Growing up as an Army brat can be tough. Smelly socks, hardtack rations, itchy wool uniforms─ the works. There’s never a moment’s rest and danger lurks around every corner. But for Marie, nothing compares to being the adopted daughter of France’s 21st Regiment. With a voice of sparkling cut crystal, Pretty Yende charmed as Donizetti’s “Belle of Bel Canto” along with a stratospherically high Javier Camerena as her Tyrolean suitor.
The bel canto style is characterized by dizzying vocal runs at breakneck speeds, which results in a dazzling display of featherweight finesse and outstanding ornamentation. All the singers gave it their all and won raving applause. However, the most notable ─ the most invigorating ─ moment came when Javier Camarena gave an encore of the standout aria, “Ah! Mes amis… Pour mon âme” ─ the first encore ever attempted during a Live in HD broadcast. Eighteen treacherous high C’s were hit with mastered accuracy. The target practice certainly payed off… my ears were delighted !
As with nearly every opera comedy, the plot lacked any dire conflict. Whatever strife that might have arisen was quickly remedied by a scene of reunion and almost always accompanied by stint of physical comedy. A good belly laugh is standard operating procedure for one of Donizetti’s romps.
When I saw this particular opera on the Live in HD schedule more than a year in advance, I knew right off the bat that my outfit would be classified as a ‘Closet’ ensemble where I borrow clothes and accessories from my mother’s closet as well as those of close friends. My intention for Laurent Pelly’s updated World War I setting of The Daughter of the Regiment (as the opera is known in English) was to mix the “daughter” with the “regiment” in my look, blending supple girlish charm with rough militaristic machismo.
For my hairstyle, I envisioned something that was utilitarian for the wartime era, like this:
Thankfully, it didn’t work out. What a dreadful look ! My mother had the idea of braiding my hair in pigtails to convey the girlish character. There’s one for the “daughter/fille” !
The pale blue dotted chambray dress (“fille”) made its second appearance at the theater after taking a turn as part of Mimì’s blue ensemble for La Bohéme in 2018. The buckle boots, perfect for marching off to war (“régiment”), were bought at a bargain at one of my favorite resale stores. As you can tell, I was already putting together my outfit with relative success. But this opera was set in the not-too-far-off World War I era… I needed something really “regimental”…
And so, I reached out to my own military “papa” in Uncle Kim. Boy, did he have a great plan…
Topping my mother’s chambray dress is the original tunic of Signaler Donald B. Smith from when he served in the Canadian Reserve Engineer Regiment in WWI. Yes, it’s over 100 years old and in tiptop shape with only a missing pocket button and a few small moth-eaten holes. The fit wasn’t too bad for my frame either… Thank you, Uncle Kim, for lending me the absolute best garment for this opera, scratchy wool and all !
Replica tunics like this one retail at around $125 online. But Signaler Smith’s is genuine. It’s also priceless.
While a soldier’s profession is as precarious as a floating soap bubble rising in the air, the bel canto brilliance of Donizetti’s charmer (and the dynamic duo of Pretty and Javier) remains a grounded favorite for audiences across the globe. As I left the theater that day, I caught myself humming, “Rataplan, rataplan, rataplan !“
Toi, Toi, Toi,
Cast and Credits:
La Fille du Régiment ─ Gaetano Donizetti (1840)
Live in HD air date: March 2, 2019
Marie ─ Pretty Yende
Tonio ─ Javier Camarena
Suplice ─ Maurizio Muraro
Marquise of Berkenfield ─ Stephanie Blythe
Duchess of Krakenthorp ─ Kathleen Turner
Conductor ─ Enrique Mazzola
Production ─ Laurent Pelly
Set Designer ─ Chantal Thomas
Costume Designer ─ Laurent Pelly
Lighting Designer ─ Joël Adam
Choreographer ─ Laura Scozzi
Asscoiate Director and Dialogue ─ Agathe Mélinand
Live in HD Director ─ Gary Halvorson
Host ─ Nadine Sierra