As a young woman she is their canteen girl. She meets another soldier and they fall for each other. But then her long-lost aunt makes a claim on her, and she is taken to live with this woman, who attempts to turn her into a rarified upper class lady. Eventually Marie does end up with her beloved Tonio again, and we learn that the aunt is actually her mother, and the young couple are to be married. As my friend Joanna says of this opera, “Marie might not know exactly who her father is, but she knows a King of the High C’s when she hears him!”
Cast leads Lawrence Brownlee (Tonio) and Lisette Oropesa (Marie) have been featured on the local classical music radio station WFMT, speaking about their work and the opera. Brownlee has a voice that caresses his parts; before you go to see the opera, check out this video performance on YouTube. Oropesa sings with such immense range and nails her highest notes with grace; she’s also a good sport and recently dueted (unintentionally at first) with an opera student while singing “Sempre Libera.”
Among the other stellar performers are Alessandro Corbelli as Sulpice, and Ronnita Miller as the Marquise. Speranza Scappucci is the conductor and Christian Rath is the revival director. This cast and crew are a mutli-racial, multi-ethnic powerhouse of talent. This is particularly excellent in a storied city such as Chicago.
If you end up enjoying the opera, consider watching the silent movie version of it from 1929, as well as other film versions from 1933 and 1953. (Or binge-watch those first, and then come to the theater for the stage version.)
I wonder if The Daughter of the Regiment could inspire some adventurous cosplayers, who attend performances dressed as their favorite characters. If this sounds like your kind of enhanced opera experience, or you hope to see someone else take this brave step, come to the Lyric Opera and see for yourself!
The Daughter of the Regiment
Lyric Opera of Chicago, November 4-25, 2023