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Penguin Guide, January 2009

Recorded live at La Scala, Milan, in June 1996, the DVD of La Fille du régiment is taken from a film for Italian television (RAI) with pretty sets and costumes by Franco Zeffirelli using flat, bright colours echoing those in an 18th-centry print. The performance centres round the characterful Marie of Mariella Devia, a diminutive figure, bossy in a military way, who, defying her size, sings with a loud, penetrating voice, agile up to the highest register but not very steady in the middle. She generally sings well, though she guys her singing-lesson solo in Act II with grotesquely raucous tone. Opposite her, the Tonio of Paul Austin Kelly is a handsome roly-poly figure, sporting a great cushion of fuzzy hair. What matters is that he has a clear, firm, lyrical tenor, with a formidably unstrained top register, so that he copes superbly with the notorious arietta, Pour mon âme, in the character role of the Marquise de Berkenfield, commanding both in her singing and in her acting, completely dominating the compliant Sulpice of Bruno Pratico in Act II. The ensembles both with and without the chorus are brilliantly done, though the reunion trio, Tous les trios réunis, is taken absurdly fast. Otherwise the conducting of Donato Renzetti is warm and idiomatic. Note that nowadays even La Scala prefers the French text of this opera to the Italian version of Donizetti’s score.

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