Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

American Record Guide, April 2007

"Donizetti's Daughter was first given at the Paris Opera-Comique in 1840. The Italian version followed soon afterward, and Donizetti added some extra music for the Milan premiere. None of the additions are here (the soprano's 'Convien Partir'; the tenor's 'Eccom Finalmente'); this is simply La Fille du Regiment translated into Italian. The performance is spirited, unpolished...Conductor Conti moves the music along briskly, and there's zest in the orchestral playing and choral singing. The performance has a stylistic coherence that eludes the polyglot casts of the more famous recordings."

Fanfare, March 2007

The more I played this album the more I liked it. It won't erase memories of the French versions with Sutherland / Pavarotti, Sills / Grayson, Anderson / Kraus, or Gruberova / van der Walt; but it compares favorably with the Italian versions I've heard with Freni / Pavarotti and Freni / Kraus. It's a sprightly production. Donizetti' s martial music is given a jolly lilt and the tempos take a deep breath when needed to let the lyrical moments have their due. What bothered me initially was the sound. If the volume is low, the sound loses clarity, like listening to a performance in the lobby with the house doors closed. Raising the volume is like opening the doors; the recorded sound comes alive. The back liner tells us that this performance was "recorded live at Teatro Marrucino ... from 31st March to 5th April, 2004." If an audience was present, it remains absolutely silent. Except for some moments when characters are off-mike, it could pass for a recording made under studio conditions.

At its Paris premiere as La fille du régiment the critics (especially Berlioz) were less than enthusiastic about the work, but audiences loved it. It was quickly translated into Italian, when the work, now La figlia del reggimento, spread its wings and became more popular than the French original.

Aside from language, the principal differences between the French and Italian versions of this opera were the use of recitative rather than spoken dialogue (in this production a piano is used for the recitative accompaniment and seems to be at some distance from the microphones), several of the names became Italianized (Marie to Maria, Sulpice to Sulpizio, Hotensius to Ortensio - but Tonio remained Tonio), and some textual deletions and alterations, especially for Tonio. Deleted was the romance and, more significant, there are cuts to the famous number with the high Cs. A new aria was prepared, but tenors were quick to reinstate the Cs and showed indifference to the new piece. Gradually the textual differences were reduced, although productions in both languages were often inflated by the inclusion of music to suit special occasions and to showcase the talents of demanding artists.

The French version has come back into its own, helped considerably by the famous Sutherland / Pavarotti production from the late 1960s. Tonio was a role ideally suited to Pavarotti's voice; the show-stopping first-act number, "Ah! Mes amis," earned him the title "King of the high Cs." He sang the role in both languages. So did Alfredo Kraus, and happily we have recordings of both tenors singing the role in both languages.

Giorgio Casciarri, the Tonio in this recording, reminds me of Alfredo Kraus. To my ears, the timbres of their voices are similar. He and soprano Maria Costanza Nocentini have light, lyrical voices that blend well together. Both have clear, firm top notes, and convey the youth and exuberance of newfound love with charm and élan. Casciarri's rendition of "Ah! Mes amis," now "Miei cari amici," is not likely to disappoint; Casciarri delivers all the high notes. Nocentini has plenty of coloratura bravado and comic sass. She begins the evening as the Regiment's resident tomboy, quickly melts into girlish first love raptures when confronted with Tonio, and in the second act plays the tomboy-put-in-a-dress awkwardness with wit and charm. The secondary characters, especially Milijana Nikolic as La Marchesa de Berkenfeld and Luciano Miotto as Sulpizio, create good comic characters that add to the fun of this performance. The attempt to give Maria a dose of culture in act II is a highlight.

