The Daughter of the Regiment
Opéra comique in two acts
Music by Gaetano Donizetti
Libretto by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Jean-François Bayard.
Love for Marie, a girl raised by a French regiment, will lead the young Tonio to unexpected lengths in this colorful comedy set in the Tyrol during the Napoleonic Wars.
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February | 19 - March | 18
With Translations In:
Estimated Run Time:
2 Hours and 15 Minutes
Cast & Staff
Marquise de Berkenfield
Feb 19, 23, 26
Mar 1, 3, 6, 18
Feb 19, 23, 26
Mar 1, 3, 6, 18
In the Tyrolean Alps during the occupation of Napoleon’s Army
Tyrolean peasants are fearful as they prepare for the advance of the French army. The Marquise of Berkenfield is anxious because she is unable to return home due to the fighting. Thankfully, the danger passes and the jubilant crowd disperses. Sulpice, a sergeant in Napoleon’s Twenty-First Regiment, reminisces with Marie, the canteen girl. He recalls how the Regiment found her as an abandoned baby and adopted her as their own daughter. He questions her about the young man she has been seen with, and she explains that he is Tonio, a Tyrolean peasant. At that moment, Tonio is dragged in by the soldiers, accused of being a spy. But when Marie explains how Tonio bravely risked his life for her, they all toast him and celebrate the Regiment. The soldiers leave, taking Tonio with them, but he quickly escapes and runs back to Marie. They proclaim their love for each other, but before he is chased off again by Sulpice, she explains that she can only marry a member of the Regiment
The Marquise asks Suplice to escort her to her castle at Berkenfield. Recognizing the name from a letter he found with the baby Marie, Sulpice asks her if she knew a Captain Robert. The Marquise explains that he was the husband of her late sister, and their baby daughter was abandoned and died on the battlefield. Sulpice tells her that the baby is alive: she is Marie, raised by the Regiment and worthy of the Berkenfield name. Marie is introduced to her aunt, but the Marquise is shocked by her rough language. Sulpice tells Marie that she must go with the Marquise to be raised as a proper lady, but she is heartbroken. Meanwhile, Tonio tells the soldiers that he has enlisted and can now marry Marie. His joy is ended, however, when he finds out that Marie is leaving the Regiment. Marie bids a tearful farewell to her adoptive fathers before she departs.
In Berkenfield Castle
Several months have passed. The Marquise has tutored Marie in the ways of aristocracy and arranged for her to marry the Duke of Krakenthorp. She asks for Sulpice’s help in convincing her and he consents. The Marquise accompanies Marie in a song at the piano, but with Sulpice’s encouragement, Marie transforms the tired old piece into the lively regimental song. Left alone, Marie laments that her newfound wealth and position are meaningless to her without the Regiment and Tonio. Suddenly, accompanied by the sound of drums, the soldiers of the Regiment enter and join Marie in a salute to France. Overjoyed at their reunion, Tonio and Marie persuade Sulpice to speak in their favor to the Marquise. The Marquise enters and Tonio pleads his case, but she angrily sends Tonio and Marie out. She explains to Sulpice that Marie is in truth her illegitimate daughter, the result of her affair with Captain Robert. To assure Marie’s fortune and future, and keep her scandalous affair secret, she asks Suplice once more to persuade Marie.
The Duchess of Krakenthorp enters with the guests. Sulpice has told Marie that the Marquise is her mother, and she agrees to sign the contract. Suddenly, the Regiment bursts in and exclaims that they will not allow their “daughter” to marry anyone but Tonio. The guests are shocked when Tonio reveals that Marie was their canteen girl, but she charms everyone by explaining how the Regiment saved her life. Then, as she dutifully reaches to sign the marriage contract, the Marquise decides that she cannot force Marie into a marriage that she does not want and gives Tonio and Marie her blessing. All join in the stirring salute to France!
Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848) was born in Bergamo, in northern Italy, into a poor family with no musical background, his father Andrea being the caretaker of the town pawnshop. Nevertheless, the prominent German composer Simon Mayr recognized the young boy’s potential and became his mentor. Donizetti’s rise as a composer was rapid and by 1822, at the age of 24, he was offered the position of music director of the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, a position previously held by Rossini. The prolific composer was soon writing regularly not just for Naples, but for La Scala and other Italian theaters, and international fame soon followed with Anna Bolena (1830), L’elisir d’amore (1832), Lucrezia Borgia (1833), and Lucia di Lammermoor (1835).
As Donizetti’s accomplishments grew, so did his dissatisfaction with the censorship in Naples. In 1838, after the death of his young wife, he moved to Paris, splitting his time between the French capital and Vienna, where he held the post of music director of the court theater. With Rossini’s retirement in 1829 and Bellini’s premature death in 1835, Donizetti was the most important Italian opera composer of the time. His music certainly influenced the young Giuseppe Verdi who had just begun to make his name with the great success of Nabucco. In fact, Donizetti befriended the young Verdi and conducted Nabucco’s premiere in Vienna.
Lucia had been a big success with Parisian audiences, and following Donizetti’s arrival in Paris, it was staged in a new French version. Simultaneously, Donizetti was preparing a four-act grand opera, Les Martyrs (a rewriting of Poliuto previously banned by the King of Naples). A delay of Les Martyrs rehearsals provided an opportunity for Donizetti to compose his first original opera in French, La Fille du Régiment, (The Daughter of the Regiment). Two talented and sought-after authors were engaged to write the libretto: Vermoy de Saint-Georges, manager of the Opéra Comique, and Jean-François Bayard, nephew of Eugène Scribe, the French dramatist and librettist.
At the premiere in Paris in 1840, the critic and composer Hector Berlioz called Donizetti’s appearance on the French scene a “veritable invasion” and panned the opera, claiming it could not be taken seriously by either the public or the composer. This opinion was likely fueled by jealousy that Donizetti’s operas were to be found in every Parisian opera house at the time. Fortunately, public opinion deemed it a hit. A few months after the premiere, Donizetti prepared an Italian opera buffa version for Milan with several musical changes, substituting the French dialogue with sung recitatives, and cutting several numbers (including Tonio’s famous aria with the repeated high C’s).
The two-act comedy with spoken dialogue takes place during the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) in the Tyrol, a region of the Alps between modern-day Austria and Italy. The plot cannot be linked to either real-life events or a literary source, though stories of theatrical works based on military life and children orphaned by war, as is the young Marie of the opera, were commonplace. Donizetti’s vision of a victorious and peaceful France where love emerges triumphant might have contributed to the work’s rousing success.
La Fille du Régiment became so popular that during World War I, the Opéra Comique marked the 1,020th performance of the work and the song Salut à la France became the unofficial anthem of the Second Empire. Donizetti wrote almost seventy operas and Fille with its wonderful blend of patriotic and military colors, comedy, and real emotion has secured its place in the hearts of opera lovers everywhere.