Atlanta Opera's The Daughter Of The Regiment Hits Lot Of High Notes

Sunday, February 25, 2018 - by Basil Considine

Atlanta Opera's The Daughter of the Regiment opened on Saturday at the Cobb Energy Centre. This high-octane production – one of three opera openings this weekend within a two-hour drive of Chattanooga (the others are Knoxville Opera’s Turandot and the University of Georgia’s Marriage of Figaro) – is played for laughs and hits lots of high notes.

Lots of high notes is not an exaggeration. Singing the role of Tonio in The Daughter of the Regiment (original French title: La fille du regiment) made the young Luciano Pavarotti a star, with an aria in which the young lad celebrates a reciprocation of love by hitting 9 high Cs. Atlanta Opera’s Tonio is Santiago Ballerini, who has been making quite the name for himself as a singer of classic bel canto tenor roles. Ballerini brings great energy, enthusiasm, and shtick to his portrayal.

Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe sets and pushes much of the campy mood as the Marquise, beginning with her first scene and continuing to the end. The entire production has a stylized feel reminiscent of opera parodies in classic Warner Brothers cartoons; Blythe luxuriates in this, milking what could be throwaway lines for great humor. She also shows a wonderful grasp of the acoustic, with a diction that cuts through the large hall in spoken and sung lines.

The titular daughter of the regiment, Marie, is played by soprano Andriana Chuchman. In this version of the opera, Chuchman’s Marie is very much the lower-class tomboy, with a lot of physical comedy during the spoken dialogue that helps keep the general jovial mood of the evening flowing. Chuchman excels in aria after aria, from the vibrant “Chacun le sait” ("Everyone knows it") to the moving “Il faut partir mes bons compagnons d'armes” (“I must leave my good companions in arms”). Almost every scene when Chuchman appears with Stefano de Peppo’s Sulpice is comedy gold.

The backdrop for the opera includes two splendid visual tableaus in oval: a mountain scene in Act I, and a sea of blue trimmed by double curving staircases in Act II, rendered by scenic designer James Noone. The visual aesthetic is pretty but inconsistent, which leads to an issue more apparent when looking at the costumes by James Schuette: it’s not very clear what era this opera is supposed to be set in. The cut of many of the costumes suggests that we are somewhere in the Regency/Empire period, while the suits, onstage piano, and Act II set are more strongly stamped as the Second Empire period. This lack of clarity is amplified by the rewritten dialogue dropping most of the references to events that might sort out the chronology.

Although the audience did not seem to mind, the supertitles often left large portions of songs untranslated and dropped key connections in the lyrics. (One of the most omissions all but eliminates the wedding party guests’ horror at Marie being a vivandière – a type of camp follower often associated with prostitution – with some generic wording about her being from the regiment.) Given the amount of physical comedy tied to the lyrics, having more accurate – and more present – supertitles would have amplified the effusive humor.

It is always difficult to tell where a stage director’s work ends and a choreographer’s work begins, especially in a well-known opera. Whatever the balance of credit due, stage director E. Loren Meeker and choreographer Meg Gillentine have created an opera with little extraneous movement, where everything has its purpose and the purpose is usually comedic. The group numbers are special highlight, and the Act II trio "Tous les trois reunis" (“All three of us reunited”) is a number to remember just as much for Donizetti’s brilliant music as the popping physical comedy that accompanies it. The end of the opera is a bit abrupt, but at just about two hours total, who’s complaining?

--

The Daughter of the Regiment continues at the Cobb Energy Centre in Atlanta through March 4.

--

Basil Considine, PhD
Performing Arts Editor
Classical Music and Drama Critic
Twin Cities Arts Reader
basilus@gmail.com

Holritz And Lee To Present Lee Faculty Recital

Guitarist/Harp-Guitarist Muriel Anderson Performs At Songbirds North Feb. 8

WoodSongs Dalton Concert Series Kicks Of The Season With Donna Ulisse And The Poor Mountain Boys Jan. 26


Lee University faculty Kristen Holritz, flute, and ChoEun Lee, piano, will perform a recital on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the Squires Recital Hall, located in Lee’s Humanities Center. This will ... (click for more)

Renowned Guitarist and Harp-Guitarist Muriel Anderson will be performing “Wonderlust” Visual Show at Songbirds North Stage, 35 Station St. in Chattanooga, on Feb. 8. at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. ... (click for more)

The WoodSongs Dalton 2019 Concert Series will host the award winning singer-songwriter Donna Ulisse with the Poor Mountain Boys and Spatial Effects at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26 at The Wink ... (click for more)


Entertainment

Holritz And Lee To Present Lee Faculty Recital

Lee University faculty Kristen Holritz, flute, and ChoEun Lee, piano, will perform a recital on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the Squires Recital Hall, located in Lee’s Humanities Center. This will be their second collaboration after their previous faculty recital in November 2017. The recital will feature 20th century French flute music, along with pieces by Claude Debussy, Pierre ... (click for more)

Guitarist/Harp-Guitarist Muriel Anderson Performs At Songbirds North Feb. 8

Renowned Guitarist and Harp-Guitarist Muriel Anderson will be performing “Wonderlust” Visual Show at Songbirds North Stage, 35 Station St. in Chattanooga, on Feb. 8. at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. Bio on Muriel Anderson: One of the world’s foremost fingerstyle guitarists and harp-guitarists, Muriel Anderson is the first woman to have won the National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship. ... (click for more)

Breaking News

2nd Man Charged In October 2018 Murder Of Jacob Dakota Moore Of Apison

A second arrest has been made in the October 2018 murder of Jacob Dakota Moore of Apison. Authorities earlier charged Askia Witherow in the slaying. On Thursday, warrants were issued for James David Robinson, 42, charging him with one count of first-degree murder, one count of especially aggravated kidnapping, four counts of especially aggravated robbery, four counts ... (click for more)

Linda Damewood Killed, Another Critical, Third Injured In Shooting At Crossville

One person was killed, another critically injured and a third hurt in a shooting at Crossville on Saturday. Linda Damewood, 74, of Crossville, was dead at the scene. The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, Tansi Security, and Tennessee Highway Patrol units responded to 8610 Cherokee Trail at approximately 6:38 p.m. to a reported shooting. Cumberland County Sheriff’s ... (click for more)

Opinion

Senator Alexander: A Reasonable Proposal To End The Government Shutdown

A government shutdown is always the wrong idea. It is the wrong idea under President Trump, just as it was the wrong idea under President Obama. Members of Congress should first remember that when a president who has been duly elected by the people of the United States -- whatever you may think of him or her -- has a legitimate objective, it is our responsibility to do everything ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Swimming With Jim Morgan

I’ve never talked much about this – it is too close to bragging – but in my teenaged years I was a good swimmer. I loved being in the water and maybe the greatest compliment back in the day was when new UT swimming coach Ray Bussard offered me a ‘full ride’ with the Vols. Are you kidding me … by then I was into tobacco, alcohol, convertibles, and girls in angora sweaters - there ... (click for more)