I've only heard two other recordings of this opera in Italian, both recorded in performance. The Freni / Pavarotti is monophonic; the Freni / Kraus is digital stereo, but suffers from some over-saturation of the tape in a few spots, so I'd give this Naxos the sonic edge. The performances captured on the two Freni albums are quite good, but there is lots of spirit and merriment to enjoy on these Naxos discs as well. Librettos are not supplied with either of the Freni recordings, or with this new issue from Naxos; although Naxos does supply an Italian only text via their Web site; go to

Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, December 2006

Earlier this year I reviewed another opera with the same conductor, chorus and orchestra, Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia (see review). I was positive then as to both playing and conducting. Though there was no mention of a live recording then, there was, as I wrote, “a generous amount of unwritten bumps and bangs” but no applause and no other signs of an audience. Here the back cover explicitly says “recorded live” but there are no bumps and bangs and no applause. Presumably the live recording has been tidied up through separate recording of final bars and other instances of distracting noises. There are no bangs (?) and not even a single little giggle during some of the hilarious buffa scenes. The theatre seems quite small with little reverberation and I would have liked more feeling of theatre, of being there. Maestro Conti however draws lively playing from his forces this time, too, and strikes the correct tone right from the beginning with a well paced reading of the overture. The opening, with the solo horn sounding almost like the first notes of An der schönen blauen Donau, tells us that this is open-air music – the scene is in the Swiss mountains. After this slow introduction things speed up and we soon hear a military theme, the 11th regiment marching, with a side-drum enhancing the martial atmosphere. Donizetti may sometimes have fallen back on routine writing but there are always nice melodic turns and even thrilling orchestration. La Figlia del Reggimento is no exception, rather this is one of his most charming pieces. Since it was first performed in Paris the original libretto was in French, but was soon translated into Italian; this is the version used here.

Compared to works like L’elisir d’amore, Lucia di Lammermoor and Don Pasquale there are fewer well-known numbers. That said, Tonio’s aria near the end of the first act (CD1 tr. 13) – the one with the nine high Cs that Pavarotti recorded so memorably at the beginning of his career – and Maria’s second act aria (CD2 tr. 6) should be immediately recognised. There is also a riveting trio a little later in that act (CD2 tr. 9) that shows Donizetti’s melodic genius in all its glory. To make up for the few pure arias there are quite a number of ensembles: duets, trios and even larger gatherings. There are also a number of recitatives, accompanied by a fortepiano. In a second act trio (CD2 tr. 4), to begin with, the singing is also accompanied by the piano.

On stage in a colourful and well directed production La Figlia del Reggimento can be a great success, provided the soprano and tenor are good looking and have good voices. That latter criterion is even more important in a sound recording. The two leading singers on this recording in the main fulfil their far from easy tasks with credit. Maria Costanza Nocentini in the title role is technically accomplished. After a somewhat hesitant start she grows into the role. She has a quick, quite prominent vibrato and the tone is rather acidulous, which makes her seem to lack warmth. I don’t know what she sounds like in the flesh – microphones can sometimes exaggerate certain features in a voice – but she is scheduled to be Violetta in Stockholm’s new Traviata, which will be premiered in January. Then I will be able to assess her even better. On this hearing she seems to be a good vocal actor but in the aforementioned trio (CD2 tr. 4) she manages to produce some really nasty off-pitch singing – intentionally of course. She has sung in many leading European opera houses for a good decade – and even in Japan. Born in Florence, like his soprano colleague, tenor Giorgio Casciarri’s career has been even more far-flung, including also the Metropolitan in New York. His is not the most ingratiating of lyric tenor voices, even though he can produce a mellifluous piano if he wants. He is, like his Maria, a bit hard of tone and the voice isn’t as easily produced as some of his present-day colleagues. He manages this testing role quite well however, including the notorious high Cs, but it has to be said that he gets through it more through hard work than with the almost casual elegance of Pavarotti. Some of the singing is strained and not all the Cs are hit plumb in the middle. As Sergeant Sulpizio, bass Luciano Miotto sports a rounded, sonorous voice and he is a lively and elegant singer, quite possibly the best in the whole cast. Eugenio Leggiadri-Gallani also has a fine deep voice and if this production is anything to go by, it is well provided with talented deep voices. The young Milijana Nikolic employs her fruity mezzo to good effect as La Marchesa.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group